MILAN (Reuters) - Italian football faced another racism controversy on Sunday after Juventus defender Medhi Benatia heard a racist insult in his earpiece during a post-match television interview.
State broadcaster Rai apologised on Sunday but Juventus replied that Benatia, a Moroccan international, deserved an explanation and suggested the network was playing down the incident.
Benatia was being interviewed by Rai on its programme Champagne Football following a 1-1 draw with Torino on Saturday night and was talking to a presenter in the studio when the incident happened.
Benatia, who was speaking about the game, stopped abruptly, said “who said that?” and then said he heard an insult in his earpiece.
The programme presenter then said there were “technical problems” while another panelist said the insult had come from someone in the stadium.
“Rai is sincerely saddened by the deplorable episode of racism involving the Juventus player during the broadcast of Champagne Football,” said the broadcaster on Sunday, adding that the insult was not heard by the viewers.
It denied suggestions in the Italian media that the insult had come from one of its own technicians.
“Rai has put in place all the necessary checks to identify the person responsible for the incident and so far the inquiry has ruled out the possibility that the unacceptable phrases came from a company employee,” it said.
“Given the seriousness of the incident, the inquiry will continue and Rai in the meantime gives full and total solidarity to the footballer and his club.”
However, Juventus said that “everyone - and the player first and foremost - deserves an explanation about what occurred.”
“A number of informal comments, including on social media, have suggested the alleged ”interference“ came from the production service Juventus provided Rai Sport at Juventus Stadium,” the club added.
”That suggestion is factually unbelievable and technically implausible, given the audio line runs directly from Rai headquarters in Milan into the earpieces.
“Juventus hopes that Rai Sport’s internal investigation continues without them resorting to excuses which tend to play down what happened and distort the facts.”
Last week, Pescara midfielder Sulley Muntari walked off the pitch during a game at Cagliari after he was booked for complaining to the referee at racist insults coming from the crowd.
The Ghanaian, who said he had been made to feel like a criminal, was then booked again and then suspended for one match, although the ban was overturned on appeal on Friday. Cagliari were not punished.
Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar