On Thursday afternoon, the Lega Serie A delivered its verdict on the issue that has gotten the whole of Italy talking in the past couple of days, and their verdict was predictably underwhelming.
Following the explosive events of Tuesday evening, of which more can be read here, the powers that be have decided to hand Roberto Mancini a fine of €5,000 for what they describe as "maintaining an intimidating attitude towards the coach of the opposing team, who had insulted him; and for having also, at the end of the game inside the dressing rooms, directed a disrespectful expression towards the fourth official."
As far as Maurizio Sarri is concerned, the Lega have decided to hand the Napoli coach a two-match suspension that will only be served in the Coppa Italia - meaning that he will serve it next season, given that his team are now out - alongside a slightly heavier fine of €20,000. The official disciplinary statement reads that Sarri has been punished for "directing extremely insulting remarks at the coach of the opposing team", without any specification of the nature of the remarks (although of course, we all know what they're talking about).
The softness of the punishment does not come as any kind of surprise, given the identity of the country we are dealing with here, but it remains very disappointing. As I wrote on Tuesday evening, I'm not asking for Sarri to be kicked out of football or anything absurd like that, but given that this is the second occasion on which he has used homophobic language* it is clear that he needs to be educated on this matter. As it is, life will carry on almost as if nothing happened, because two games is nothing.
What is downright ludicrous, on the other hand, is the fact that the difference between Sarri receiving a ban of two-games and one of a considerably longer length is the sexual orientation of the man he has insulted. In other words, to paraphrase Article 11 of the FIGC's code of conduct (which is explained in more detail by the Gazzetta dello Sport here), what he said was fine because Mancini is not actually gay, which makes it impossible for his insults to be of a homophobic nature - merely 'offensive'. Great job, Italy!
Following the announcement of Sarri and Mancini's punishments, a flurry of official statements have appeared. Napoli have finally (and I would say somewhat belatedly) broken their silence on the issue, offering their manager their full support with the following words: "The decision of the disciplinary commission formally confirms the absence of any racist or homophobic connotations in the words of Coach Sarri directed at the Coach of the opposing team during the Coppa Italia match on Tuesday. Knowing the cultural and human integrity of our Coach, Napoli never harboured any doubt about that, and believes that the regret for the words uttered, expressed repeatedly and publicly by Sarri, proves once again his personal qualities and capacity for self-criticism. Therefore, we categorically reject the notion that the words of Maurizio Sarri could have been intended in a discriminatory manner, and it's hoped that the Inter Coach will accept the apologies which have repeatedly been offered, and that purely sporting events between the two clubs can return to being the focus of the media and the public."
Shortly afterwards, Mancini also issued a statement of his own on his personal website, addressing accusations that he had used a similar term towards a journalist back in 2001: "What I said after the game in Naples is simply in line with my history and my footballing culture. I don't ask people to share my way of being in football, but I demand respect. At the moment they're creating a polemic and creating factions which shift attention away from the real problem! This story has been subject to a lot of manipulations, not least that I used that same insult toward a journalist, which is not true. I've never used that term because it's not part of my vocabulary. I reiterate my disappointment, but I'd like to get back to concentrating on our sporting goals now, and the next game [with Carpi] which is crucial for Inter's season." Inter's official Twitter account added their support for him, stating they were "always on the side of Roberto Mancini, both on and off the pitch."
Let's just hope that this is the end of the matter for now.
*Back in March 2014, while he was manager of Empoli, Sarri made a comment that football was "becoming a sport for queers" after taking issue with a refereeing decision in a match against Varese. He was subsequently fined €5,000.