Buffon calls for 'severe' punishments for racism

The Juventus keeper insists most supporters are not motivated by racial aggression when they chant during matches and feels many players are too young to be seen as role models
Juventus veteran Gianluigi Buffon has called for racism among football supporters to be punished "severely", though he believes most fans are not guilty of the offence.

Juventus were fined €30,000 (£25,000) for racist chants from fans during a clash with Milan in April, while Lazio and Inter have been hit with stadium bans in the past 12 months following similar offences.

While Buffon insists most supporters are not motivated by racial or regional discrimination when singing from the stands, he believes action must be taken against those who are found guilty.

"I don't think fans are acting on racial hatred," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Even when they offend the opponent with their shouts, I think the intention is to be heard, to emphasise their dissent."

"I was one of them, I sang backing vocals when I was little. I know the spirit in which the songs are made. And with players of other races within the teams, it wouldn't make sense.

"But I think it is fair to severely punish certain forms of intolerance. I did not presume to fully understand this kind of abuse, I cannot have the same sensitivity as those affected by these attacks.

"The line between teasing and denigration is very thin."

Buffon also believes footballers must not be held up as the sole role models in the matter of racial tolerance, insisting many players are too young to be handed such a responsibility.

"We know we have the power to influence others. But it is not up to us to educate people, the responsibility is not fair because many of us are young," added the Italy veteran.

"It is clear that, on issues related to fans and racist chanting, sometimes it is appropriate to send a message."