Paolo Bandini: Appalling racist chants overshadow Juventus's stirring comeback against Internazionale

Juventus expected praise for their 10-man fightback against Internazionale, instead the club is being castigated for the abusive chants its support directed at Mario Balotelli

Predictably, Saturday night's festivities gave way to the mother of all hangovers. Juventus had celebrated Zdenek Grygera's injury-time equaliser against Internazionale with such wild abandon that a casual spectator might have assumed they had just won the Scudetto. They awoke to the grinding realisation that they had squandered any last faint hope they had of doing so, however, a 1–1 draw serving only to keep them 10 points behind the leaders with six games remaining.

But if Juventus had hoped to at least be lauded for refusing to give up on the game after first falling behind and then having Tiago Mendes sent off, they awoke to find discussion of events off the pitch rapidly overtaking any talk of the match itself. Internazionale's team bus had been met outside the Stadio Olimpico before the game by a mob of Juventus fans throwing eggs and bottles. During the match the Internazionale striker Mario Balotelli had been subjected to a stream of racist taunts and chants.

"If I had been in the stadium, after a certain point I would have left my seat in the stands, I would have gone down on to the pitch and taken my team out of the game," said Internazionale's president, Massimo Moratti, and he was not alone in arguing the match should have been stopped. Marcello Nicchi, the head of the Italian Referees' Association, was eventually forced to clarify that referees are told not to abandon a game because of trouble in the stands unless instructed to do so by police.

Juventus can expect to receive a fine, though it is unlikely to put a significant dent in their finances. Roma were forced to pay just €8,000 (£7,100) when their fans directed similar abuse at Balotelli during their 3–3 draw in March, on condition that they took steps to prevent any repeat. The Juventus president, Giovanni Cobolli Gigli, has condemned the chanting and will doubtless hope to receive similar terms.

Balotelli, for his part, will feel that he answered the abuse in the best possible way. It was his team-mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic who once responded to the jeers of Juventus fans by insisting that "they will only make me stronger" but, while the Swede is yet to score against his former club, Balotelli's strike on Saturday was his third in as many appearances against the Bianconeri. Only a goalline clearance from Grygera had prevented him from opening the scoring sooner.

"I am more Italian than those Juventus fans in the stands," was all Balotelli would say on the matter afterwards. Although his birth parents were Ghanaian, the striker was adopted by the Balotelli family at the age of the three and is fiercely proud of his Italian nationality. Forced to wait until his 18th birthday to receive full citizenship, Balotelli declined a number of opportunities to represent the senior Ghana team from the age of 16 onwards, insisting that he would only ever play for Italy. He made his debut for the Under-21 team less than a month after becoming eligible.

Patriotism, of course, is no indicator of character and many teams' fans might have been riled by some of Balotelli's actions on Saturday. The striker is petulant in the extreme and on another day might have seen red himself after off-the-ball incidents in which he was seen to lash out at Nicola Legrottaglie and swear at the referee, Stefano Farina. But there is no justification for racial abuse. The 18-year-old is far from the first teenager with a temper to visit Turin and few have been met by such a reception.

Nor were the chants directed at Balotelli the only ones that will have troubled the Juventus manager, Claudio Ranieri. Shortly before Grygera's equaliser, the home support began to sing the name of Antonio Conte, the club's former captain and the current manager of the Serie B leaders, Bari.

It has long been apparent that Ranieri has next to no say in the club's transfer policy – and he is said to be less than enthused by reported moves for Werder Bremen's Diego and Real Madrid's Fabio Cannavaro. With his team now back in third after allowing Milan to make up seven points in the space of three games, it seems increasingly likely that the Tinkerman will not be around to welcome them to Turin.

Round 32 talking points

• Milan moved ahead of Juventus after thrashing Torino 5–1 at San Siro, with the help of another hat-trick from Filippo Inzaghi. The striker has now scored a phenomenal nine goals in his last six appearances, and no player seems to have benefited more from the arrival of David Beckham. He may be 35, but few strikers know how to find space in a crowded penalty area as consistently as Pippo. Few midfielders, meanwhile, can pick out the open man in the box quite as consistently as Goldenballs.

• Last week Lazio appeared to have knocked Roma out of Champions League contention with a 4–2 win in the Derby della Capitale. This week they gave Roma fresh hope by beating Genoa 1–0 at Stadio Ferraris. Fiorentina also lost, 3–1 away to Udinese, while Roma themselves beat Lecce 3–2. Next week Fiorentina host Roma at Stadio Artemio Franchi.

• Roberto Donadoni's inauspicious start to life as the Napoli manager continued with a 2–0 defeat at Cagliari. Although that was their first defeat under Donadoni, they are also yet to win, having now collected just four points from five games.

Results: Atalanta 0–1 Reggina, Cagliari 2–0 Napoli, Catania 2–0 Sampdoria, Genoa 0–1 Lazio, Juventus 1–1 Internazionale, Milan 5–1 Torino, Palermo 4–1 Bologna, Roma 3–2 Lecce, Siena 0–2 Chievo, Udinese 3–1 Fiorentina


Nicky Bandini

The GuardianTramp

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