A match was briefly suspended after Lecce loanee Samuel Umtiti was racially abused by Lazio fans – bringing the defender to tears.
Lecce and Lazio faced off in the Serie A clash on Wednesday evening, but the game was marred by controversy when Cameroon native and France representative Umtiti, and his Lecce team-mate, Zambian forward Lameck Banda, fell victim to racism from the away fans. During the tense encounter, derogatory chants echoed around the stadium aimed at the pair, prompting the match to be halted for several minutes, L'Equipe reported.
Umtiti was so overwhelmed by the horrific chants that reports claim the French centre-back burst into tears. But he bravely returned to the pitch when action resumed shortly after to the resounding chants of his name being sung by Lecce's fans.
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The heartwarming moment was documented by Lecce on its Twitter account which wrote: "The racist cries were overwhelmed by those of encouragement. All the giallorosso people started shouting a single name, Samuel Umtiti."
Umtiti's bravery was also heralded by Lecce president, Saverio Sticchi Damiani who said: "When the referee interrupted the match, waiting for the announcer to call for an end to the racist cries, Umtiti asked that the match be resumed, because he wanted to respond on the field to the insults received.
"He reacted like a true champion."
And to round off the night, Umtiti, on loan from Barcelona until the end of the season, helped inspire Lecce to a resounding 2-1 victory at the Via del Mare stadium. Lecce trailed Lazio 1-0 after Circo Immobile gave the visitors the lead early on, before goals from Gabriela Strefezza and Lorenzo Colombo in the second half turned the tide.
After the game, FIFA president Gianni Infantino also condemned the racist chants whilst sharing his “solidarity with Samuel Umtiti and Lameck Banda”. He declared on Instagram: "Let’s shout loud and clear: NO TO RACISM! May the overwhelming majority of supporters, who are good people, rise up to silence all racists once and for all!."
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