The judge that rejected Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly’s appeal insists “solidarity cannot break out into behaviour that is damaging to the game.”

The Senegal international was sent off for sarcastically applauding the referee after a booking in the defeat to Inter.

He testified in front of the panel that he was particularly stressed and “lost concentration” due to the constant racist abuse from the stands throughout the match.

The referee had been urged several times to stop play and did ask for a message to be read out on the speaker system, but no genuine action was ever taken.

Nonetheless, the appeal against a two-match ban was rejected and Koulibaly will remain suspended for tomorrow’s showdown with Lazio.

“In the balance of our decision, what prevailed was respect for the rules,” judge Piero Sandulli told CalcioNapoli24.it.

“Human solidarity, which we tried to show to the player also via a personal conversation with him, is a value to be protected, but cannot break out into behaviour that is damaging to the game.

“If a player is allowed to behave with disrespect towards the referee, we legitimise possibly violent action towards an official and that is a genuine risk. Just look at what happened to a referee recently when he was physically attacked after a youth team game.

“The task of setting the rules is not up to the judges, but the legislators or the executive branch of football. In any case, we did want to send a signal with Koulibaly, as usually the appeal against a one-match ban – which is what Napoli were doing, as Koulibaly would already have been suspended for a yellow card – would not even be considered admissible.

“If we didn’t want to contribute to the debate and focus attention on this delicate issue, we would have simply rejected it outright. Choosing to listen to his testimony made clear we believe change is necessary, but it cannot happen in the judgment phase.”

Sulley Ali Muntari did have his appeal against a ban accepted when he was sent off for trying to confront a fan – a child, no less – who was racially abusing him during a match.

“In that instance, we listened to the referee’s testimony and he had no idea why the player had walked off towards the stands. In that situation, there was a misunderstanding and the referee would’ve acted differently if he had know the reason.

“However, in Koulibaly’s case, the referee might’ve made a mistake or not in applying the UEFA protocol for dealing with racist abuse from the stands, but that is to be evaluated by the AIA (Italian Referees’ Association) and not the Federal Court of Appeal.

“Napoli’s lawyer knew full well that our verdict could only go in this direction.”

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Football Italia staff