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Italy: Verona football fans target Naples with shock Ukraine-Russia banner

Verona ultrà banner causes outrage in Naples.

Italy's foreign minister Luigi Di Maio has condemned as "repugnant" a banner displayed by hardcore ultrà fans of Hellas Verona football club near the Bentegodi stadium in the north Italian city ahead of Sunday's match against Napoli.

The banner featured the flags of Russia and Ukraine along with a series of numbers representing the coordinates of Naples, in what has been perceived as an invitation to bomb the southern city with missiles.

The banner "against Naples and the Neapolitans" is "serious and must be condemned by all, without distinction and without justification" - Di Maio wrote on Twitter - "This war is real, it is not fiction, it is not a game. Children, women, entire families are losing their lives under the fatal blows of the Russian army."

Luca Zaia, governor of the Veneto region which includes Verona, slammed the "shameful" banner which "has nothing to do with football", reports state broadcaster RAI News.

"Verona and the Veronese are always a symbol of welcome and solidarity", Zaia said, underlining the work of "associations, local institutions, families or health authorities which are doing their utmost in these days to host, help and care for those fleeing this crazy war."

Hellas Verona has also distanced itself from the banner, issuing a statement in which it promoted "a message of peace" and "condemned any act, gesture and expression that can generate - in any form and measure - incitement to hatred, violence and discrimination."

Verona's ultrà fans have given the club a bad reputation in the past for their far-right sympathies and racist behaviour, including monkey chants directed towards Brescia striker Mario Balotelli in 2019.

Napoli beat Verona 2-1 in the Serie A match on Sunday. Photo Facebook Maurizio de Giovanni.

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