Udinese fan banned for life after racially abusing AC Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan

Maignan and his teammates briefly left the field during before returning

UDINE, ITALY - JANUARY 20: Mike Maignan of AC Milan acknowledges the fans after the Serie A TIM match between Udinese Calcio and AC Milan at Dacia Arena on January 20, 2024 in Udine, Italy. (Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images)

Udinese of Italy's Serie A has banned a fan for life for directing racist abuse toward AC Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan during Saturday's match.

Play was briefly suspended when Maignan and his AC Milan teammates left the field after alerting referee Fabio Maresca about the abuse.

According to Udinese, security cameras were used to identify the fan and work is being done to locate any other offenders.

The ban will begin immediately.

From Udinese:

"We believe that such strong measures are necessary to send a clear message that racism has no place in football or society. Udinese Calcio stands firmly against any form of discrimination, and we are determined to create an inclusive and respectful environment within our football community.

"We thank the authorities for their cooperation and together we will continue to work tirelessly in order to identify and punish other individuals who were involved in this incident and that tarnish the sporting ethics of the club, the Region, the city of Udine and a fan base that has always been a model of integration and respect.

"We want to ensure that our stadium remains a space where everyone, regardless of their ethnicity, background, culture, and language is able to enjoy the beautiful game without fear of discrimination. Udinese Calcio calls on all football stakeholders to unite in the fight against racism and discrimination, fostering an environment that celebrates diversity and promotes inclusion."

As Milan was up 1-0 after 33 minutes and about to take a goal kick, Maignan, who is Black, walked towards the referee and then to the sideline followed by his teammates. After briefly waiting near the sideline, the goalkeeper then took off his gloves and left the field to go down the tunnel toward the dressing rooms.

The match was restarted approximately 10 minutes after the stoppage with Maignan back in goal. Udinese supporters booed him for the rest of the game every time he touched the ball. Striker Noah Okafor scored in stoppage time to give AC Milan a 3-2 victory.

This wasn't the first time that Maignan has faced racist abuse during a match, and other Black players in Europe and around the world have faced similar. Despite the attempts of soccer's governing bodies, this kind of behavior persists.

“We made press releases, advertising campaigns, protocols,” Maignan wrote in an Instagram post on Sunday. “And nothing has changed.

“Today, an entire system must take responsibility. ... It is a difficult fight, which will take time and courage. But it's a fight we will win."

Udinese ordered to play match behind closed doors

Udinese was also punished as the Italian football federation announced that the team will have to play one home game without fans.

"For an event of this magnitude and seriousness... the obligation to play a match behind closed doors... may be applied," the official statement said.

From Sky Sports:

The judgement states the one-match stadium closure was the minimum sanction that could have been imposed, and was chosen to reflect Udinese's active stance and willingness right from the start to identify those responsible.

Feb. 3 is Udinese's next scheduled home match at Bluenergy Stadium.