Gianluigi Buffon's coronavirus joke draws criticism while Jose Mourinho defends Dele Alli

South China Morning Post Dipublikasikan 16.02, 16/02/2020
Gianluigi Buffon's coronavirus joke draws criticism while Jose Mourinho defends Dele Alli

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has been criticised for his comments to a Chinese reporter in the mixed zone after his side's meeting with AC Milan on Friday night.

"I'm watching you, eh? Coronavirus, eh? F***, are you from Wuhan?" Buffon said in Italian as others can be heard laughing in a video posted of the incident posted on social media.

The 42-year-old signed the autograph and touched the fan on the cheek before winking and walking on to the next autograph.

The video sparked online debate in China and overseas as to whether the Italian's remarks were racist.

Comments on Chinese social media also criticised the Tencent journalist who originally posted an edited version of the video. The journalist issued an apology for posting the edited version.

Buffon led Juventus players such as Gonzalo Higuain, Douglas Costa and Giorgio Chiellini in a video wishing Chinese fans well in the fight against the virus posted on the club Weibo site on Saturday.

"First of all, I would like to extend my friendly greetings to the Chinese and Wuhan people," Buffon said. "I firmly believe that you will defeat the virus." He also sent "a big hug to all Chinese friends".

Buffon follows Spurs star Dele Alli in making light of the coronavirus outbreak. Alli posted a video on his Snapchat account before deleting it. He subsequently apologised to Chinese fans in another video on his Weibo account.

The FA have written to Alli about the video and he could face punishment. However, Alli's manager Jose Mourinho said that they had an "easy conversation" about the video.

"Of course I spoke with him about that," Mourinho told a press conference on Friday. "But for me it was a quite easy conversation, because he was very sorry about that thing … a mistake. It was never his intention to hurt, it was never his intention to offend.

"He immediately regretted and realised it was a young guy mistake, a young generation mistake. It was not a case of me being unhappy and him not understanding why I was unhappy. He regrets and that's the best he can show. And I think to apologise is remarkable."

"He immediately regretted and recognised it was a young generation mistake and he apologised.

"I have a son at the same age as Dele and many of the players. I know social media is for his generation but when you are a public person like footballers are, they have to know and they have to be very, very careful.

"Dele is a great guy. The last thing he is, is anything connected with racism."

Mourinho also made it clear he sees no need for the FA to ban Alli.

Barcelona players shake hands with Getafe players in the company of boys and girls of Chinese origin from the Penya Dracs Units Xinesos, the Chinese FC Barcelona supporters club based in Barcelona. Photo: AP

"I'm not the FA," he said. "I'm his manager. His friend. I have to act as an educator and the best way to do it is immediately his reaction. Regret and apologise. So, game over."

Elsewhere, Barcelona were among clubs to express support for people in Wuhan, where the outbreak first occurred, and around China.

The Camp Nou side came out on the pitch ahead of Saturday's 3-0 win over Getafe alongside children from the Chinese "Penya Drac Units Xinesos" supporters club based in Barcelona.

Benfica players pose with children before a Portuguese Primeira Liga football against SC Braga. Photo: Xinhua

The children wore T-shirts with the message "Stronger together" in English and "Be strong, China" in Chinese. These messages were also displayed on banners on the pitch.

Portuguese side Benfica displayed a similar banner ahead of their game against Braga on Saturday after Chinese children accompanied the players on to the pitch.

English Premier League side Arsenal posted a video of their players thanking the medics battling the virus in China on their Weibo on Sunday.

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