Juventus star Gigi Buffon caused controversy when greeting a Chinese fan after the Coppa Italia semi-final 1-1 draw with Milan and joking about the coronavirus.
There is video circulating online of Buffon signing autographs in the mixed zone following Thursday’s match at San Siro.
“I’m watching you, eh? Corona, eh? Damn, are you from Wuhan?” said Buffon as those around them laughed.
He then showed it was not a genuine concern by touching the Chinese fan on the cheek as he winked and walked on to the next autograph.
It has, however, sparked condemnation on social media, as many members of the Chinese community in Italy have reported sharp increases in racist behaviour since the coronavirus scare erupted.
Meanwhile, Tottenham Hotspur and England midfielder Dele Alli apologised this week after posting a video on his Snapchat account where he seemed to mock an Asian man and joke about the coronavirus.
Alli’s video – which was subsequently deleted after several complaints were made – showed him wearing a face mask in an airport departure lounge with the message ‘Corona whattt, please listen with volume’.
He moved the camera towards an Asian man before showing a bottle of antiseptic hand wash, with a caption saying “This virus gunna have to be quicker than that to catch me”.
The COVID-19 epidemic – as the World Health Organization formally named it – has also reached Britain where nine cases have been identified.
“I spoke with him (Alli) about that but it was quite an easy conversation because he was very sorry about – let’s say, the mistake – but it was never his intention to hurt or offend,” said Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho at his Friday press conference.
“He immediately regretted and recognised it was a young generation mistake and he apologised.