Man on trial over Celtic-Juventus racism claims

Charlie Mulgrew in the thick of the action during the match at Parkhead. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Charlie Mulgrew in the thick of the action during the match at Parkhead. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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A COMPANY director has gone on trial accused of racially abusing two restaurant bosses at a Celtic and Juventus Champions League match.

Ian Duffy allegedly shouted ‘dirty Italian b******s’ at Marcello Crolla and Franco Cortellessa within a corporate hospitality box at Parkhead in February last year.

A sheriff heard how Still Game actor Paul Riley apparently stepped in to defuse a row after the comment was said to have been made.

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Mr Cortellessa claimed the jibe reminded him of his school days when he was ‘bullied’ for having an Italian background.

Duffy is on trial charged with making a racist remark in the Billy McNeill suite at Celtic Park on February 12 last year.

Glasgow Sheriff Court heard how Duffy - managing director of a railway engineering firm - was hosting a table at last-16 Champions League.

His guests were a mixture of business clients and friends - including actor Paul Riley, who plays Winston in Still Game.

Mr Crolla and Mr Cortellessa, along with their group, were also in the suite at another table.

The trial heard how at half time - with Celtic one goal down in a ‘contentious’ match - those attending the suite returned for refreshments.

Mr Crolla - an Edinburgh restaurateur - claimed he was sitting having a coffee when he heard Duffy say: “Look at them sitting there, so smug... dirty Italian b******s.”

Asked how it made him feel, the 42-year-old witness said: “I was shocked.”

Duffy’s lawyer Aamer Anwar put to Mr Crolla that the company director did not make the ‘dirty Italian b******s” comment.

But, Mr Crolla replied: “The words cannot be mistaken for anything else.”

Mr Cortellessa, 46, gave evidence and told the trial the remark ‘ruined the whole atmosphere’ of the evening.

He said: “I was bullied at school for being Italian - I didn’t think I would have to put up with that at the age of 45.

“I have been to hundreds of football games and never been called an Italian b*****d.”

Mr Anwar claimed Mr Cortellessa was ‘deliberately lying’ about Duffy, but the witness said: “That’s not true.”

Duffy, of the city’s Bridgeton, later gave evidence and denied making a racist remark that night.

He recalled the match - which Celtic eventually lost 3-0 - was “somewhat contentious” and that Juventus were “playing football more akin to wrestling”.

Fans were said to have chanted during the game: “Same old Juve, always cheating”.

Duffy told how he was chatting with an American colleague at half-time in the suite about supporters having a go at the referee.

Duffy said he then went on to discuss the infamous match-fixing scandal in Italy, which had involved Juventus.

His lawyer Mr Anwar asked: “Did you stand up towards this other table and shout abuse?”

Duffy: “Never - I did not even know they were Italian. They were not sitting there wearing ‘I love Italy T-shirts’.”

He claimed he was only aware of any issue when Mr Cortellessa came at him when the match restarted giving him ‘mega verbals’.

Duffy recalled: “Mr Riley came out and he came in between us. This man was saying that I would be ejected from the ground and that I would not be sitting in my seat by the end of the game.

“I said to him that I never said anything like that, but, for the record, I did say ‘Juventus are cheating b******s’.”

Duffy - who denies the charge - will resume his evidence when the trial continues next month.

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