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Italian soccer coach says he might have used 'faggot' but he's not homophobic

"Am I homophobic? That seems over the top. I was just irritable," coach says after argument with rival.

Maurizio Sarri
Maurizio Sarri
Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

Napoli soccer coach Maurizio Sarri said it's possible he called rival coach Roberto Mancini the Italian word for "faggot" but that he's not homophobic.

Mancini said that Sarri of called him "finocchio" and "frocio," both gay slurs in Italian, during an exchange Tuesday in the Coppa Italia quarterfinal.  Sarri later said he can't recall exactly what he said.

"I can't remember, it's possible. I was fired up and angry, so I'm not sure what I said. Adrenaline does strange things to people and can trip you up. Am I homophobic? That seems over the top. I was just irritable."

In another interview later, Sarri said: "I think the whole thing is a being exaggerated, they were words of anger, not homophobic comments. I yelled out in frustration and without the intent of offending. My actions were neither sexist nor racist, simply the product of anger. But I accept that another could think differently. It is true that certain words should not be used, but then again I've heard much worse. I have no stance on the issue of homosexuality. It was just a word I blurted out in the heat of the moment.''

If "faggot" is the first thing that pops out of his mouth when he's irritable, Sarri is homophobic in my mind. He also said that anything he said on the field to Mancini should have stayed there, which is another way of deflecting attention from his words.

Mancini was pissed at Sarri's words and was not letting him off easy.

"Sarri then got up and shouted [Italian slang for faggot] at me. I would be proud to be that if he is what's considered a man. I am not remotely interested in talking about the game. A 60-year-old man who acts like this is shameful. You can argue, but this is shameful.

"I went to find him in the locker room and he apologized, but I want him to be ashamed of what he said. In England someone like him wouldn't even be allowed to set foot on the touchline."

There are no openly gay elite-level soccer players in Italy and with coaches like Sarri, it's easy to see why. It will be interesting if his words get him any sort of punishment.