INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL

President Hollande praises Gigi Buffon's anthem gesture

The Italy captain hushed fans booing the French national anthem ahead of their friendly match on Thursday evening, encouraging them to applaud instead.
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President Hollande praises Gigi Buffon's anthem gesture

French president Francois Hollande has sent a message of gratitude to Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon after he hushed fans booing the French national anthem before the friendly match between the two nations last Thursday.

The Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi discussed the matter in his weekly letter to the nation on Monday, saying Hollande had spoken to him during the G20 meeting currently ongoing in China.

At today's meeting Francois Hollande thanked me for Gigi Buffon's gesture of goodwill in silencing the whistling during 'La Marseillaise' and instead encouraging fans in Bari to applaud,” Renzi wrote.

“Sportspeople can make a big impact in transmitting educative messages: the team captain Buffon proved this. The whole of Italy can be proud of him,” he added.

Buffon and Ventura are now in Israel for a World Cup qualifier.

Buffon, who has won 162 caps for the national team and is greatly respected across the country, noticed the booing at the start of the rendition of La Marseillaise and instead began to applaud. His teammates quickly followed suit before the gesture spread into the crowd.

France went on to win the match 3-1, with goals from Manchester United’s Anthony Martial, Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud and PSG’s Layvin Kurzawa. Graziano Pelle scored Italy’s only goal.

The match was a disappointing debut for Gianpiero Ventura, Italy’s new coach following Antonio Conte’s decision to step down in order to take charge of Chelsea.

Ventura said: “After three days of training I couldn't expect more. Of course I can't be satisfied with the result... if we analyze this match it will be easy to see the errors that we made."

One positive for Italy was the debut of AC Milan’s young goalkeeper Gianluigi Donarumma, who many see as the long-term heir to Buffon. The 17 year-old came on at the start of the second half and became the youngest keeper to ever don the Azzuri shirt.