Inter boss Antonio Conte hit out at “vulgar” Juventus supporters who have attempted to airbrush him from their history ahead of his first return to Allianz Stadium.
Conte won 13 major honours with Juve during his playing days and guided them to three successive Serie A titles after making the switch to coaching.
However, the 50-year-old’s decision to take charge of bitter rivals Inter earlier this year damaged his relationship with the club’s fanbase.
More than 15,000 Juventus fans have signed a petition for Conte’s star on their Walk of Fame to be removed and handed to Claudio Marchisio, who announced his playing retirement on Thursday.
President Andrea Agnelli has already rejected the proposal, but Conte has questioned the values of those who signed the petition and wondered whether he made the right decision to return to Italian football, even threatening to quit the sport.
“I’m disappointed that Agnelli had to intervene because it just gave publicity to a vulgar proposition,” he said at Saturday’s pre-match news conference. “It gave room to a move that showed ignorance, lacking values and education.
“I didn’t even want to discuss this, but you in the media are giving a spotlight to these stupid and ignorant people.
“Those are not fans, they are ignorant. We are fortunate to be involved in the best sport in the world and must set the example, pass on positive values and be enthusiastic about playing football. This is sport, not war. Sometimes people forget that.
“It is a sport that should reflect positive human values, not hate and violence. If that’s not the case, then I am the first to walk away. Nobody makes me work as a coach.”
He added: “It’s increasingly difficult because society nowadays highlights hatred and violence. I’ve honestly struggled since I came back to Italy from England. I see situations and wonder why I am even doing this.
“As long as my passion for this sport surpasses these issues, then I will continue. If my passion drops, I will be the first to say it’s time to call it quits. It won’t be a big loss for football, but it won’t be a loss for me either.”
Sunday’s clash at San Siro will see Serie A’s top two sides meet and is Conte’s first return to the club he spent a combined 16 years with as a player and coach.
While Conte was dismissive of his former club’s supporters, he was full of praise for Juve’s achievements on the field.
“These are the teams who so far have done better than the others, but we are still only in week seven,” he said on the eve of the match. “The real values of the clubs will emerge over time, which is why I always say we’ll work out our ambitions later on and see what role we can have in this campaign.
“What we can be sure of is that this is the Derby d’Italia, a big game that everyone wants to watch. We must have desire, enthusiasm and the courage to play this type of match.
“We are up against a side that has set the standard in Serie A for many years and also done well in Europe. The credit goes to those who worked there over the years and created a real flagship team. They worked well and set the example for others, that is beyond doubt.”
Aléxis Sanchez is ruled out of the match through suspension while Romelu Lukaku, who missed the 2-1 Champions League loss to Barcelona in midweek, remains a fitness doubt.
Asked about his squad depth, Conte said: “I hope to be able to count on more players once the break for international duty arrives and we end this initial run of games.
“It is important for a side like Inter in Serie A, the Champions League and Coppa Italia to get everyone involved.
“Lukaku will play if he can give me the right guarantees on his fitness, otherwise someone else will start.”