ROME: Milan’s Ghana midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng is having second thoughts about staying on in Italian football in the wake of the Pro Patria racist abuse incident.
Boateng walked off the pitch, followed by his Milan team-mates, in the 26th minute of a club friendly in Busto Arsizio on Thursday afternoon after he and three black team-mates had been targeted by a group of home hooligans.
The walk-off made headlines around the world.
Boateng, reflecting on the incident, said: “This isn’t something you can easily shrug off. I’ll sleep on it for three days or so and then talk to my agent about whether it’s still worth staying in Italian football.”
The player said he had been proud and grateful for the support he had received from his team-mates and said he had heard ‘monkey chants’ when the game was only five minutes old.
He added: “At first I did not think anything about it but then they were repeated and I warned the referee that if they continued I would have leave the field. He tried to calm us down but when the chorus restarted I thought: ‘Enough is enough, I’m not playing on.’
“I would have done the same thing even if it had been a Champions League match against Real Madrid and I always will. I was angry, sad, shocked. That such things should happen again in 2013 is a disgrace, not only for Italy but for world football.
“I, we, wanted to send a strong signal that such things can not exist, we need to open our eyes. Racism has not place in football. ”
Boateng had unequivocal support from Damiano Tommasi, the former Italy midfielder who heads the Italian players’ union.
Tommasi said: “It’s a strong, important signal that finally sets a precedent. It’s good that it comes from first-rate players, who are usually accused of being less sensitive or less willing to make a stand.” Italian football federation (FIGC) president Giancarlo Abete said efforts were being made to identify the perpetrators, adding: “No matter what sanctions are imposed, nothing can cancel the disgust at such an intolerable episode.
“My complete backing goes to the players who were victims of racist chants and to Milan for refusing to continue playing,”
National team coach Cesare Prandelli, in charge when striker Mario Balotelli was racially abused by Croatia fans during Euro 2012, added: “Italy has to grow up and this is a first step.”
Abete said he had requested a meeting with senior police officers to discuss how and under what circumstances referees could suspend matches.
Anti-racism groups applauded Boateng, as did players including Senegal-born former France midfielder Patrick Vieira, who last year urged the football authorities to adopt a zero-tolerance approach in the fight to rid the sport of racism.
He said on Twitter: “It was brave of Kevin-Prince Boateng to do what he did and it was the right thing. We need to stand up and stand together.”
But one note of dissent came from former Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf who feared that walk-offs could prove counter-productive in encouraging mischief-makers.
He said: “Walking away sends a signal. But this has happened more than once and I don’t think it really changes all that much. We are just empowering that little group with their behaviour to make this mess.”
Five fans of Pro Patria have been arrested and questioned by police over the racist chanting.
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