Kevin Prince Boateng of AC Milan walked off the soccer field after racist taunts from the crowd. The star player won praise for his stand in opposition to racist holliganism., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Milan friendly abandoned after players protest against racist chants
• Kevin-Prince Boateng reacted by kicking ball at Pro Patria fans
• Milan captain Massimo Ambrosini took his side off pitch
The Guardian, Thursday 3 January 2013 11.51 EST
A friendly match between Milan and the fourth-tier club Pro Patria was abandoned on Thursday after players walked off in protest at racist chanting from fans.
The game, played in Busto Arsizio, was called off after 26 minutes when a section of Pro Patria supporters targeted Milan's Kevin-Prince Boateng, who reacted to the abuse by picking up the ball and kicking it at the crowd in the stand behind him.
The Ghanaian then tore off his shirt and walked off the field at the opposite end. On his way, he applauded other sections of the crowd, who then appeared to react angrily towards the corner of the ground from where the chants came.
Pro Patria's Dario Alberto Polverini attempted to talk to Boateng as the 25-year-old departed, but the midfielder carried on walking and the rest of the players, led by Milan's captain, Massimo Ambrosini, followed him off the pitch. Urby Emanuelson, Sulley Muntari and M'Baye Niang were also reportedly targeted.
Boateng later tweeted: "Shame that these things still happen... #StopRacismforever", and the Milan coach, Massimiliano Allegri, told Gazzetta dello Sport: "I'm disappointed and saddened but I think it was the right decision not to return to the field out of respect for our players and all other black players.
"We promise to return [to replay the game], and we are sorry for the club and players of Pro Patria, but we could not make any other decision. I'm sorry for the families and children who had come here to enjoy a beautiful day. I hope this can be an important signal."
Ambrosini told the newspaper: "We were annoyed from the beginning. We wanted to give a strong signal … we could not continue the game in an atmosphere like this."
The Italian Football Association's president, Giancarlo Abete, announced an immediate inquiry. "No sanction or measure can erase the disdain for an unspeakable and intolerable episode," he said. "We must react with force and without silence to isolate the few criminals that transformed a friendly match into an uproar that offends all of Italian football."
Anti-racism campaigners praised Boateng's decision to walk off. Piara Powar, the executive director of the European anti-discrimination group Fare, said: "We salute Kevin-Prince Boateng for his actions and his team-mates for their support. This is the not the first time a player has walked off in Italy – if the situation continues it may not be the last. Italy, as much as any country in Europe, has a serious problem of racism to deal with. Football infrastructure is in need of renewal and at serious odds with the changing nature of Italian society. We look forward to strong action by the FIGC [Italian FA]."
Russia has also had extensive problems with discrimination, most recently highlighted by a Zenit St Petersburg fans' group issuing a statement calling on the Russian club not to sign black or gay players.
"2013 starts in Italy as 2012 finished in Russia with a stark example of what has become the biggest social challenge facing football," Powar added.
A number of players also showed their support for Boateng on Twitter. Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand wrote: "If the stories about KPB walking off the pitch with teammate's after being racially abused are true, fair play to him."
Manchester City's captain, Vincent Kompany, wrote: "Act of racism against Boateng during Milan's friendly. How about becoming extremely intolerant towards racist idiots? They need to be told. I can only salute Milan's decision to leave the pitch."