UEFA President Michel Platini declared in June 2012 that any soccer players who left the pitch during a game because of racist abuse would receive a yellow card. Today, both teams of players in a friendly match in Italy walked off the pitch because of racist chants against an AC Milan player from the crowd.
Soccer players and fans across the world have expressed their feelings of solidarity for the players of AC Milan and Aurora Pro Patria 1919 (an Italian club from the Second Division, from Busto Arsizio, Lombardy) after both teams supported AC Milan’s Kevin-Prince Boateng by walking off the pitch.
After 25 minutes of racial abuse by some sections of the Pro Patria crowd, and repeated warnings over the tannoy, Boateng picked up the ball, kicked it into the crowd, removed his shirt and walked off, followed by both teams and the match officials. To note, the fans were in their majority also supportive of the players’ behavior, reacting angrily towards the corner of the stadium where the racist chants were coming from.
Giancarlo Abete, President of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC – Federazione Italiana Gioco Calcio), declared after the incident: “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.”
During the game, M’Baye Niang, Urby Emanuelson and Sulley Muntari ,other black players from AC Milan, also suffered abuse.
Does this set a precedent? Not for Platini and not for some other players who believe that to stop a game in this way is to empower the racists. However, what is the alternative? To have police in the crowd dressed in civilian gear costs money and at a time of recession…