Italian approval for Boateng's decision
Soccer:“Today, we are all Kevin Prince Boateng”. This front page headline in today's Italian sports daily Gazzetta Dello Sportgives some idea of the widespread approval in Italy for Ghanaian footballer Kevin Prince Boateng, the man who sparked a walk-off by Serie A giants AC Milan because of consistent racist abuse during a Thursday friendly.
The game in question against fourth division Pro Patria, who are based in Busto Arsizio, just down the road from Milan’s Milanello training ground close to the Swiss border, was little more than a training session against the lowly neighbours. On a beautiful sunny day, a small crowd of 2,000 fans, including many children, turned up to watch the mighty Milan at close hand.
However, a small group of Pro Patria fans chose to spoil the day by directing consistent, heavy racist abuse at three of Milan’s black players - Boateng, fellow Ghanaian Sully Muntari and Frenchman Nian M’Baye. When the ball was passed to Boateng in the 27th minute, he was greeted with another outburst of racial abuse.
Exasperated by the fans' behaviour, Boateng stopped playing, picked up the ball and kicked it in the direction of the abusive fans.
Even though the referee appeared to remonstrate with Boateng, the player immediately made for the dressingroom, pulling off his shirt and followed by the entire Milan team.
Despite attempts by the Pro Patria players and club to restart the game, Milan refused to return to the pitch.
Gazzetta Dello Sport, nothing if not an authorative voice on Italian sport, applauded Boateng's gesture, taking up the theme of a famous Le Mondeeditorial on the day after the 9/11 Twin Towers attack, commenting: “Today we are all Kevin Prince Boateng. We are all black like him, black in the face and in the soul with anger at an offence that defies good sense and degrades civil society. He did the right thing”.
Many other football figures such as Italian national team manager Cesare Prandelli, former French player Patrick Vieira and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand also praised Boateng’s gesture which prompted the first racism-inspired walk-off in the history of top level football.
Throughout the last 20 years, professional football in Europe has been plagued with recurrent racist incidents but they have never led to a game being abandoned.
English Premier League fans are familiar with recent racist cases involving top-flight players, John Terry of Chelsea and Uruguayan Luis Suarez of Liverpool.
Italian football, too, has had racist problems throughout the last decade with Patrick Vieira, Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli and Ivory Coast defender Marc Zoro all featuring in ugly incidents.
One of the few dissident voices was that of Busto Arsizio’s Northern League mayor, Gigi Farioli, who called Boateng’s behaviour unprofessional, arguing that if he had tried a gesture like that in a Serie A game, he would have been heavily fined by his club.
Several commentators also expressed doubts about how Boateng would have reacted in a more important game.
Rome daily, La Repubblicacommented: “Sure it is easy to abandon a friendly game but we hope that, if necessary, it will happen when there are three points at stake. At least, however, the precedent has now been established”.