Was AC Milan justified to stage a walkout in a friendly match against Italian fourth division side Pro Patria after Kevin-Prince Boateng was racially abused?
"Walk off? No. I don't think that is the solution. I don't think you can run away, because eventually you can run away if you lose a match. This issue is a very touchy subject, but I repeat there is zero tolerance of racism in the stadium. We have to go against that.”
Thank you, Sepp Blatter. At least you acknowledged the need for “zero tolerance of racism in the stadium.” Oh, you repeated it. So you have said it before, haven’t you?
When the FIFA President wants the players to continue playing in spite of the harshest racial chants from the stands, what do you do? Do you listen to him or leave the ground?
Oh, wait! Cristiano Ronaldo agrees with him. When asked about the issue, the Portuguese said, “Sometimes things happen and you cannot simply walk off the pitch. We have to cope with people and fans inside the stadium. Maybe these people have a few screws loose. It is not the whole stadium - it is just a few people.”
“Just a few people”, huh?
The facts are simple. For long black or Asian players have stayed on the pitch while the crowd hurled the most disturbing invective you will probably ever hear at them. That has not helped, though. Hence it’s significant to understand that whenever any player is subjected to racial abuse, he and his team are well justified to withdraw from the proceedings.
Yes, the game of football is important. But does it take precedence over violations of ethical conduct in public places? Most would reply in the negative.
The stigma of racism continues to be a blot on modern society and the football world. In the past four-five years, incidents of racist chanting in football stadiums have been reported with greater enthusiasm and yet the scourge refuses to wither away.
To fight racism tooth and nail, there can be no truck with the people who indulge in such offensive chanting. The social history of the problem can’t be ignored at any cost and to analyse it through a narrow lens, like the one Blatter and Ronaldo possess, would be greatly inappropriate.
While to continue playing while a section of the crowd indulges in racial abuse is courageous indeed, it requires no less courage, if not more, to leave the pitch. In light of the recent racism related issues in the sport, the method of protest has to be significantly modified in order to change the way the fight against this evil is fought.
Therefore, AC Milan and Kevin-Prince Boateng deserve to be lauded, and not criticized, for their brave step as it has the potential to serve as a significant precedent in football’s battle against racism. As Boateng tweeted after the walkout, “Shame that these things still happen.”