AC Milan takes a stand
By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer
In a recent friendly against Italian fourth-division side Pro Patria, AC Milan’s Kevin-Prince Boateng left the pitch after being subject (along with several other black players on the team) to racial abuse. His entire team followed him in his protest, and the match was abandoned.
It was refreshing to see a player take such a stand against racism, and there has been no shortage of public support and praise for Boateng. However, people seem to be losing sight of the fact that it wasn’t so much his action, as it was the team’s that made this event so powerful. If Boateng just walked off the field by himself, nothing would have happened. They would have simply subbed him and went on playing the game. No harm, no foul, and probably not even a mention in the news that night; after all, it was a friendly against an unknown side. If he didn’t have the support of his teammates, Boateng might even have returned to the pitch. Messina defender Marco Zoro once stopped play by handling the ball in a game in which he was being abused, and informed the referee that he was finished playing. However, he had no support in his outrage, and was actually convinced to continue playing. Similarly, in a 2006 match against Real Zaragoza, Barcelona striker Samuel Eto’o tried to leave the pitch, but was eventually persuaded to keep playing.
It can be argued for the last two cases noted that having the player leave the game is just giving the racists what they want, but if the whole team leaves, that’s definitely not true. Racists or not, everyone in the stands is there to watch soccer. Soccer with one team on the pitch is pointless. Abandoning the match both scores a moral victory, and forces UEFA to do something, or show that they’re all talk. UEFA has said for years that they’re against racism and that there are procedures in place so that events such as AC Milan’s never take place, but I’ve never seen or heard of any significant action taken. For example, when some English U-21 players were abused in Serbia, the Serbian FA was slapped with a mere £65,000 fine. When Mario Balotelli faced racism in a game against Porto, the end result was a paltry £16,000 fine. For comparison, Nicklas Bendtner received an £80,000 fine for displaying a pair of sponsored briefs during a match.
These miniscule fines do nothing, and UEFA has to realize this, though it’s becoming obvious that they’re already aware and simply refuse to do anything. With this in mind, the only way racism will ever be eliminated from the game is by teams following AC Milan’s example. An active, and very public, approach is necessary. UEFA has to be embarrassed into taking action. Until that day comes, soccer will never be free of racism.