Kevin-Prince Boateng made a widely applauded stand against racism yesterday, walking off the pitch when racially abused while playing in a friendly for Milan against Pro Patria in Italy.
The Ghanaian midfielder was one of a number of Milan players subjected to racially abusive chanting from the home fans. Urby Emanuelson, Sulley Muntari and M'Baye Niang were also victims of abuse.
After 26 minutes of the friendly, Boateng picked up the ball, kicked it into the crowd, removed his shirt and walked off the pitch. He was applauded by the rest of the ground and players from both sides walked off with him. Boateng wrote on Twitter afterwards "Shame that these things still happen. Stop racism for ever." He has been widely supported for his actions.
The Milan coach, Massimiliano Allegri ,said that Boateng had been right to make a stand. "We are disappointed and saddened by what has happened," he said. "Milan play for the right to respect all players."
"Walking off was the right choice when faced with something like this," Allegri said. "We need to stop these uncivil gestures. Italy needs to improve and become better educated and more intelligent. Let's learn from this experience. We are sorry for all the other fans who came here for a beautiful day of sport. We promise to return, and we are sorry for the club and players of Pro Patria, but we could not make any other decision."
The Milan director Umberto Gandini also backed Boateng's actions: "It is so sad but we had to give a strong signal," he said. "Very proud of all Milan players for their decision."
There will be an immediate inquiry into the incident by the Italian Football Federation. A statement said that "no sanction or penalty can erase the disdain for an unjustifiable and intolerable episode. We need to react with strength and without silence to isolate the few delinquents that transformed a friendly match into a mess that offends all of Italian football."
Pro Patria are an Italian fourth-tier side based in Busto Arsizio, 18 miles north of Milan. One of their players, defender Devis Nossa, expressed his shame at the events and said that the racists did not represent his team. "When we tried to reason with them and went under the stands they didn't even consider it," he said. "They certainly weren't our usual fans."
Vincent Kompany, the Manchester City captain, voiced his anger and sympathy on Twitter. "Act of racism against Boateng during Milan's friendly. How about becoming extremely intolerant towards racist idiots? They need to be told," he wrote. "I can only salute Milan's decision to leave the pitch. Also noted that the majority of the fans were completely supportive of the players."
Piara Power, the executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe asked for strong action from the Italian FA. "We salute Kevin-Prince Boateng for his actions and his team-mates for their support," Powar said. "This is the not the first time a player has walked off in Italy – if the situation continues it may not be the last."