Italian soccer team AC Milan abandoned a game it was playing, after midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng became the target of racist taunts yelled by fans in the stands.
Anchor Marco Werman discusses the unusual event with The World’s resident soccer expert, William Troop.
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Marco Werman: Something out of the ordinary happened yesterday on a soccer field in Italy. One of that country’s top teams, AC Milan, walked off the field, abandoning a game that was playing after one of its players was targeted by racist chants from some of the fans in the stands. The incident caught the attention of soccer fans the world over, including The World’s William Troop. Tell us exactly what happened, William.
William Troop: Well, basically, AC Milan was playing a friendly game against a much lower ranked team in Italy, called Pro Patria. And reportedly, throughout the 25 minutes that the game had gone on, the fans in the stands for the Pro Patria team were targeting AC Milan’s black players with monkey chants and other racist abuse. And one of these players, Kevin-Prince Boateng, a very well-known player in Italy and Europe, who is from Ghana, picked up the ball in the middle of the game…picked up the ball with his hands and kicked it into the stands, obviously angry. And then he proceeded to walk off the field and his whole team followed him. And AC Milan abandoned the game and never came back.
Werman: Wow, that’s pretty impressive. Have you ever heard of anything like that before where that solidarity just kind of ends the game, where we’ve had enough of this race abuse, we’re out of here.
Troop: No, there’s been a lot of talk in Europe, not just in Italy, but in Europe as a whole, that black players are saying they’ve had enough of these racist insults being thrown at them from the stands and threatened to do this, to walk off the field and not play, but they’ve never actually done it as a whole team, and certainly not a top team like AC Milan, which is you know, well-known around the world.
Werman: And was it kind of like a few fans who were chanting this stuff or was it like the entire arena? What was the deal?
Troop: Reportedly it was a very small number, about 20 fans. There were, you know, a couple thousands in the stands, not that many, but really a very small number of fans were the ones chanting at the players. So the reaction from the other fans in the stadium was notable too that once the players started walking off, all the other fans in this stadium in northern Italy started booing the fans that insulted the players in the first place. And you know, that was notable because basically, most soccer fans in Italy and in other countries, don’t want to be associated with this kind of behavior.
Werman: Right, although one wonders what would’ve happened if they started booing earlier, that the game might not have ended so abruptly.
Troop: Yeah, and that’s really the question here. When this racist abuse is happening in the stands, you know, there are people that are sitting around these fans insulting these players, and where is the reaction then?
Werman: So, William, I’ve heard about racist epithets being tossed about on the field between players, between players and officials, but how common is this problem in the stands?
Troop: Well, in Europe and perhaps some other parts of the world (I’m more familiar with Europe) it’s very common, actually. In Italy, it’s a particular problem where you know, in the top leagues in Italy there’s a lot of players from around the world, many of them are black. And it’s quite common actually that fans from the opposing team will use these monkey chants to target them.
Werman: You know, it’s unprecedented and as we said, a brave move by Boateng and his fellow players to walk off the field, but do you think it’s going to change anything?
Troop: Well, there’s been a lot of support for these players doing this from all around the soccer world, in particular, the owner of AC Milan who is none other than the former Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, came out in support of Boateng and his teammates and said if this ever happens again, AC Milan will walk off the pitch again. And that’s, that’s another thing that’s never happened before–an owner basically backing up his players like that. The question is though this was a very insignificant game. It was a friendly game against a team that nobody, you know, hardly anybody has heard of. Will a top team like AC Milan do this when there’s a lot on the line,
Troop: when it’s a top match where, you know, millions of people are watching on TV. I think if that were to happen things could change a lot more.
Werman: The World’s William Troop, always great to speak with you about the beautiful game, thanks for coming in.
Troop: You’re welcome, Marco.
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Shame that these things still happen… #StopRacismforever
— Kevin-Prince Boateng (@KPBofficial) January 3, 2013
— Ruud Gullit (@GullitR) January 3, 2013