AC Milan anti-racism protest sets a precedent
Italian commentators on Friday said AC Milan's move to storm off the pitch in protest against racist chants during a friendly match should set a precedent for tackling racism even in top-flight Serie A games.
"We should not play with racism. Full stop," said sports commentator Fabrizio Bocca in an editorial in La Repubblica daily after the incident in Thursday's match between the Serie A side and fourth-tier outfit Pro Patria.
"Football has gradually slipped into incivility and we are guilty of not having been able to stop it and in some cases even of tolerating it," he added in the article headlined "Shame".
Corriere della Sera columnist Pierluigi Battista said: "This should be only the beginning. Whenever there are boos against a (black player) everyone should leave the pitch. Every time and together. Even in official games."
AC Milan striker Kevin-Prince Boateng stormed off the pitch after heckling from local fans in the away game at Pro Patria's home town of Busto Arsizio near Milan.
Sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport said it was the first time in Italy that a football match had been suspended because of racist chants.
Boateng picked up the ball, kicked it towards the stands and led his team off the pitch.
The referee had already suspended the game twice before Boateng's outburst for repeated insults against the striker and fellow black team-mates.
Footballers and sports commentators were overwhelmingly supportive in their reactions to AC Milan's move and underlined that Boateng's protest had highlighted a problem that has been tolerated for too long in Italian stadiums.
Damiano Tommasi, head of footballers' union Assocalciatori, told La Repubblica: "It's a strong, important signal that finally sets a precedent.
"It's good that it comes from first-rate players, who are usually accused of being less sensitive or less willing to make a stand," he said.
Tommasi said the decision to suspend the game was the right one and "could happen in any contest" after consultation between the referee and the teams.
National team coach Cesare Prandelli said simply: "Italy has to grow up and this is a first step."
Prandelli took the Azzurri to the final of last year's European championships in Poland and Ukraine, during which black player Mario Balotelli, of Manchester City, was racially abused by Croatia fans during a qualifying match.
European football's governing body UEFA later fined the Croatian football federation 80,000 euros ($100,000, 64,500 pounds). The level of fine was widely criticised as derisory.
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