Boateng says nothing has changed as racism blights soccer again. More Udinese fans banned for life

AP , Wednesday 24 Jan 2024

Amid outrage at the latest incident of racism to blight Italian soccer, former AC Milan player Kevin-Prince Boateng says nothing has changed in the years since he also walked off the pitch in protest.

Mike Maignan
Milan goalkeeper, Mike Maignan. AFP


Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan, who is Black, left the field during Saturday’s Serie A match at Udinese after being subjected to what he later said were monkey noises. He was joined by his teammates and the match was suspended for about five minutes before they returned. Milan went on to win 3-2.

Eleven years ago almost to the day, Boateng did the same during a mid-season friendly match against lower-division club Pro Patria.

“There’s been little change? I would say zero,” the now-retired Boateng told Gazzetta dello Sport. “If the Milan goalkeeper has to leave the field it means that nothing has happened. It’s not a sad thing anymore, it’s simply shameful.

“Everyone says ‘yes, we’ll do something, we’ll act,’ but then nothing happens because everyone thinks of themselves, few really take the initiative. So many are scared, the world has become like this.”

Udinese acted swiftly and banned for life the five fans who have so far been identified. However, it also announced late on Wednesday that it would appeal the Italian league’s sanction of playing its next home game behind closed doors.

“We reflected long and hard during the day whether to present an appeal or not,” Udinese general manager Franco Collavino said in a statement. “However, after scrupulously reading the documents, we became aware that we needed to proceed in this way to protect the reputation of our club, historically multiethnic, and the hard work shown in pursuing those responsible.

“At the same time, we also want to protect our people ... who have been unfairly prejudiced by a measure that hurts an entire fanbase because of the unspeakable behavior of a few.”

Four more Udinese fans who racially abused Maignan were identified and punished by local authorities on Wednesday as well as being banned for life by the club.

Police said three men and a woman were all given five-year bans — the maximum sentence available — from all sports events in Italy. Ranging in age from 32 to 45, they were identified from the stadium’s security camera footage.

Another fan had been identified and banned for life by Udinese on Monday. That fan also received a five-year ban from police.

“The decision by the club to ban that fan for life from its stadium was a very important gesture, also because it came without waiting for the sport's sentence,” the 36-year-old Boateng said.

“Udinese did something very important because when it happens again, the next club involved won’t be able to do any less, but will have to do more.”

Boateng said the current punishments by soccer authorities are of little deterrent.

“Empty stadiums don’t really matter. People watch it on television for one time and then return to the stadium as if nothing had happened,” Boateng said. “If instead the team loses, the fan is hit where it hurts.

“That would be a punishment that would make you think … or closing a stadium for six months could be an idea. One match is a joke, a punishment that makes me laugh. Something that doesn’t scare people. But you need the support of everyone, it’s too many years that we’ve been talking about it.”

Maignan issued a statement on Sunday also calling for authorities to take stronger action.

There have been numerous racist incidents in Italian and European soccer for years, with victims in Italy also including Mario Balotelli and Romelu Lukaku.

This month, Lazio was sanctioned with a one-match partial stadium closure for racist chants directed at Lukaku.

“It’s really sad to see things like what happened last Saturday continue to occur,” Milan and United States midfielder Yunus Musah said. “These actions must have consequences; something needs to be done. Our reaction on the field was right. It gave us the confidence that we are a united group, emerging from that evening stronger than before and with a victory.”

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)



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