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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Soccer Team Walks Out on Racist Fans in Italy

An exhibition match between one of Italy's leading soccer teams and a lower division club was abandoned on Thursday after a black player responded to racist chanting from fans by kicking a ball into the stands and walking off the field in Busto Arsizio, outside Milan.

Video of the incident, which took place in the small stadium of Pro Patria, a team in one of Italy's lower leagues, showed Kevin-Prince Boateng, a Ghanaian-German midfielder for the visitors, A.C. Milan, stopping play and launching the ball in the direction of fans of the home team who were chanting like monkeys. He then pulled off his shirt and walked to the locker room, followed by his teammates.

Fans in the same p art of the stadium had directed monkey chants at another Ghanaian player, Sulley Muntari, just minutes earlier, another YouTube clip showed.

The Pro Patria players said later that they had tried and failed to convince about a dozen fans to stop the racist abuse, The Associated Press reported. “When we tried to reason with them and went under the stands, they didn't even consider it,” Devis Nossa, a Pro Patria defender said. “They certainly weren't our usual fans.”

On Twitter, Mr. Boateng promoted the hashtag #StopRacismforever and posted supportive comments from fans and fellow-players, including Patrick Viera, a former star of the French national team, the Turkish midfielder Nuri Sahin and Marco Materazzi, an Italian defender who helped his country win the 2006 World Cup.

Stephan El Shaarawy, an Egyptian-Italian A.C. Milan player, wrote on the social network: “I'm really speechless, it was a shameful afternoon. I'm sorry for the intelligent people present at Busto but it was right to leave.”

Barbara Berlusconi, an A.C. Milan director and the daughter of A.C. Milan's owner, Silvio Berlusconi, said: “You need zero tolerance for episodes like this,” the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

A statement on the incident on the Pro Patria Web site headlined, “Tolleranza Zero,” began:

Today was supposed to be the festival of sport. The crowd for the friendly match Pro Patria vs. AC Milan was composed of women, children, families, young athletes and real fans. This festival was ruined by a small number of uncivilized people who have nothing to do with football and with the values ​​of sport, especially fair play, which are part of the DNA of the club Aurora Pro Patria 1919.

A.C. Milan's manager, Massimiliano Allegri, said later that he supported the decision by his players, and hoped that the match would eventually be replayed:

These racist episodes have to end. Walking off was the correct decision to make after the racist chants. We are sorry these events have happened, more so for the other supporters - the families and children who had come here to spend a pleasant afternoon. We hav e promised Pro Patria that we will come back for these people.

Despite globalization and European integration, which has led to increasingly multicultural teams, racist abuse, particularly directed at black players, remains a problem across the continent. Three months ago, a black player representing England in a youth tournament heard loud monkey chants at a match in Serbia. Although the Serbian Football Association accused the player of lying when he said that the chants started every time he touched the ball, very loud monkey chants could be heard on video shot from the stands at the end of the match.

The other main story on the home page of the Italian sports newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport on Thursday was a report from a training ground in England that showed a black Italian player, Mario Ballotelli, fighting with his manager. Mr. Ballotelli, who was born in Sicily to Ghanaian parents, has endured racist chanting from Italians fans for years. Even when he represents his country, some fans of the national team chant: “There is no such thing as a black Italian!”