Hearty congratulations to the players of Italy’s AC Milan for having the courage to quit their own pitch last Thursday in a so-called ‘friendly’ against Fourth Division non-entities, Pro Patria (which means ‘For Country’, though, in this case, I’m reminded of diarist Samuel Johnson‘s definition that patriotism is ‘the last refuge of the scoundrel’).
The critical moment came in 26th minute when Kevin Prince Boateng, a Ghanaian international once of Spurs, Hertha Berlin, Borussia Dortmund and Portsmouth, stopped running, picked up the ball and booted it into the gobs of a mob of baying away fans chanting racist vitriol.
As a long-time aficionado of the game, I hope this outstandingly honourable gesture resonates everywhere.
I hope it also provokes the power-greedy, money-grubbing hypocrites who somehow contrive to ‘administer’ soccer, namely UEFA and FIFA, to wallop AC Milan with the hugest fine imaginable, which is the natural, knee-jerk reaction of the ‘suits’ who’ve cornered the market in controlling the world’s premier spectator sport.
I equally hope the great Italian club will adamantly refuse to pay not a centimo of any fine and that defiance garners a crescendo of support worldwide.
I also hope that galacticos of elite clubs and national teams emulate Boateng by hot-footing it to the dressing-room the moment the ‘N’ word – or any similar expression of vicious bigotry (i.e. monkey chants, banana-throwing et al) – permeates from the terraces.
I further hope that nations, such as Serbia, are hit with crippling financial penalties and long bans from the international game for allowing racism to flourish on the pitch and in the stands.
England Under-21s’ match last October, in Krusevac, saw just such an incident. Tottenham’s Danny Rose was sent off by an idiot referee unfit to control a Ludo game, for reaching the end of his tether, having been the butt of Serb racists from the warm-up, and – like Boateng – kicking the ball into the crowd of foul-mouthed sub-humans in righteous fury.
A UEFA website report of that match failed to mention either the racism or the brawl at the final whistle and the Serbian FA was fined a paltry $105,000 by UEFA – less than the punishment handed to a player at the Euro 2012 finals for exposing his underpants, bearing the logo of a bookmaker.
So let’s be clear: the purblind ‘suits’ in high command of football (take note, Michel Platini and Sepp Blatter) should shelve their obsession with self-aggrandisement and take up the anti-racism cudgels with real zeal and not merely pay lip service to ridding football of the disease.
They should instruct officials to stop matches immediately racism rears its ugliness, put clubs under notice to ban errant fans for their lifetimes, have mindless miscreants prosecuted and, in the event of non-compliance, order stadia closed and points deducted from teams.
It’s a waste of breath for FIFA’s arrogant boss, Blatter, to rail about ‘zero tolerance’ when racism against players – whether from the terraces or from opponents on the pitch – is not punished with maximum severity.
Only the might of the great soccer nations and elite clubs, all of whom field robust and skilful players of all hues and religions, can bring pressure to bear on stamping out this pernicious, verbal garbage forever and a day.
They can do so by emulating Kevin Prince Boateng and instructing their players to down tools and walk away from bigotry.
And if having the courage of their convictions draws sanctions from their respective FAs, UEFA or FIFA, they should tell the bureaucrats where to stick their idiotic fines.