When soccer player Kevin-Prince Boateng (pictured right) heard monkey chants from the crowd in the stadium he was playing in Thursday afternoon in Busto Arsizio, Italy, he decided he couldn’t ignore the racism directed at him.
So the Ghanian-German midfielder for A.C. Milan, stopped, kicked the soccer ball towards the offensive fans, removed his jersey, and walked off the field. His teammates would soon follow, abandoning their match against home team Pro Patria and leaving the stadium for good.
A few minutes prior, the same fans had hurled monkey chants at another A.C Milan player of Ghanian descent, Sulley Muntari.
According to The New York Times, the Pro Patria players tried convincing the fans to stop chanting, but to no avail.
“When we tried to reason with them and went under the stands, they didn’t even consider it,” said Pro Patria defender Devis Nossa. “They certainly weren’t our usual fans.”
Later in the day, Boateng directly addressed the incident via his Twitter account and promoted a new hashtag:
“It was brave of Kevin Prince Boateng to do what he did today, and it was the right thing. We need to stand up and stand together. Well done,” Tweeted Patrick Vieira, a former player for the Arsenal Football Club who is of Senegalese heritage.
“@KPBofficial proud of you bro #StopRacismForever,” Turkish National Football player Nuri Sahinre-Tweeted.
Egyptian-Italian player Stephan El Shaarawy called the incident “a shameful afternoon. I’m sorry for the intelligent people present at Busto but it was right to leave.”
A.C. Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri also stood by Boateng’s motion, saying that ‘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.”
Pro Patria’s website published the following statement following the incident:
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.
This marks yet another blotch in a series of racially-charged incidents targeting black soccer players in Europe. A 2006 incident saw then-Barcelona pitcher Samuel Eto’o receive monkey noises during a match. Much like Boateng, the Cameroonian star walked off the field in response. In a 2010 match, Eto’o heard boos and racial epithets every time he touched the ball.
In 2012, Congolese native and Anzhi Makhachkala player Chris Samba had a banana thrown his way following his club’s loss to Lokomotiv. An Italian newspaper depicted Manchester City player Mario Balotelli as King Kong last June, a huge slight against the Ghanian-Italian athlete.