A friendly match between Milan and fourth-tier Pro Patria was abandoned on Thursday after players walked off in protest at racist chanting from fans.
The game, played in Busto Arsizio, was called off after 26 minutes when a section of Pro Patria supporters targeted Milan’s Kevin-Prince Boateng, who reacted to the abuse by picking up the ball and kicking it at the crowd in the stand behind him.
The Ghanaian then tore off his shirt and walked off the field at the opposite end. On his way, he applauded other sections of the crowd, who then appeared to react angrily towards the corner of the ground from where the chants came.
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Pro Patria’s Dario Alberto Polverini attempted to talk to Boateng as he departed, but the midfielder carried on walking and the rest of the players, led by Milan’s captain, Massimo Ambrosini, followed him off the pitch. Urby Emanuelson, Sulley Muntari and M’Baye Niang were also reportedly targeted.
Boateng later tweeted: “Shame that these things still happen… #StopRacismforever”, and the Milan coach, Massimiliano Allegri, told Gazzetta dello Sport: “I’m disappointed and saddened but I think it was the right decision not to return to the field out of respect for our players and all other black players.
“We promise to return [to replay the game], and we are sorry for the club and players of Pro Patria, but we could not make any other decision. I’m sorry for the families and children who had come here to enjoy a beautiful day. I hope this can be an important signal.”
Ambrosini told the newspaper: “We were annoyed from the beginning. We wanted to give a strong signal … we could not continue the game in an atmosphere like this.”
Anti-racism campaigners praised Boateng’s decision to walk off, with Piara Powar, executive director of the European anti-discrimination group FARE, calling for the Italian FA to take strong action.
“We salute Kevin-Prince Boateng for his actions and his team-mates for their support. This is the not the first time a player has walked off in Italy – if the situation continues it may not be the last.
“Italy, as much as any country in Europe, has a serious problem of racism to deal with. Football infrastructure is in need of renewal and at serious odds with the changing nature of Italian society. We look forward to strong action by the FIGC [Italian FA].”