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Football | Italy

Kevin-Prince Boateng © Action Images

Milan praised for firm reaction to racism

Italy coach Ceasare Prandelli led the way as AC Milan were on Friday praised for walking off the pitch during a training match at a fourth-tier team after some of their players were the target of racist chants.

"We can say: finally, at last," Prandelli said. "Great team, great coach, great man.” We are tired of this.

"Italy must grow. This is a first step. Milan was fantastic. All together most probably we will disrupt the plans of these (racist) people."

Kevin-Prince Boateng was the first to walk off the pitch Thursday in Busto Arsizio, where a group of fans of the local Pro Patria side repeatedly booed him and his teammates of African origin, M'Baye Niang, Urby Emanuelson and Sulley Muntari.

Coach Massimiliano Allegri and the other players of the Serie A side promptly followed Boateng, after he kicked the ball into the stands, took off his shirt and left midway through the first half.

Boateng reportedly ignored requests from Pro Patria players to continue playing and made thanking gestures toward the majority of fans at the Carlo Speroni stadium who hissed and jeered at the racist group.

Milan's Italy forward Stephan El Shaarawy, the current Serie A top scorer on 14 goals, said on Twitter that the episode left him speechless.

"A shameful afternoon. I am sorry for the intelligent people who were in Busto, but it was right to leave," he said.

The Italian football federation (FIGC) said it opened an investigation as police were trying to identify the people who booed from the stands.

Similar abuse cases in the past marred official games in Italy, notably involving Cameroon star Samuel Eto'o while he was playing with Inter Milan.

Support for Milan was also expressed from Rome's Jewish community, whose sports commissioner Eugenio Calo said that theirs was "a great example that should be followed any time there is a racist act on the stands."

A suggestion to suspend league games in similar cases came from Milan board member Barbara Berlusconi.

It was noted, however, that problems can arise from quitting games for which television rights have already been paid, while rescheduling games in a packed season programme can also be difficult.

Boateng's reaction was criticised by Busto Arsizio mayor Gigi Frioli, who leads a centre-right administration in the town north-west of Milan.

"It was an exaggerated reaction, although understandable," Frioli said. "He kicked a fast ball in a curve where there were many children. It was not justifiable from a professional player."

The mayor denied that the offenders were from his town and said that the referee should have stopped the game after the first booes.

It appears that game official disregarded requests from both benches to interrupt the game and invite the fans to stop the abuse.

Coach Allegri said that the game, for which tickets averaged 20 euros (26 dollars), "will be played again as soon as possible, also to allow the many children who were present to see Milan on their pitch.

"A signal, however, had to be given. These things cannot be tolerated. Italy must improve on this issue and become a more civilized, polite and intelligent country.

"We are sorry for the Pro Patria players and most of the public, but we could not take a different decision. I hope this has a follow-up even if it should happen in official games from amateur to the Serie A league."Author: Alberto Cagliano


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