Kevin-Prince Boateng’s protest against racist chants in a football match was the right thing to do, but it was not brave, argues Channel 4 News Sports Reporter Jordan Jarrett-Bryan.
I truly believe Thursday 3 January was a significant day for football. The “fight” – and I use that word very loosely – against racism in the sport took an important step.
Five-times European Cup winners (now known as the Champions League) AC Milan were playing a friendly match against Italian fourth division side Pro Pratia, in northern Italy.
Several black Milan players were subjected to racist abuse from the home fans whenever they touched the ball or ran near the stands where the home fans were situated.
Twenty-five minutes into the match, Ghana and former Tottenham and Portsmouth midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng decided enough was enough.
As the ball was passed to him during play, he picked it up and kicked the ball into the section of the stand where he heard the chants, before taking his top off and walking off the pitch – refusing to continue playing.
His teammates followed suit and the game was abandoned.
Now as a black man, I can’t say I have any experience of blatant or overt acts of racism, but I can tell you this; if you surround my office with hundreds or thousands of people abusing me, because of my disability, gender or race, it would push me to the extreme.
If the stories about KPB walking off the pitch with teammate’s after being racially abused are true,fair play to him..well done #UefaStandUp
— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) January 3, 2013
After so many incidents of racism in the sport last year, on and off the pitch, and the tame reactions from the relevant federations, it was a big move forward in the fight against racism to see a player in a high-profile club such as AC Milan take this stance.
What Boateng did was the right thing and something I’ve been saying should’ve been done by black players a long time ago.
But my problem is this. I’ve heard the word “brave” used to describe the Ghanaian’s actions. Brave? I’m not sure if it was.
Bravery should be judge within the context of the action taken. If a multi-millionaire finds a £10 note on the floor and slots it into a charity can, do we commend that individual for not keeping the money? Probably not.
I can only salute Milan’s decision to leave the pitch. Also noted that the majority of the fans were completely supportive of the players.
— Vincent Kompany (@VincentKompany) January 3, 2013
Let’s get some perspective. It was a friendly match, against a fourth division team, with no more purpose than to give the Milan first team players a run-out after a Christmas period off (unlike the Premier league, the Italian league has a Christmas break for a month).
If Milan were in the semi-finals of the Champions League 2-0 up with 25 minutes to go, would he have done the same thing?
Rio Ferdinand, Jason Roberts and Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany have all thrown their support behind Boateng via Twitter. But former AC Milan legend, Dutchman Clarence Seedorf, has since come out and condemned his former teammates actions saying: “I don’t see it as a positive thing because it empowers more of this behaviour.”
Seedorf feels that this could be used as a tool by fans to get games called off if things aren’t going the way of their side. “If Boateng was able to identify the whole corner, you just kick out the whole corner.” Players have a made a stand. FIFA, over to you!