A couple of Sundays ago, Sulley Muntari walked off the pitch in the middle of a game. He was playing a Serie A match for Pescara against Cagliari. He walked off the pitch because he was being racially abused. Then, when he complained about the abuse to the referee, he was booked and received a yellow card. Muntari had asked the referee to stop the game. The match was in the 90th minute. Muntari refused to accept his yellow card. He walked off the pitch in protest. At this point, the referee, Daniele Minelli, awarded Muntari a second yellow card. He sent him off in what was by then stoppage time.
Serie A’s disciplinary committe decided against sanctioning Cagliari for the incident, citing that though the racist chants were horrible, there were only approximately 10 people involved, well below the threshold for censure on the official books.
Speaking after the game, Muntari said:
“[The referee] told me I should not talk to the crowd. I asked him if he had heard the insults. I insisted that he must have the courage to stop the game,”
“The referee should not just stay on the field and blow the whistle, he must do everything. He should be aware of these things and set an example.”
FIFPRO, the world player’s union, requested that Muntari’s first yellow card be rescinded. Their position was that the player was within his rights approaching the official in that manner. The disciplinary committee chose to ignore the request however. They confirmed the player would have to serve a one match ban for his actions.
Racist behaviour by fans is rife in Italy. 80% of 7000 Inter fans in a section of the San Siro were censured by Serie A’s governing body for racist chants against Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly the same week. Lazio fans, notorious for such actions, did the same to a Roma defender.
Football racism isn’t confined to Italy. We know it. We’ve all seen it in Spain, Germany and across the globe. Muntari took the time out to talk about it with CNN news in an emotionally charged recent video.
Muntari said he would support the idea of a player strike and would be the first player to partake. Godfred Donsah, a 20 year old Ghanian midfielder playing at Bologna said he would be 100% willing to go on strike and show solidarity with Muntari. In the meantime, Muntari has said he would leave the pitch “again and again” if the racist chants continue to happen.
What Muntari is fighting
Brendan Rogers recently said he worried racism could plush players away from joining sides in the Scottish Premiership. Players, not just black ones, need to make their voices heard on this. Following the outcry and publicity, Serie A’s committe at the FIGC scrapped Muntari’s ban and are now facing charges from FIFA. The head of the FIGC, Carlo Tavecchio, will speak with the head of FIFA on the matter. Tavecchio referred to African players as “Banana eaters” in a campaign to get that role however. This is what Muntari and other African players are up against in Italy.
Until the likes of Tavecchio leave the game, and Arigo Sacchi who recently said there were too many black players at youth level in Italy, things can’t change. Players will need to step up and take matters into their own hands. They’ll need to keep leaving the pitch. And the fans need to support them doing it, so change can happen.
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Header image: Ghanasoccernet.com