Ghanaian player in Serie A booked after trying to speak with fan who racially abused him

Sulley Muntari, a Ghanaian midfielder for Pescara, is protesting racial abuse being hurled at him in Serie A and trying to curb the problem, one incident at a time.

Over the weekend, during Pescara’s 1-0 loss at Cagliari, Muntari noticed a child throwing racial insults at him so he stopped and offered the child his shirt. When a referee showed him a yellow card for pausing to address the racial abuse, Muntari walked off the field in protest.

“There was a little kid doing it with his parents standing nearby,” Muntari later told the Guardian about the incident. “So I went over to him and told him not to do it. I gave him my shirt, to teach him that you’re not supposed to do things like that. I needed to set an example so he grows up to be nice.”

“(The referee) told me I should not talk to the crowd. I asked him if had heard the insults. I insisted that he must have the courage to stop the game,” Muntari added. “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. I am not a victim. But if you stop the matches I am convinced that these things won’t happen any more.”

The incident is a shocking reminder of how racist abuse remains an issue in Serie A and in world soccer. Per guidelines Italy has set due to issues with racial abuse in the past, the referee was supposed to flag the abuse to the fourth official, who should then report the incident to stadium security. That apparently did not happen.

On Tuesday, FIFPro issued a strong statement condemning the referee’s handling of the situation during the match:

“We urge Italian authorities to hear Muntari’s version of events, investigate why the situation was mismanaged, and take firm action to ensure this never happens again.

 

FIFPro believes Muntari’s yellow card should be rescinded. Muntari was well within his rights to approach referee Daniele Minelli, as the first point of reference, to make his grievances known and seek a solution.

 

Players should feel comfortable bringing any issue to the attention of the referee, especially one as significant as allegations of racism in the workplace. No player should ever feel the need to take matters into his own hands, as Muntari clearly felt obliged to do, by abandoning the match or taking spectators to task for inappropriate behaviour.

 

Professional footballers should expect to be adequately protected by the relevant authorities in a place of work that does not tolerate discrimination of any kind.”

It remains to be seen what action is taken, but credit to Muntari for standing up and being the bigger person in the face of some ugly treatment.

UPDATE: Serie A has announced that the league will not take action against the Cagliari fans accused of racially abusing Muntari. Here is the Serie A disciplinary committee’s statement released Tuesday night:

“Considering that the in-any-case deplorable racial discriminatory chants were only heard due to the fact that the fans were participating at the time in a silent protest, and that these were made by a total number of around 10 supporters, which is therefore less than one percent of the number occupying that sector of the ground (approximately 2,000), there are no grounds to punish this behaviour.

 

“It could not really be heard and, furthermore, was not heard by the referee (as mentioned in his match report).”

Meanwhile, Muntari has been hit with an automatic one-game suspension for walking off the field during Sunday’s game.

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