AC Milan traveled to Busto Arsizio to take on fellow Lombardy side Pro Patria of Lega Seconda Divisione in a friendly to prepare for when play resumes after the Christmas break.
What happened instead was a disgraceful travesty on the part of the Pro Patria ultras.
25 minutes into the match, Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, a former Ghanaian international, picked the ball up in the middle of play and punted it at the Pro Patria ultras that were standing in the stands behind him.
Prior to this incident, fans of the fourth division side had been making racist comments towards Milan's black players on the pitch: Boateng, Sulley Muntari, M'Baye Niang and Urby Emanuelson. The public address announcer continuously made announcements to the fans to please refrain from inappropriate comments, but Boateng finally had enough and after punting the ball into the stands, led his teammates off the field and the Serie A giants refused to return to the pitch.
Pro Patria-Milan: match cancelled in Busto Arsizio. The red&blacks leaved the pitch for racist chants from the opponent's supporters.— AC Milan (@acmilan) January 3, 2013
There is too much talk of racism in football these days. All over the world, racism is an issue that continues to plague the game, despite FIFA's "initiative" to rid the game of the problem.
In the past, teams have been fined for their fans' behavior and players involved in making racial comments have faced criminal charges. However, Milan's refusal to continue the game is a big statement.
It is a shame that it had to come to that. Thursday's match was supposed to be a special event. The Pro Patria players never get the chance to play a team like Milan. Their players and fans had to be very excited to play the match and now the enjoyment of playing Milan has been clouded.
“It is disappointing for everybody who was at the stadium, but it was necessary to give a strong signal," Massimo Ambrosini said after the match was cancelled (via ACMilan.com). "Milan will attempt to return to Busto Arsizio, especially for the children and those who had nothing to do with racism. However, it was important to send out a clear signal.”
Manager Massimiliano Allegri also spoke out after the match, via the team's official website:
“These racist episodes have to end. Walking off was the correct decision to make after the racist chants. We are sorry these events have happened, more so for the other supporters – the families and children who had come here to spend a pleasant afternoon. We have promised Pro Patria that we will come back for these people here. We are also sorry for the Pro Patria players and the club but we had to give a strong signal against these episodes. I hope it helps set an example from the top leagues down. We had no other option but to walk off, which I hope will have repercussions. I sincerely hope these uncivilized acts do not occur again.”
Footballers and fans from across the world showed support for Milan after the match. It is obvious that these events have hit the football world in a negative way and that the football community has gathered behind Milan in support of the affected players and players all over the world that are subject to such vicious hate.
Kevin-Prince Boateng and AC Milan have done more to tackle racism in one day than Uefa has in 58 years #kickitout— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) January 3, 2013
Act of racism against Boateng during Milan's friendly. How about becoming extremely intolerant towards racist idiots? They need to be told.— Vincent Kompany (@VincentKompany) January 3, 2013
Very proud of the Milan players who decided to walk off the pitch today for racist abuse from few idiots! No racism, no stupidity!
— Umberto Gandini (@UmbertoGandini) January 3, 2013
It is a travesty that in 2013, there is still such an issue with race. The players should never be subjected to it in the first place, but you also have young children, kids who were just excited to see their team play one of the best squads in Italy, that were exposed to the flaws of human civilization.
There is so much evil in the world right now. Football is supposed to be something that unites us, not turns us on each other the way it did on Thursday.