[News] Kevin-Prince Boateng Kicks Soccer’s Racism in the Teeth

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jan 3 15:02:49 EST 2013


    Must Be Seen to Be Believed: Kevin-Prince Boateng Kicks Soccer’s
    Racism in the Teeth
    <http://www.thenation.com/blog/172009/must-be-seen-be-believed-kevin-prince-boateng-kicks-soccers-racism-teeth>

Dave Zirin <http://www.thenation.com/authors/dave-zirin> on January 3, 
2013 - 11:59 AM ET
http://www.thenation.com/blog/172009/must-be-seen-be-believed-kevin-prince-boateng-kicks-soccers-racism-teeth#

Imagine for a moment banana peels raining down on the head of Miami Heat 
basketball star LeBron James when he takes the court. Picture Vikings 
running back Adrian Peterson having to hear fans sing songs calling for 
his death because of the color of his skin. It’s difficult to visualize 
in US sports* but such scenes have become a normal feature of European 
soccer. Yet perhaps, in one moment of fury 
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXyqFZ_fghI&sns=em>, the page may 
finally be turning on this ugly state of affairs. In a bracing display 
of courage, star midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, of the legendary 
Italian club, A.C. Milan, displayed all the frustration that’s been 
building among professional soccer players of color in Europe over the 
last two decades as they’ve endured and all manner of toxic, racist 
garbage when they take the pitch.

In the middle of a “friendly match” against the club Pro Patria, a 
mini-mob in the bleachers repeatedly tossed bigoted bombs at the 
non-white players on AC Milan’s roster, and Boateng decided he’d had 
enough. He picked up the ball right in the middle of play and punted it 
directly into their section of the stands. Boateng then began to walk 
off the field in protest. Here is where, in a matter of seconds, the 
turn of events shifted from shock to wonder. As Boateng stormed to the 
nearest exit, the Pro Patria fans, instead of jeering, cheered him for 
his actions. Then the referees called off the rest of the game and his 
opponents on Pro Patria walked off with Boateng, shoulder to shoulder, 
in solidarity. The announcers could only utter a word in Italian easy to 
translate: “Incredible.”

There were those who commented immediately on Twitter that the moves by 
Boateng, the referees, and the Pro Patria players were easy because this 
wasn’t an official league game. But Massimino Allegri, the coach of AC 
Milan, said afterward that his team would walk out again if one of their 
players were racially abused, regardless of either the competition or 
the situation. The powerful Allegri also put out a call for other teams 
to stage walkouts if their players were similarly abused. Particularly 
significant about this is that the European soccer-governing body, UEFA, 
has explicitly banned players 
<http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/international/michel-platini-mario-balotelli-walk-off-over-racism-and-youll-be-booked-at-euro-2012-7821102.html> 
and coaches taking the fight against racism into their own hands. As 
UEFA chief Michel Platini has said, players will be fined or suspended 
for expressing anti-racist resistance on the field. Instead. they should 
just meekly tell the referee and go about the game. Boateng, Allegri and 
others are now saying that this isn’t close to good enough.

As Pete Koury, host and executive Producer for SiriusXM FC said to me, 
“FIFA and UEFA have not done nearly enough to address the troubling 
issue of racism in world football. They’ve done a series public 
relations campaigns, T-shirts, and speeches, but their actions have been 
toothless. The only way to change things is through more dramatic action 
than we’ve seen so far. What Kevin-Prince Boateng and the players of 
both AC Milan & Pro Patria did today was one of the most drastic things 
we’ve seen to end racism in soccer and I applaud them for it. 
Considering this game took place in Italy—a nation of historically cruel 
and abusive fans—it makes me finally feel like there is finally progress 
being made.”

Koury’s point about Italy is particularly important. As sickening as the 
normalization of racist chants has become in European football, it’s 
especially toxic in the Italian league. The lightening rod for all the 
bigoted bile in the swamps of Italian fandom has been African-Italian 
star Mario Balotelli. Born in Sicily to Ghanaian parents, the electric 
Balotelli has had to endure racist chants, songs calling for his death 
and, from the time he was a teenage sensation for Inter Milan, people 
throwing bananas at him in bars. In 2012, he said 
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/may/30/euro-2012-mario-balotelli-italy>, 
“I will not accept racism at all. It’s unacceptable. If someone throws a 
banana at me in the street, I will go to jail, because I will kill them.”

It was a powerful statement that resonated strongly with the younger, 
more diverse, “Balotelli generation” in Italy. But Boateng’s actions 
could actually be a far more profound game-changer felt across the 
world. They show that there are masses of Italian fans also sickened by 
the racist garbage that floats down from the stands. They show that 
white teammates as well as opponents will proudly stand with players of 
color. Lastly, they show in no uncertain terms that the days of enduring 
racist abuse, as if players in the twenty-first century are obligated to 
replicate the Job-like persona of Jackie Robinson in 1947, are done. No 
longer should players be expected to accept abuse as a normal part of 
play. No tolerance for racism can’t only mean statements from team 
officials after the fact. They demand direct action.

___
*I am in no way inferring that sports in the United States is either 
absent of bigotry or a Shangri-La for African-American athletes. But the 
consistent organizing of racist taunts in world soccer truly does set it 
apart.

/Does Boateng’s brave move mark the start of a better year in sports? 
Read Dave Zirin’s post on why 2012 
<http://www.thenation.com/blog/171888/2012-year-our-sports-broke> was so 
bad/.

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