Footballer Sulley Muntari has said he would be the “No.1” supporter of any organized player boycott in protest against what he believes are increasing incidents of racism in the sport.
Last week the Ghana midfielder, who plays for top-flight Italian team Pescara, said he was “treated like a criminal” after receiving a one-match ban, which was later rescinded, for objecting to being racially abused during a Serie A game.
On April 30, the 32-year-old had left the field in protest during a match against Cagliari in Sardinia after being booked for complaining of being abused by a section of fans.
If the treatment of Muntari has received worldwide attention, it seems to have had little effect on some fans who attend Serie A games.
Muntari was on the substitutes’ bench for his club’s home game against Crotone in the Stadio Adriatico Sunday and said he could hear a player being abused.
Asked how often incidents of racism happened in football, Muntari told CNN Sport: “Every game. I was sitting down [Sunday] and it was happening. There was a player playing and it was happening in the stands so how are we going to tackle this?
“This isn’t the first time it has happened. We talk about it and after maybe one week, two weeks it’s gone. Then, maybe after a month or two later, it happens somewhere and you get calls to talk about it and then it’s shut again.”
The former AC Milan midfielder said he would gladly take part in a boycott, insisting he would go anywhere to bring light to the issue.
Leading anti-racism campaigner Piara Power told CNN Sport that player boycotts were credible, before adding that footballers in Italy needed to be “more active.”
“In a country like Italy, where there are big name players who feel very strongly about these issues, then a boycott is one way to go,” said Power, executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE).
“In the end, it’s the way the boycott is received, the way in which the Italian FA changes the way it looks at these issues, the education of the fans. More needs to be done on all of those.
“[Boycotts] are a very good way of taking this forward. We’ve seen it in the US, don’t forget, on issues around race there. Why not in Italy?”
In overturning Muntari’s initial suspension for his two yellow cards against Cagliari, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) said it had considered the “particular delicacy” of the case.
The FIGC told CNN it had no comment to make regarding Muntari’s claims that racism in football had become worse during the course of his career.
The organization that runs top-flight football in Italy — Lega Serie A — was not immediately available for comment.
Muntari not the first
Muntari is not the first footballer to suffer racist abuse in Italy’s top division. In 2013, Muntari’s former AC Milan teammate Kevin-Prince Boateng walked off the pitch in protest during a friendly against Pro Patria. Muntari also played in that game.
Boateng replied in support of a tweet which Muntari posted at the weekend, which read: “I am determined to fight #racism. Football should inspire respect for one race — the human race.”
There have been other racist incidents involving soccer players across Europe during 2017.
In France’s Ligue 1, some Bastia supporters directed monkey chants towards Nice striker Mario Balotelli.
Bastia received a suspended one-point deduction and was forced to close part of its stadium for three games.
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And in April, a Glasgow Rangers supporter appeared in court after being identified as the fan who made a monkey gesture at Celtic forward Scott Sinclair after the player had scored in a Scottish Premier League match between the two rivals.