Racist Fans Lose Game

Had no idea.  Simply had no idea this was common place in European, and especially Italian soccer.

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, “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.”

On Friday, a public act of resistance against racist chanting, led by a Ghanian-German midfielder, has become a catalyst to mobilize opinion, and action against the ugliness.

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, 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 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.”

Dave Zirin in The Nation  more in The NY Times and ABC News

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