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MILAN (AP) - A public prosecutor is set to open a criminal inquiry after an exhibition match between AC Milan and lower division club Pro Patria was abandoned after racist chanting by fans.
The prosecutor in the northern town of Busto Arsizio is likely to pursue charges of inciting racial hatred against Pro Patria fans who abused Milan’s black players, local media reported Friday.
One 20-year-old fan was cited by police after acknowledging involvement in the chants, and five more have been identified. Police were examining video footage to identify the others involved.
After repeated chants directed his way during Thursday’s game, Ghana midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng kicked the ball in anger at a section of the crowd, took off his shirt and walked off the field with the rest of the Milan team.
The Italian soccer federation announced its own inquiry Thursday, while Milan president and former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said his club wouldn’t hesitate to walk off the field again.
“I can assure you that in any match, even international ones, where episodes like this occur, Milan will leave the pitch,” Berlusconi said. “These uncivil episodes, these whistles and denigrating chants occur ever more frequently and they offend football and all of sport.”
The international players' union, FIFPro, voiced its support for Milan’s stance.
“FIFPro is not encouraging other players to directly walk of the field when they are racially abused,” said Tony Higgins, the association’s spokesman on anti-racism. “But the world of football has to realize that this abusive behavior must stop. Racism has no place in society or football. The players of Milan sent a clear message: if racism does not stop, then football will.”
“Indifference prevails in the majority of cases,” Thuram told the Gazzetta dello Sport. “Teammates tend to lower their eyes and look elsewhere, underestimating the suffering of the players of color who are targeted.
Boateng expressed his gratitude for the encouragement he’s received since walking off the field.
“Thank u all for the support and understanding…means a lot!!!” Boateng tweeted Friday.
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