Though internationally frowned at, racism one way or the other finds its way into the most popular sports in the world –football. Ghana international Sulley Muntari is the latest to taste the bitter experience of racist abuse, while playing for his current club, Pescara.
Muntari walked off the pitch in protest during his team’s clash with Cagliari, having been booked after reporting racist abuse to the referee.
Sulley Muntari Suffers Racist Abuse
The incident occurred during a Seria A clash which saw a 1-0 defeat to Cagliari at the Stadio Sant’Elia. Cagliari’s first and only goal occurred midway through the first half, following João Pedro’s shot from the penalty spot.
However, Pescara’s defeat became a trending topic in the media following the very sensitive issue of racial discrimination on the pitch. It happened that in the final minutes of the Serie A match, Sulley Muntari complained to both the referee and linesman about the racial abuse he was receiving from the Cagliari fans.
For some vague reasons, die hard fans of the Italian club booed the Ghanaian in the presence of the massive crowd, as well as officials of the game. Muntari was furious and protested against referee Daniele Minelli, visibly agitated and slapping the skin on his own arm to make the point.
The 32-year-old asked Minelli to stop the game because of racist chanting directed towards him by the fans of Cagliari. However his pleas for a disciplinary action fell on deaf ears as the referee, Minelli booked him for dissent. Sulley Muntari subsequently walked off the field in anger and protest against the trivialization of his plight. This had left Pescara, who lost 1-0, to play out stoppage time with 10 men.
No disciplinary actions were taken as Sulley Muntari left the pitch, as officials claimed they heard no insults from the crowd. The Ghanaian who claimed he did, left the pitch as he angrily confronted Cagliari fans, shouting: “This is my color”.
According to some media sources who interacted with the Ghanaian player, Muntari caught some fans jeering at him in the first half. Muntari reportedly said the discriminatory chants were repeated in the second half which led to an argument between him and the referee whom he said, failed to understand him.
Possible Disciplinary Measures
In Seria A as well as other football leagues, it is a policy that officials should stop the game for racist abuse. But this was not the case at the Cagliari vs Pescara clash, as the referee claimed to not have heard.
Interacting with the press, Pescara manager Zdenek Zeman, spoke in support of his team player. He however slightly bemoaned the manner in which the Ghanaian handled it.
“Muntari was right, but he shouldn’t have left the pitch. It’s not up to us to dole out justice. We can talk a lot about it but then it must be left with the powers that be,” he said.
Zdenek however, called for more concern on the issue of racist abuse in football.
Racist Abuse in Football
This recent incident at Seria A proves that racial discrimination is very much existent in international football. Policies, of course, are put in place at different levels for the purpose of curbing such excesses, but we cannot ignore the fact that such policies are sometimes neglected.
One of the many cases of racial abuse in football includes that of Kelvin Prince Boateng (also Ghanaian) who walked off the pitch because of racist chanting during a friendly with lower-league side Pro Patria in January 2013.
A disciplinary action is indeed expected from a referee; against any form of racial discrimination in sports. This was the case in August 2016, when a referee stopped a La Liga match following a discrimination of Ghana international Inaki Williams.
The match between home players Sporting Gijon and Athletic Blilbao had come to a premature end at the 30th minute when Sporting fans started to hurl racist slurs at the Ghanaian.