CAGLIARI, Italy (AP) Pescara’s Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari walked off the pitch in protest during his side’s Serie A match at Cagliari on Sunday after being booked for complaining to the referee about racist abuse from fans.
“They were chanting against me from the start,” Muntari said. “In the first half, I saw that there were some children in the group and so I turned to their parents and gave them my shirt, to set an example.
“The issue continued with another group of fans. I was reasoning with them, but the referee told me I had to let it go. That’s when I got angry. Because instead of stopping the game, he decided to punish me.”
Muntari told referee Daniele Minelli and his assistants several times about the chants from home fans in the final minute of Pescara’s 1-0 defeat. The official then showed the former Ghana international midfielder a yellow card.
The 32-year-old Muntari was so angry with the booking that he walked off the pitch, leaving his side in 10 men for stoppage time.
“The fans were wrong, but the referee had to act differently, not accuse me of causing trouble,” the former Portsmouth midfielder said. “If the officials actually stopped games, I am convinced these things wouldn’t happen anymore.”
Three out of five is bad: CSKA Moscow faces racism charge for fan acts
Manchester City captain Yaya Toure directed the match referee to home fans making monkey noises during a Champions League match last October.
Last December, UEFA charged CSKA for fans displaying far-right symbols at a match at Viktoria Plzen, and imposed the stadium closure at its first home Champions league game this season.
In the latest case, CSKA and Roma face further UEFA sanctions for fans lighting flares and throwing missiles.
Three times in five matches? That’s a brutal number, even if authorities were on the lookout for the bad behavior. It doesn’t help that Russian officials used the Toure incident to claim there was a British conspiracy in place to rid the country of its hosting privileges for the 2018 World Cup.
In the wake of the alleged racial abuse that fans of CSKA Moscow hurled at Manchester City’s Yaya Toure in yesterday’s Champions League match, Kick It Out chairman Lord Ouseley claims the match referee should not officiate again.
“The referee should not be refereeing again,” Ouseley told BBC Radio 5 live on Thursday. “He failed to do his duty last night and that is a clear issue that UEFA should be dealing with.”
Under 2009 UEFA guidelines, referees have the power to tackle racist chanting from supporters by (1) stopping a match and asking for warnings to be made over the public address system and, in the event that measure fails, (2) suspending the match for a short time, and if the abuse continues, (3) abandoning the match.
Since Toure reported the abuse to Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan during the match and spoke to him afterwards, the incident will be included in the official’s report sent to UEFA on Thursday. Manchester City have lodged a formal complaint with UEFA while CSKA Moscow appear to be questioning the incident by claiming that Toure was the only person to hear the chants.
Yesterday’s incident will test new sanctions issued by UEFA this past May when it announced that a partial stadium closure would be applied for first time incidents involving racist spectators while a full stadium closure and a fine of €50,000 euros would be assessed for a second incident.
Ouseley said if players are not adequately protected, more of them could start walking off the pitch during a game, echoing what former AC Milan player Kevin Prince-Boateng did last season in a friendly match against lower division Italian side Pro Patria.
“This has gone on for too long,” added Ouseley. “UEFA and FIFA take us for mugs. That can’t go on any longer.”
This season five clubs have been ordered to partial stadium closures while three have been forced to full closure.
Besides the 3-2 loss at Juventus on Sunday, the most recent AC Milan game will have painful repercussions for the Rossoneri for a few weeks. On Monday, the league handed defender Philippe Mexes a four-game suspension and mandated that the club play its next home match behind closed doors.
In the official release, Serie A officials detailed Mexes’ punch to the neck on Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini, seen upon retroactive review of television footage. Referee Gianluca Rocchi eventually sent Mexes off for two cautionable offenses, but neither he nor his assistants saw Mexes punch Chiellini.
The league decided to suspend Mexes three games for the incident inside the AC Milan penalty area on a corner kick, along with the automatic one-game ban for the red card.
On top of Mexes’ suspension, the league required AC Milan to play one match behind closed doors and pay a €50,000 fine for racist chanting “a few minutes before the start of the match, [and at] the 6th and the 43rd minutes of the second half.” The chants were geographically discriminatory in nature, according to the league release.
Earlier this season, Milan already received punishment for racist chants at a home game and was forced to partially close its stadium. That happened at a 2-1 home loss to Napoli on Sept. 22, in which Mario Balotelli was also sent off and handed a three-game suspension afterward.
Question: is the following chant concerning Rio Ferdinand and his brother Anton racist or banter?
‘Build a bonfire,
Build a bonfire,
Put Rio on the top,
Put Anton in the middle,
Then burn the f****** lot.‘
The chant – allegedly sung by England supporters during last Friday’s World Cup Qualifier against San Marino – was reported to FIFA by Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), a pan-European entity whose goal is to rid racism from football.
FARE, headed by Piara Powar, was not present at the game to hear the chant because apparently San Marino was not a ‘high risk’ match for racism. But FARE nevertheless chose to file the report based on information from people who were present at the match (in other words, it appears the group’s argument is based entirely on hearsay). The group also reported racist or xenophobic incidents at Croatia v. Serbia and Poland v. Ukraine, matches where members were present.
FIFA will now review the report and decide whether action should be taken against England. If the governing body decides that FARE’s report has merit, England will be punished with the ultimate sanction potentially requiring the Three Lions to play a World Cup qualifier behind closed doors.
Powar explained why his group believes the song to be racist. “It refers to the racist abuse Rio Ferdinand received, along with his brother Anton. We don’t make the judgement. We send a report to FIFA but in the end its their decision whether they open proceedings or not. And whether they issue a fine or not.
“It’s not really the sort of thing we are generally attuned to looking at – fans abusing players of their own country who may not have been picked. Nevertheless if it happens at a game, even if the focus of the abuse isn’t there it’s still happening.
“One of the things we want to underline straight off is that sometimes racism doesn’t only take the form of monkey chants or bananas being thrown. Sometimes there are things that are more subtle at play.
“In the end we are not responsible for making a decision on whether England fans are guilty of racism here but we do have a duty to report things that are said to us because individuals have reported them as racist or xenophobic within the context.”
Rio Ferdinand took to Twitter to share his thoughts on the news. “You expect and accept banter from fans on the terraces as it’s part of what makes the game great, but racism is not banter and from your own fans. WOW.
“Always a small minority who ruin it for others.”
The Manchester United defender was careful, however, to note that the investigation still needs to run its course. “Let’s not jump to conclusions and assume though as it might just have been banter. We’ll see after the investigation.”
England fans took to Sportsmail comment boards to express views that ranged from confusion to outrage. The fans’ primary arguments are that 1) the song has been around a long time and 2) it was only directed at Rio due to his recent behavior. “‘Build a bonfire’ is an old football chant and one used by miners about Thatcher,” said a fan by the name of ‘ghanimah’. “Given Rio’s behaviour it’s no wonder they sung about him but if that’s deemed racist then we should all pack our bags, go home and give up… Absolutely ludicrous.”
‘Tone 827’ echoed these sentiments. “Dont get me wrong its a stupid chant and aimed at causing distress….but is it really racist? Are we getting to the point where just a derogatory remark to someone who is of afro-carribean descent is deemed racism? As a white British man (who is absolutely NOT racist) its starting to grate a bit now…Rio was working for a TV channel covering the game, it was inevitable he was going to get some stick, at least he is being sensible about it and accepting that banter happens, lets not get to the point where nobody can say anything without being accused of racism even if it clearly is not.”
So what do you think? Is the chant – within the context of being directed at Rio and Anton Ferdinand – racist or just banter? Help decide by voting in ProSoccerTalk’s poll and share your views in the Comments below.