Suleyman “Sulley” Muntari’s one-match ban for protesting after he was racially abused during a Series A game has been overturned by the Italian FA.
The Italian Footballers’ Association lodged an appeal on Muntari’s behalf on Friday after his one-match suspension was upheld by Italian football’s disciplinary commission, leading to calls for all black players in Italy to go on strike in support of the former Portsmouth midfielder.
An Italian FA statement said the body spoke to referee Daniele Minnelli and decided “due to the particular delicacy of the subject matter and the inherent personal rights of the man before the athlete” it had decided to grant the appeal.
The Pescara midfielder received two yellow cards from referee Minnelli while playing at Cagliari for speaking to the crowd after alleging he was racially abused, and for walking off the pitch in protest.
The former Ghana international, who also played for both Milan clubs, complained to the referee about the abuse but was booked for dissent. Muntari left the field in protest leaving relegated Pescara to play out the final few minutes of the 1-0 loss with 10 men.
“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.”
File picture. Sulley Muntari – F.C. Internazionale Milano. Photo: Steindy/ Wikimedia commons
Muntari received a one-match ban by the league’s disciplinary commission, which didn’t appear to take into account his suffering. Receiving no support from Pescara, Muntari was forced to lodge the appeal himself with assistance from the players’ union in Italy.
“I feel that someone has finally listened and heard me,” Muntari said in comments published by FifPro, the international players’ union. “The last few days have been very hard for me. I have felt angry and isolated. I was being treated like a criminal. How could I be punished when I was the victim of racism?”
Other Instances of racism
Muntari, who won the Champions League and two Series A titles with Inter, was playing for city rivals AC Milan when former team-mate Kevin Prince Boateng staged a similar protest after being targeted by racist abuse during a friendly with Pro Patria in 2013.
There was a racist incident against Marco Zoro, the Ivorian player who was then playing in Italy; he wanted to walk off but the players stopped him.
Cameroonian international Samuel Eto’o, during an incident walked off and came back. That was also significant because he had to set the signal as a world class player
Even higher up was a disturbing incident in 2014 where the president of the Italian football federation (FIGC), Carlo Tavecchio, was banned for six months by European football governing body Uefa for making racist remarks. The 71-year-old caused controversy during his election campaign in July that year by referring to “eating bananas” when discussing foreign players. His subsequent appointment was described as “a dark day for football” by former Nigeria and Juventus player Sunday Oliseh.
Outpour of support from other players
Anti-discrimination campaigners Kick It Out urged Black players to boycott this weekend’s matches in Italy unless authorities withdraw the one-match ban imposed on Muntari. Kick It Out’s released a statement that read: “Kick It Out has made representation to FIFPro, the World Players’ Union, to share its frustrations about the treatment of Sulley Muntari by the FIGC (the Italian Football Federation). The gutless failure to not take action by the Italian authorities should not be allowed to pass.”
The Former Black Stars international has also criticized the actions of Muntari’s club Pescara, but has praised the midfielder’s reaction in the face of his abusers. “In my opinion, racism will never stop,” Baffoe told Goal. “All we, the black race, want is respect. There’s only one human race but it doesn’t seem like that. You don’t need to be my friend, you don’t need to like me, but I want respect.”
“The decision was important taking into consideration all the work behind the scenes,” Baffoe added. “We, the PFAG, worked with the world players’ union, we worked with the Italian players union but we were baffled that Pescara didn’t appeal the decision. In the future, we’ll have observers, like match commissioners, for racism and discrimination.”
Juventus legend Alessandro Del Piero, who now works for Sky Italia as a pundit, backed Muntari for his protest. “You handled things perfectly; you’re setting the example for tomorrow. You did everything right,” said Del Piero.
Muntari has received similar support on social media with players such as Asamoah Gyan and Yaya Toure standing with him in his cause.
The discrimination of Muntari’s and other black players demonstrates that bodies running football in the various countries are negligent as the rules when enforced properly should shield players against racism and discrimination. Muntari’s stand is however a step that will hopefully be a catalyst for change and stop the blatant discrimination of black players worldwide.
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