ROME – The Italian league Pescara star Sulley Muntari gave his shirt to a child who was hurling abusive remarks at the Black Muslim player, to walk off match later as abusive remarks did not stop.
“There was a little kid doing it with his parents standing nearby. So I went over to him and told him not to do it. I gave him my shirt, to teach him that you’re not supposed to do things like that. I needed to set an example so he grows up to be nice.
“Then in the second half it happened in that stand again and so I spoke to the referee. And then he really p***ed me off. He told me that I’m not allowed to speak to the fans. I asked him, ‘But didn’t you hear?’
The ex-Portsmouth midfielder said he heard the chants throughout the match at Cagliari’s Stadio Sant’Elia and asked referee Daniele Minelli to stop the game.
Instead, the former Ghana midfielder was shown a yellow card in the 90th minute and then angrily left the pitch, leaving Pescara, who lost 1-0, to play out stoppage time with 10 men.
Support from outside Italy was deafening, with Kick It Out trustee Garth Crooks urging black players across Italy to refuse to play.
The head of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called Muntari “a source of inspiration for all of us.”
The world players’ union Fifpro had called on Serie A to rescind Muntari’s first yellow card.
“We urge Italian authorities to hear Muntari’s version of events, investigate why the situation was mismanaged, and take firm action to ensure this never happens again,” it said in a statement.
“Muntari was well within his rights to approach the referee, as the first point of reference, to make his grievances known and seek a solution … Professional footballers should expect to be adequately protected by the relevant authorities,” the statement concluded. The committee instead confirmed Muntari’s automatic one-match ban, saying his second yellow card was for “abandoning the pitch without the referee’s permission”.