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Blatter: Play on through racism

ESPN staff
January 7, 2013 « Dodson chasing pigs & squirrels to prepare for Johnson | Chartbeat test »

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has urged footballers not to leave the pitch if they are subjected to racial abuse.

On Thursday AC Milan players walked off after Kevin-Prince Boateng was subjected to racist abuse from fans of fellow Italian side Pro Patria during a friendly match.

The actions of Boateng and his team-mates put the spotlight firmly on the problem of racism in football and on Sunday during their Serie A win against Siena the Milan players wore anti-racism slogans on the back of their shirts in a further gesture of solidarity against the issue.

But Blatter has questioned their actions and claimed such tactics are not the right way of tackling the problem.

"Walk off? No. I don't think that is the solution," Blatter is quoted as saying in The National newspaper in United Arab Emirates. "I don't think you can run away, because then the team should have to forfeit the match. This issue is a very touchy subject, but I repeat there is zero tolerance of racism in the stadium, we have to go against that."

Milan responded by releasing a statement, saying: "AC Milan reaffirm its dissent towards all forms of racism, however they are manifested. We invite the national and international sporting authorities to adopt and apply every rule against racism."

Blatter's controversial stance has attracted criticism from Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri who defended his players and criticised Italian fans for their part.

"We wanted to give a signal," he said. "Players can't suspend a match but others can. There need to be rules put in place. We made a signal for the future. There needs to be more civility in Italian stadiums."

Reading striker Jason Roberts, who opted not to wear a Kick It Out t-shirt earlier in the season, also voiced his disapproval via his personal Twitter account. He said: "This is CLASSIC..Blatter has outdone himself here...So..if you are being racially abused in a game, and have reported it to the Ref 3 times, just stand there and take it, that way YOU win..

"And don't worry because Blatter and those like him..are going to hit the Clubs/FA/with a meaningless fine, or write a plan, that way YOU win. "No Thanks Sepp...tried that..65k fine for repeat offenders like Serbia etc..how about..WALK OFF THE PITCH..the only language you understand!"

FA general secretary Alex Horne was another who spoke out in defence of Boateng's actions, but stressed that the referee must do more to combat racism if and when it occurs.

Horne told BBC Radio Five Live's Sportsweek programme: "If players are receiving sustained abuse on the pitch they should be reporting it to the referee. The players, through the captain, should be reporting it to the referee. The referee should be taking the players off the pitch and warning the crowds that they should desist with their abuse, and ultimately there's a sanction there if the fans don't listen to that.

"If the players feel the referee isn't dealing with it then I can understand why they walk off the pitch. Why should you have to tolerate that in this day and age?"

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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