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05 May 2017 00:00
No victim: Sulley Muntari of Pescara challenged racist football fans by pointing to the colour of his skin. (Enrico Locci/Getty Images)
Sulley Muntari is a player who’s managed to thrill football fans around the world. Notwithstanding his sometimes brash attitude on the pitch, the Ghanaian was part of one of the most potent AC Milan lineups in recent years.
Throughout his career, Muntari has shown that rare ability to appear on the edge of the box and score crucial goals, along the way helping himself to a Champions League winner’s medal, winning the Italian league with unfancied Internazionale and representing his country at three Fifa World Cups.
As league seasons around the world started drawing to a close, Muntari’s Pescara were facing Cagliari on Sunday.
He tried to have a word with the offending fans and ultimately turned to the referee for relief. Instead, Muntari received a yellow card. In frustration and anger, the Ghanaian great walked off the pitch, prompting a second yellow and automatic suspension.
“Why did he turn on me instead of stopping the match? The fans messed up, but the referee should have done something different, not accuse me. I’m not a victim, but if you stop the matches I’m convinced that these things won’t happen any more,” said Muntari.
In the aftermath, his coach condemned the racist behaviour of fans, which is particularly rife in Italy, but insisted Muntari should not have walked off.
The coach’s views are standard fare for footballing authorities who condemn racism in football but seem unable or unwilling to deal with it effectively.
Italian football authorities have upheld Muntari’s suspension, Cagliari authorities claim innocence and the Italian media have largely dismissed the Ghanaian’s pleas.
Perhaps the problem is that few of those in positions of footballing authority in Europe have been victims of the vicious dehumanisation that lies at the core of the racist chants directed at black players across Europe. What they’re saying instead with their inaction, to Muntari and other “magical black players”, is: “Suck it up and get on with it.”
It’s often said that football is life and, if this is the case, racism cannot be tolerated in the beautiful game. The failure to do this disregards the beautiful humans who ply their trade in this fantastical arena.
When Muntari confronted the racist fans in the stands, he held out his arm and pointed to his skin. “This is my colour,” he gestured. Muntari is not a victim and, by walking off that field, he refused to become one. For his principled stance, Sulley Muntari is our Real Makoya.
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