Global outcry builds pressure on Italians to finally face their football racism

May 5 – Italian football’s reputation around the world has been damaged by the Sulley Muntari affair, the Italian Football Federation’s anti-racism advisor has charged.

Fiona May says the decision to ban the Pescara midfielder for walking off the pitch protesting about racist abuse while taking no action against fans had “sent a bad message”.

“I’m frustrated and shocked,” the British-born former Olympic athlete who was hired by the Italian FA (FIGC) in 2014, told the BBC.

Muntari was booked for complaining to the referee about abuse he received from Cagliari fans last weekend and received a second yellow card for leaving the pitch without permission. He was subsequently handed a one-match ban.

A Serie A disciplinary committee upheld his punishment saying it could not punish the fans as only “approximately 10” were involved in the racist chants – not enough to take action under its own guidelines.

May said the panel was wrong to follow that principle so strictly in this case. “You can’t put a number on how somebody can abuse a player on the pitch. How can somebody put a number on it?

“They shouldn’t have said that. It doesn’t matter if it is just was one person or 100 people in a stand, it doesn’t matter, they shouldn’t be doing racist chants full stop.”

She added: “Football is a global sport and I said to the FIGC president ‘this is not helping the image of Italian football whatsoever’.”

May said she did not think many would heed the call by some punters and experts to strike in support of Muntari but believes the outcry means there will “most definitely be a change”.

FIFA has disbanded its anti-discrimination body but May added poignantly:  “This shows how racism is more profound than everybody thought, even though we have been doing a lot of educational work. It shows they have got a lot of work still to do.”

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