United States and AC Milan midfielder Yunus Musah is accustomed to challenging environments – dealing with fervent and confrontational audiences is a normal aspect of soccer. Players are often encouraged to concentrate on their performance during difficult circumstances.
AC Milan’s Stand Against Racism: The Udinese Match Incident
However, there are times when decisive measures are necessary. During the first half of a Serie A match between AC Milan and Udinese, the Milan team left the field in solidarity with their goalkeeper Mike Maignan, who was reportedly subjected to racial insults by some Udinese fans.
The team later resumed the game, securing a challenging 3-2 victory thanks to a last-minute goal by Noah Okafor. However, the discussions after the match centered not on the win, but rather on yet another suspected incident of racism in Italian football, an event Musah witnessed himself.
“We suddenly noticed our goalkeeper, Mike, approaching the referee, reporting that certain individuals were making racist gestures and verbally abusing him behind the goal,” Musah recounted.
Serie A’s Response and Udinese’s Measures Against Discrimination
Serie A required Udinese to conduct a match without any audience present. The club acknowledged that they have identified and indefinitely barred five fans for displaying discriminatory conduct towards Mike Maignan, a player from AC Milan.
Udinese Calcio is dedicated to combating every kind of discrimination, underscoring the significance of creating a respectful and inclusive environment in the football world, as declared by the club.
A Moment of Solidarity and the Impact on Players
The incident involving Musah and Maignan highlighted a significant moment of solidarity. Maignan initially hesitated to return to the pitch but changed his mind upon realizing the full support of his teammates. Musah noted that Maignan’s decision to rejoin the game, bolstered by the team’s united stance, exemplified a powerful collective response.
The Broader Issue of Racism in Football
Incidents like these are not uncommon in Italian football, especially in Serie A, which has a history of similar events. For example, earlier this month, Lazio was penalized, which included closing their stadium for one match, due to racist chants aimed at Romelu Lukaku by their supporters during a game against Roma in the Italian Cup.
The problem of racial abuse extends beyond Italy, as Musah’s experiences in Spanish football illustrate. While playing for Valencia, he witnessed first-hand racist abuse aimed at Real Madrid’s Vinícius Jr. from a Valencia supporter. Musah condemned this behavior, stressing that it displayed ignorance, especially given the diverse backgrounds of players in Valencia’s team.
The Ongoing Debate on Player Reactions to Racist Abuse
The incident where Milan left the field highlights an ongoing debate about player reactions to racist abuse from fans. Musah advocates for walking off the pitch as a means to enforce a no-tolerance stance.
Omar Beckles, the head of England’s Professional Footballers’ Association, pointed out that the association’s members feel the repercussions for racism are neither consistent nor substantial. Musah echoes this sentiment.
He observes, “Typically, there’s a surge of social media posts, and clubs and federations request us to spread anti-racism messages. However, this attention usually fades in a few weeks and is forgotten, only for the issue to arise again. This cycle leads players to feel that more needs to be done.”
Musah’s Personal Journey and the Impact of Racism
Born in New York to Ghanaian parents, Musah, now 21, faced challenges due to his family’s immigrant status, especially regarding employment and housing.