JOE's Hero of the Week: Kevin Prince Boateng
Our first Hero of the Week was an easy choice, AC Milan’s Kevin Prince Boateng.
What AC Milan midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng did this week in a friendly game against fourth division side Pro Patria might just be the turning point in football’s battle against the scourge of racism.
In recent years any number of horrible racist incidents have occurred on football pitches. We have seen Emmanuel Eboue suffer terrible abuse at the hands of Besiktas fans in Turkey. Mario Balotelli was on the receiving end of monkey chants in Porto, while Jermain Defoe, Aaron Lennon and Andros Townsend got similar disgusting treatment while playing against Lazio. England’s Under 21 game against Serbia recently was also a farce as continued racist abuse was aimed at the black English players.
All these incidents, as well as countless others we could mention, were very high profile and what they have in common was the pathetic response of the authorities.
Besiktas seemed to escape any sanction. Porto were fined €20,000. Lazio were fined €40,000. The Serbian FA were fined €80,000. All paltry sums in the world of modern football.
And those fines look even more farcical when compared to Uefa’s other punishments of late. Manchester City were fined €30,000 for being late out for the second half of a Europa League game, Arsene Wenger was fined €40,000 for confronting a referee during a Champions League game and, most ridiculous of all, Nicklas Bendtner was hit with a €100,000 fine and a one game ban for showing a pair of Paddy Power pants at the Euros.
As it seems that Uefa have abdicated all responsibility to curbing racism in the game then it was eventually going to fall to the victims to make a stand. Boateng is the first to do so and hopefully it is a catalyst for change.
We have seen it referred to as football’s Rosa Parks moments and while that comparison may be a little overblown, the principle of one person standing up for what they believe holds true.
There was some criticism of Boateng’s actions this week. Some said footballers are paid enough to ignore abuse but there is a massive difference to being called useless and being singled out because of your skin colour.
Others took Boateng to task that he did it in a friendly, one where walking off wouldn’t matter. Yesterday the 25-year-old addressed that and said he would do it again, be it league game or Champions League. We are inclined to believe him.
Uefa’s current policy is that it is up to the referee to decide to stop a game due to racist chants from the crowd. That patently doesn’t work and is rarely, if ever, implemented.
It took a player to highlight just how bad the situation is and Boateng has surely made it easier now for any player at any level to take the ball and walk off. He has also shown up Uefa’s actions to date on the subject as a farce and for that alone he is worthy of our respect.
We hope no player is forced into a similar spot but if they too ‘do a Boateng’ we will stand and applaud them too.
Brave and principled, Kevin Prince Boateng is an more than deserving of our first Hero of the Week.