MILAN Pescara midfielder Sulley Muntari said he was made to feel like a criminal after being booked for complaining about racist abuse during a match at Cagliari and subsequently suspended.
The Ghanaian, who has played at three World Cups for his country, said he asked the referee to stop the Serie A match last Sunday and request that a warning be given to the crowd because of the chanting from a group of home supporters.
Instead, the player was booked for dissent and, after walking off the pitch in protest, was given a second yellow card, leading to an automatic one-match suspension. The ban was overturned on appeal on Friday.
“I feel that someone has finally listened and heard me,” Muntari said in a statement published by the world players' union FIFPro on Saturday. “The last few days have been very hard for me. I have felt angry and isolated."
“I was being treated like a criminal. How could I be punished when I was the victim of racism?"
Serie A's disciplinary committee did not take any action against Cagliari because it said only around 10 fans were involved in the chanting, although it described their behaviour as deplorable.
“I hope it can be a turning point in Italy and show the world what it means to stand up for your rights," added the former Inter Milan, AC Milan, Portsmouth and Sunderland player.
“This is an important victory to send a message that there’s no place for racism in football, or society in general.”
FIFPro said it was surprised that Pescara themselves did not appeal, instead leaving it to the player with the help of the Italian Players' Union.
“Many people and organisations such as FIFPro and the U.N. supported me and I would like to thank everyone who assisted me,” said Muntari, who can now play in Sunday's match at home to Crotone.
Pescara, bottom of the table, have already been relegated.
(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Clare Fallon)