ZURICH (Reuters) - Kevin-Prince Boateng, the AC Milan midfielder who walked off the pitch in a friendly match in protest at racist abuse, has joined FIFA’s anti-discrimination task force.
Boateng, who met FIFA president Sepp Blatter on Friday, caused shockwaves when he walked off at lower league Pro Patria in January, taking the rest of the Milan team with him.
“When I left the pitch against Pro Patria, I know it wasn’t the right decision but at that moment I was very angry and very emotional,” he told Blatter, according to a FIFA statement.
”I spoke to the referee about it very early on, but after 26 minutes I just lost it and walked off the pitch.
”It shouldn’t be the decision of the player, though. I think that referees should perhaps have more power in this area and they should take their courage in their own hands.
“But it’s not easy and I realise that.”
Boateng, who played for Ghana at the 2010 World Cup but later quit international football, said he and Blatter discussed the matter of sanctions, including points deductions, for teams whose supporters are guilty of racist behaviour.
“I‘m a player and so I know that a points deduction might not go down well,” said Boateng. “But we need to be very strict in this domain and, if there are rules, we have to apply them. We absolutely need to have a real threat of sanctions.”
“I think we can change it. It is not only the task force, even ordinary people can help. The media, everybody has to work together.”
Bulgaria and Hungary were set to play World Cup qualifiers behind closed doors on Friday for racist and discriminatory behaviour respectively by their supporters at previous matches, but Blatter agreed that stronger sanctions were needed.
“I don’t think games behind closed doors or financial sanctions are effective,” he said.
“In my opinion, we need to deduct points or even eliminate a team from a competition. It’s tough, and not everybody will agree, but it’s the only way to seriously intimidate and stop the troublemakers.”
“Unfortunately, our extremely popular sport - which involves nearly a billion people throughout the world - is affected by several scourges: violence, cheating, doping, match-fixing and discrimination,” he said.
“At FIFA, we try to tackle all of them, but the question of discrimination angers me in particular. It’s abhorrent and we have to combat this evil, but it’s difficult to find the adequate response.”
Reporting by Christine Soukenka in Zurich; writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris