On Saturday, Pescara midfielder Sulley Muntari reached his breaking point. During this weekend's match away to Cagliari, the former Ghanaian international was the target of repeated racial abuse and monkey chants. Muntari's afternoon would end with him justifiably walking off the pitch in protest.
Near the end of the match, Muntari pointed out a group of abusive fans to match official Daniele Minelli, and asked for the match to be halted. After alerting the referee to being mistreated by home fans as a result of his skin color, Muntari didn't receive the support he sought, but was instead booked for dissent.
In a post-match interview with Sky Sports, Muntari said the abuse from Cagliari fans began in the first half: “There was a little kid doing it with his parents standing nearby, so I went over to him and told him not to do it. I gave him my shirt, to teach him that you’re not supposed to do things like that. I needed to set an example so he grows up to be nice."
“[The referee] told me I should not talk to the crowd. I asked him if had heard the insults. I insisted that he must have the courage to stop the game,”
“The referee should not just stay on the field and blow the whistle, he must do everything.
“He should be aware of these things and set an example. I am not a victim. But if you stop the matches I am convinced that these things won’t happen any more.”
In an official statement, FIGC, the Italian football federation announced that the yellow card would not be rescinded, and as a result, Muntari will be forced to serve a one-match ban, due to card accumulation. Citing “an approximate number of only 10” fans being involved in the racist chanting, and no match officials confirming they heard the abuse - though monkey chants were clearly picked up by TV cameras - Serie A deemed it unnecessary to level any punishment against Cagliari.
The league's statement read: "Considering that the in-any-case deplorable racial discriminatory chants were only heard due to the fact that the fans were participating at the time in a silent protest, and that these were made by a total number of around 10 supporters, which is therefore less than one percent of the number occupying that sector of the ground (approximately 2,000), there are no grounds to punish this behaviour."
"It could not really be heard and, furthermore, was not heard by the referee (as mentioned in his match report)."
In the days following the incident, Cagliari president Tomasso Giulini has acknowledged the wrongdoing by his club's home fans, but his apology was made tepid by his agreement that Muntari's yellow card was correct according to the letter of the law, and his insistence that Cagliari fans cannot be branded as racist due to the actions of a few.
In an interview with Mediaset, Giulini said, "Our people are not and have never been racist. I think it's banal for me to have to remind people that. I'm sorry for what happened to Muntari, even if it is worth remembering that it really was by only a few individuals."
FIFPro, the international players' union has responded critically to Serie A, and has called for Muntari's yellow card to be rescinded: "Muntari was well within his rights to approach referee Daniele Minelli, as the first point of reference, to make his grievances known and seek a solution."
"Players should feel comfortable bringing any issue to the attention of the referee, especially one as significant as allegations of racism in the workplace."
"No player should ever feel the need to take matters into his own hands, as Muntari clearly felt obliged to do, by abandoning the match or taking spectators to task for inappropriate behaviour."
Kick It Out, an organization working against discrimination in the global game. has gone a step further in its official remarks, calling the reactions by Italian authorities a "gutless failure." Kick It Out trustee, former Stoke and Tottenham player, and first-ever black chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association, Garth Crooks has called for "every self-respecting black player in the Italian League to not play this weekend unless the Italian authorities withdraw the ban on Sulley Muntari.”