May 11th 2017
The Whole Game Gets Sulley-d

Sulley Muntari probably would prefer to be remembered for his spells playing for some of the biggest clubs in the world – both Milan teams for example – and his 84 caps for Ghana.

It just might be that his defining moment, though, came when he was sent off in a game for Pescara at the end of last month.

During the game – against Cagliari on the 30th April – Muntari felt he was being racially abused and asked the referee to stop the game in the 89th minute. Bizarrely the ref Daniele Minelli chose to book him for dissent.

In protest, Muntari walked off the pitch, shouting to the Cagliari fans “this is my colour” and then received another yellow card.

The ban was overturned had the one-match ban overturned after the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) said it had considered the “particular delicacy” of the case, but the real question is how it got to this position in the first place?

How a player is still expected to “rise above” racial abuse in 2017 – as the ref seemed to want him to do – and how the referee thought cautioning him was an appropriate course of action.

There was another racist incident at the weekend, when Juventus player Medhi Benatia cut short a post-match television interview on Sunday after claiming to hear a racist insult in his earpiece, and anyone who thinks that the problem belongs in the last century is sadly mistaken.

Muntari believes that players should take the same course of action that he did: “If I had this problem today, tomorrow or the next game I would go off again,” he said. “And I’d recommend it to others. If they are not feeling it they should walk off.”

Whilst football in the UK has taken the lead in combating racism and other forms of discrimination, it does seem that on a global level things are lacking.

Uefa for example, love to have their glossy adverts in the commercials for the Champions League of “No To Racism”, a laudable sentiment of course, but is it one they can really back up? Certainly Muntari thinks not. “Fifa and Uefa only care about what they want to care about. If they want to fight racism they should be able to jump right in and tackle it,” he said.”But they have nothing to say about it. This is a big deal. Maybe the new president Infantino will do something about it. He has a different mind. I think he is capable of doing something in a good way to fight racism. I want him to fight racism.”

It’s difficult to see why, as a governing body for football, they wouldn’t want to tackle the issue. Certainly you would expect them to. But, rather like Uefa they seem to have the right words but the wrong intentions.

Why else would they have closed their Taskforce Against Racism and Discrimination last year? The official explanation for this came from Fifa secretary general Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura, who said: “It had a specific mandate, which it has fully fulfilled.”

You would have thought that mandate might have included dealing with an incident of racism that happened last week – and saw the victim punished. It clearly did not.

What sort of message is that sending to Black and Ethnic Minority footballers? Doesn’t it make quite clear to them the importance that is placed on racism?

Muntari had spells in England with both Portsmouth and Sunderland and as such is uniquely placed to give his take on the situation he faced in various places. In contrast to the situation in Italy he reckoned this country could teach the world a thing or two: “I never heard anything like that in England because I think they don’t tolerate it,” he said. “The people who are racist are really scared to do it in a stadium because they will get prosecuted or banned. But in Italy they go free. England is the example for the world. If a country doesn’t tolerate it then it means you get rid of it.”

And if the rest of the world doesn’t follow our example, then perhaps they should consider this:  If the FA are the dynamic leaders of the world, then the rest of the world must be truly awful.

Flippancy aside, then what happened to Sulley Muntari, both the abuse and how it was dealt with, has quite simply got to act as a wake up call. If it does not then football must surely be absolutely ashamed of itself.

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