(CNN) — This season matches across Europe have been punctuated by repeated outbursts of racism and on Thursday AC Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng took matters into his own hands after leading his side off the field of play after being subjected to racist abuse.
Ahead of the resumption of the Serie A season at the weekend, the German, who plays for Ghana’s national team, was targeted by fans of fourth division side Pro Patria in a friendly during the match along with a number of other black Milan players.
Milan’s website reported M’Baye Niang, Urby Emanuelson and Sulley Muntari were the targets of racist abuse.
The game was suspended midway through the first half when Boateng, who was visibly upset by the chanting, picked up the ball and kicked it into the crowd.
After the incident, Boateng tweeted: “Shame that these things still happen… #StopRacismforever.”
The 25-year-old ripped off his shirt in disgust before being joined by his teammates and opposition players in walking off the field.
“We are disappointed and saddened by what has happened,” Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri told reporters.
“Milan play for the right to respect all players. We need to stop these uncivilized gestures.
“We are sorry for all the other fans who came here for a beautiful day of sport.
“We promise to return, and we are sorry for the club and players of Pro Patria, but we could not make any other decision.
“I hope it can be an important signal.”
Italian Football Association president Giancarlo Abete also hit out at the unsavoury scenes and announced an investigation into the incident.
Abete said in a statement on the Italian FA website, www.figc.it: “No sanction or measure can erase the disdain for an unspeakable and intolerable episode.
“We must react with force and without silence to isolate the few criminals that transformed a friendly match into an uproar that offends all of Italian football.”
Boateng is not the first footballer to take a stand over racist abuse.
Former Barcelona striker Samuel Eto’o threatened to leave the field back in February 2006 after being subjected to racist abuse and pelted with bottles during a game against Real Zaragoza.
The Cameroon forward, who now plays for Anzhi Makhachkala, tried to walk off only to be persuaded to remain by then manager Frank Rijkaard.
And in 2011, Brazilian defender Roberto Carlos walked off the field after a banana was thrown at him during a Russian league game.
Carlos, who was 38 at the time, was playing for Anzhi in the city of Samara in the Caucasus region. The Brazilian is now Anzhi’s team director.
After picking up the banana, Carlos walked off the field visibly upset before sitting on the bench.
Ahead of the European Championship finals in Poland and Ukraine, UEFA president Michel Platini had urged players to allow the referee to deal with the problem of racist abuse, and stressed that officials could stop games if necessary.
“It is a referee’s job to stop the match and he is to do so if there are any problems of this kind,” said Platini
However UEFA has come under criticism for the punishments it has handed out rearding racist abuse.
In December UEFA appealed the decision of its own disciplinary committee after the Serbian Football Association was fined $105,000 for improper conduct by Europe’s governing bogy following allegations of racist abuse during the under-21 game with England.
That fine was far less than that handed out to Denmark’s Nicklas Bendtner, who was forced to pay $125,800 for exposing boxer shorts with the logo of an online betting company during the European Championship Finals.
Last year, Manchester City officials were infuriated after the club was fined $40,000 by UEFA for taking to the pitch late for a Europa League game — $13,000 more than Porto’s sanction for fans’ racist abuse during a game against the English team.
Milan’s squad captain Massimo Ambrosini gave his backing to Boateng’s actions, insisting a “message had to be sent against uncivilized people.”
“I am sorry for all those who were at the stadium but a strong message had to be sent,” said Ambrosini.
“AC Milan will make an effort to go back to Busto Arsizio especially for the children and for those who have nothing to do with racism but a message had to be sent against such uncivilized people.”
AC Milan director Umberto Gandini added on Twitter: “Very proud of the Milan players who decided to walk off the pitch today for racist abuse from few idiots! No racism, no stupidity!”
Milan returns to league action on Sunday against Siena.