Strong sanctions must be implemented to combat racism, AC Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan said after he briefly left the pitch in protest during a 3-2 win in a Serie A match at Udinese.
Maignan alerted the referee before leaving the pitch due to repeated racist chants from the local fans, according to Italian media. He was followed by his team mates to the tunnel before returning to the goal after a few minutes.
“I said we cannot play football like this. It is not the first time it has happened this way,” Maignan told Sky Sports Italy.
“They must hand out very strong sanctions, because talking no longer does anything.
“We have to say that what they are doing is wrong. It is not the whole crowd, most fans want to cheer on their team and jeer you, that’s normal, but not this.”
FIFA president Gianni Infantino showed his solidarity with Maignan and called for measures to be taken in cases of racism.
“The events that took place in Udine and Sheffield Wednesday are totally abhorrent and completely unacceptable. There is no place for racism or any form of discrimination, either in football or in society. The players affected by Saturday’s events have my full support,” he said in a statement.
“In addition to the three-step process (match stopped, match stopped again and match abandoned), we need to enforce automatic defeat for the team whose fans committed racism and caused the match to be abandoned, as well as worldwide stadium bans and criminal charges for racists,” he added.
Media reports said Coventry midfielder Kasey Palmer accused Sheffield Wednesday fans of racist chants during their English Championship clash, which his team won 2-1.
In describing the events that led to him leaving the field, Maignan said that in the first half, he heard monkey noises.
“The second time I went to get the ball, I heard it again. I told the fourth official and my bench what happened.
“I was angry, because this isn’t the first time it has happened. I did not want to play, but we are a family and I could not leave my team mates like that,” he added,
A stoppage-time goal by striker Noah Okafor secured Milan a 3-2 win.