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 at Udinese in Serie A on Saturday.
Milan keeper Maignan calls for sanctions to combat racism: Frenchman 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 teammates to the tunnel before returning to the goal after a few minutes.
English second-tier club Sheffield Wednesday also issued a statement after Coventry City midfielder Kasey Palmer said he had been subjected to racist abuse by some Wednesday fans in their match on Saturday. Both Maignan and Palmer are black.
The incidents were described as “totally abhorrent” by FIFA President Gianni Infantino.
Repeat abuse caused Maignan calls for sanctions
Maignan told Sky Sports Italy that it was not the first time he had been abused.
“I said we cannot play football like this,” he said. “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.”
The France international called for accountability from “the entire system” in a post on X, formerly Twitter, on Sunday.
“The perpetrators of these acts, because it is easy to act in a group in the anonymity of a platform, the spectators who were in the stands, who saw everything, who heard everything but who chose to remain silent, you are complicit,” he wrote.
Coventry player Palmer said he had been the victim of monkey chants late in the game at Sheffield on Wednesday.
“Both clubs roundly condemn any form of discrimination and abuse and underline that there is no place for this kind of behavior in football or in our wider society,” Sheffield Wednesday said in a statement.
Infantino offered his support to Maignan and Palmer and said clubs should face automatic defeat if their fans display racist behavior.
“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.
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,” he added.
“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 teammates like that,” he added.
Udinese said in a statement on Sunday that the club “deeply regrets and condemns every act of racism and violence”.
“We reaffirm our aversion to any form of discrimination and express our profound solidarity with AC Milan player Mike Maignan in light of Saturday’s deplorable incident at our stadium,” it added.
“Udinese will collaborate with all investigating authorities to ensure immediate clarification of the incident, with the aim of taking any necessary measures to punish those responsible.”
The mayor of Udine, Alberto Felice De Toni, invited Maignan to the city to “carry out concrete initiatives to combat discrimination” and said he would propose to the city council to grant the goalkeeper honorary citizenship.
“Udine is not racist … Friuli is a welcoming land and Udinese Calcio has always been a multicultural and inclusive team,” De Toni wrote on Instagram on Sunday.
“These values cannot be humiliated by people blinded by racism with gestures that we strongly condemn.”
A stoppage-time goal by striker Noah Okafor secured Milan a 3–2 win.