Ghana and Pescara’s player Sulley Muntari confronted racism boldly on Sunday during a Serie A match involving his club in Cagliari.
The 32-year-old midfielder complained to the referee about racist chants of Cagliari fans but was punished for his complaints, prompting him to take action himself by leaving the pitch in protest.
The Ghana international had appealed to the referee to stop the game, claiming the home supporters were racially abusing him.
But referee Daniele Minelli apparently did not hear the chants and instead opted to book the former Inter player for dissent.
Muntari then walked off the field, leaving the already relegated Pescara to finish the game with 10 men.
Before leaving the pitch, he angrily confronted Cagliari fans, shouting at them: “This is my colour” and he was proud of it.
Speaking after the game, Muntari said: “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 asked him if he had heard the insults. I insisted that he must have the courage to stop the game.”
Pescara coach Zdenek Zeman, whose side lost the game by 1-0, criticised the decision to punish the Ghanaian instead of dealing with the alleged abuse.
“Muntari asked the referee to intervene, but he did not do it,” he told reporters. “We talk so much about racism, but then we just move on. This happened to Muntari who has played in Italy for several years – we want to change the mentality.”
“He left the field because of the chants, but we should not have to take justice into our own hands.”
Muntari was not the first apparent victim of racial abuse in Italy on Sunday, as Roma director Frederic Massara said defender Antonio Rudiger suffered from it in his side’s 3-1 loss to Lazio.
Muntari was at AC Milan when then team-mate Kevin-Prince Boateng walked off the pitch because of racist chanting during a friendly with lower-league side Pro Patria in January 2013.
It prompted a wave of support on social media. Fifa, football’s world governing body, applauded Boateng’s principles, but said it did not condone his decision to walk off.
Pescara are bottom of Serie A and have been relegated to Italy’s second tier.