Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng today spoke at the United Nations as part of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Boateng stood up against racism at the start of this year after he, and his Milan side, walked off the pitch during a friendly against Pro Patria after being abused by sections of the crowd.
“Madame Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights, esteemed colleagues and experts, ladies and gentlemen,” the former Ghana international said as he addressed the UN in Geneva.
“What we have just seen on video occurred on 3 January at Busto Arsizio in a friendly match between my club Milan and a Fourth Division side.
“I decided to stop the game and kick the ball into the stands as I felt profoundly angry and offended by the racist insults directed at me from the stands.
“That gesture alone would not have had any particular resonance. My teammates, however, immediately followed me off the pitch without a moment’s hesitation.
“The fact that the entire team had taken such an equivocal step against racism made news headlines the world over. That’s why I’m here today. It’s an honour for me to have the chance to speak here today.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are in the year 2013 and racism is still amongst us and is still a problem.
“It’s not simply an argument for the history channel or something that belongs to the past or something that only happens in other countries.
“Racism is real, it exists here and now. You can find it on the streets, in your office and in football stadiums.
“There have been moments in my life when I didn’t wish to face the problem. I tried to ignore it as if it was a headache that would sooner or later go away. I just had to wait.
“That, however, is an illusion. It won’t go away by itself. We have a duty to face racism and to fight it.
“The concept ‘a bit racist’ doesn’t exist. There are no tolerable quantities of racism. It’s unacceptable regardless of where it happens or the form that it takes.
“It’s also something that goes beyond black and white. There are many different types of racism from people of different colours and nationalities.
“There is no vaccine to fight this and no antibiotics to take. It’s a dangerous and infectious virus which is strengthened by indifference and inaction.
“When I played for Ghana, I learned how to fight malaria. Simple vaccines are not enough. You also have to dry out infected areas where the carriers proliferate. I think that racism and malaria have a lot in common.
“Stadiums can be places where people of different colour come to support their teams or they can be seen as stagnant areas where healthy people will be infected by racism. We can’t allow this to happen before our very eyes.
“Football stadiums, like other places, are full of young people. If we don’t fight the stagnation, many of those who are healthy today, could become infected with one of the most dangerous diseases of our time.
“Those of us constantly in the public eye have more responsibility. We can’t allow ourselves to be indifferent or passive.
“Many sportsmen like myself and my teammates, artists and musicians all have unique chances and responsibilities to make themselves heard. We have the possibility to reach the parts that political speeches will never reach.
“History shows us how important the contributions of famous athletes can be. I can say that the fact that the President of America shares my skin colour, has something to do not only with Martin Luther King, but also Mohammed Ali.
“One of the most intense and moving moments of my life to date was when I met Nelson Mandela during the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. An incredible man, both in subtlety of mind and character.
“His life has shown that making your voice heard against racism is less dangerous than remaining mute.
"It’s just as important to stand up to racism today as it was in the past. We have to find inspiration from those who have risked their lives for the cause.
“I’m convinced that it would be a fatal error to believe that we can fight racism by ignoring it and hoping that it’ll go away like a headache. This won’t happen.
“In any moment when our paths cross with racism we have the duty to rise and to act. Thank you for listening.”
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