Thumbs up for Boateng

“Today, we are all Kevin Prince Boateng”. So said the front page headline in today’s Gazzetta Dello Sport in reaction to the player who sparked a walk-off by Milan because of consistent racist abuse during a friendly match.

The game in question against fourth division Pro Patria, who are based in Busto Arsizio, just down the road from Milan’s Milanello training ground was abandoned when Boateng walked off after a small group of Pro Patria fans racially abused him and his black team-mates.

Gazzetta reported: “Today we are all Kevin Prince Boateng. We are all black like him, black in the face and in the soul with anger at an offence that defies good sense and degrades civil society. He did the right thing”.

La Repubblica welcomed Boateng’s decision but said it would only be worthwhile if a player walks off during a competitive game.

“Sure it is easy to abandon a friendly game but we hope that, if necessary, it will happen when there are three points at stake. At least, however, the precedent has now been established,” the newspaper said.

Former France international Lilian Thuram, who played in Italy with Parma and Juventus, noted that it was ”the first time a big club took responsibility to make such a decisive step” by walking off.

”Indifference prevails in the majority of cases,” Thuram told the Gazzetta. ”Teammates tend to lower their eyes and look elsewhere, underestimating the suffering of the players of color who are targeted.

”That’s why I applaud the sensibility of a great player like (Milan captain) Massimo Ambrosini,” Thuram added. ”He took responsibility which gives a huge amount of help to the fight against racism.”

Patrick Vieira, another former France international who played in Italy, was also supportive.

”It was brave of Kevin Prince Boateng to do what he did today, and it was the right thing,” Vieira tweeted. ”We need to stand up and stand together. Well done.”

Milan coach, Massimiliano Allegri, said that Boateng had been right to make a stand.

“We are disappointed and saddened by what has happened,” he said. “Milan play for the right to respect all players.”

“Walking off was the right choice when faced with something like this.

“We need to stop these uncivil gestures. Italy needs to improve and become better educated and more intelligent. Let’s learn from this experience. 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.”

Vincent Kompany, the Manchester City captain, expressed his anger and sympathy on Twitter.

“Act of racism against Boateng during Milan’s friendly. How about becoming extremely intolerant towards racist idiots? They need to be told,” he wrote. “I can only salute Milan’s decision to leave the pitch. Also noted that the majority of the fans were completely supportive of the players.”

There were, however, one or two dissenting voices, with former Milan team-mates, Clarence Seedorf and Gennaro Gattuso questioning Boateng’s decision to leave the pitch.

Seedorf said: “I don’t see it as such a positive thing because [it] empowers more and more of this behaviour.  But this has happened more than once and I don’t think it really changes all that much.

“We are just empowering that little group with their behaviour to make this mess”

His former team-mate Gattuso told the Corriere della Sera that he was unconvined that it was a racist incident.

“I’ve lived five kilometres away from Busto Arsizio for years and that area is full of foreigners,” Gattuso, now with Sion in Switzerland, said. “There are no racists in Busto. What happened yesterday was the fault of a group of imbeciles.

“How many times have there been boos against white players in the past? It’s happened to me to but I didn’t give it any importance. Boateng certainly felt he was offended but I continue to not see it as racism. It just seems to be the latest episode of collective idiocy from a minority.”

He added: “If we are convinced that there is a racism problem then strong decisions need to be made. I, however, continue to believe that Italy is not a racist country.”

Italy may not be a racist country but it would be a fool who denies the existence of racist abuse at the country’s football matches.

Turning Japanese

Having being priced out of the once-cheap French transfer market, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has turned his attentions to cheaper bargains in the far east.

Rather than accept that he no longer enjoys a monopoly when it comes to signing promising young French players, Wenger claims that he is no longer interested in the French market because the supply of decent players has dried up.

“The competition is high on the scouting front. The country where we were really, really competitive was France. They produce less players than they did 10, 15 years ago at top, top, top level in France,” Wenger told reporters.

“The emerging countries that are producing players look to be Germany and Spain and they have many good young players. They have taken over.”

“We are trying to diversify much more where we are looking. In England you are a bit limited.

“I find that a new market that is very interesting and very competitive is the Japanese market. Look at the number of Japanese players who play now in Germany for example.”

With Arsenal unable to compete financially with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, Wenger explained the problems he had in persuading impatient supporters that it was worth signing players with potential.

“It’s very difficult because the level of expectation is very high,” he said.

“People want to see Lionel Messi. They don’t want to see a promising guy.

“First of all the name gives hope. When a guy has no name people are already sceptical. So it’s much more difficult for us.”

I think Arsenal fans would tolerate Wenger signing players with potential; the problem they have is when Arsenal sell that player the moment his potential is realised.

Quote of the day

“When the club who won the Champions League wants you, the decision is very easy. This club is massive and that’s something that helped the decision a lot. It was not a hard one.”

New Chelsea signing Demba Ba tries to pretend that he joined Chelsea for footballing reasons. He may be in for a shock when he realises his current club are competing in the same European competition as his former club.

Boy from Brazil

Touted as the next Ronaldo or Ronaldinho, Alexandre Pato turned out to be the next Robinho: talented but too fragile for the rigours of top class European football.

The 23-year-old is set to return to Brazil with World Club Cup winners, Corinthians, reportedly willing to pay Milan a €15m transfer fee.

“AC Milan can announce that Alexandre Pato has been sold outright to Sporting Club Corinthians Paulista,” the statement read.

“In the coming days Pato, who will wear the number seven shirt with ‘Timao’, will undergo medical tests and sign a contract for four seasons.”

Pato thanked Milan for his time at the club in an open letter on the Rossoneri’s website.

“I wish to salute and especially thank everyone,” he said. “From the president to the many people I worked with in these unforgettable years at Milan.

“I am going to Brazil, to Corinthians, so I’ll have the opportunity to play consistently. It will not, however, be easy to forget Milan.

“I will always be tied to this jersey, the club colours and all the Rossoneri fans. Above all at this moment my thoughts and my biggest thanks go to them.”

Coincidentally, Milan are also in talks to sell fellow Brazil forward Robinho to his former club Santos.

The last taboo?

West Ham United winger Matt Jarvis has become only the third footballer to appear on the cover of the UK’s bestselling gay magazine in an effort to break one of the game’s remaining taboos. The footballer, who is married, follows David Beckham, who appeared on the cover of Attitude in 2002, and Freddie Ljungberg in 2006.

In an interview, the winger said it was time that a gay footballer felt comfortable enough to come out. “It’s everyday life. It’s not something that’s going to be a shock,” he said. ”

“I’m sure there are many footballers who are gay, but when they decide to actually come out and say it, it is a different story. It’s one that I’m sure they’ve thought about many times. But it’s a hard thing for them to do.”

The only footballer to have come out since is Anton Hysen, a player in the Swedish lower leagues.

Jarvis’s remarks in Attitude are the latest in a number of public statements made by figures within the game on the suject of homosexuality. It indicates one of two things: either English football really is more open-minded on the question of sexuality than most of us had previously assumed or, the ground is being prepared for a high profile player to come out. Either development would be welcome.

Matthew Todd, the editor of Attitude, highlighted the absurdity of there being no openly gay professional footballers in England.

“It’s ridiculous that there are no openly gay players in professional football,” he said. “There’s rightly been a focus on ridding the beautiful game of racism, but there doesn’t seem to be much effort to tackle homophobia. We know there are gay players – and fans who support the game religiously – so I hope this starts a discussion and is a small step in the right direction.”

Storm in a tea cup

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has played down Thursday’s training ground row with Mario Balotelli.

Mancini was photographed grappling with his fellow Italian in on Thursday but the City boss insists the matter was not serious.

“I think the photos show the worst of what happened. It was nothing special. There was no fight, this was not true.”

The incident occurred after a bad tackle by Balotelli on Scott Sinclair during a training match.

Mancini said: “We were playing a game and Mario kicked his team-mate. I said to him, ‘Go inside, leave the pitch’. He said no and I took his shirt and pushed him out of the pitch. This is what really happened, nothing special.”

When asked if he lost his temper, Mancini said: “No, no. For two seconds, yes – during three or four seconds because he didn’t want to leave the pitch. He can’t do this against no one, but then it was finished.”

Until the next time.

Contretemps

Swedish daily Expressen has  shed some light on Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s tempestuous relationship with his Paris Saint-Germain team-mates, club officials and the press since he arrived in the French capital last summer.

The striker had reportedly taken to parking in the space of Claude Makelele, Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant despite being told not to do so. He returned to do just that though, which resulted in him blocking the entire car park.

The subject was raised in the PSG dressing room, with team-mates joking to Ibrahimovic about the incident.

 However, the Swede replied: “Listen to me. If I want to park the car in the dressing room, I’ll park the car in the dressing room.”

And you know with someone like Zlatan, that is no idle threat.

Ibrahimovic has antagonised many in France by suggesting they do not know how to handle a player of his stature.

“They are not really familiar with someone who is on the level I am and that is the player I am”, he said.

 “Today after training, journalists started talking to me inside the plane, which is completely abnormal. They should not be allowed to do this.

“I do not know, maybe they are not used to seeing someone in their own country at this level and who has had the career that I’ve had.”

Yes, you would never know that former World Player of the Year, Ronaldinho, played for PSG when he won the World Cup in 2002.

Ibrahimovic’s fellow Ligue 1 players are also less than impressed with the attitude of the Swede.

“He almost never answers us, not even when you hold your hand out to apologise”, said Brest defender Paul Baysse.

”It is like he despises us.”

It’s not just ‘like’ he despises you Paul, he genuinely does.

These boots were made for scoring

Cristiano Ronaldo will be sporting a new specially-designed boot when he next takes the field for Real Madrid.

The footwear, specifically designed for the forward by Nike, contains a series of numbers engraved into the upper leatherwork intended to commemorate some of milestones reached by the Portuguese over the past 12 months,

Ronaldo’s brand new Nike CR Mercurial IX boots will pay homage to these feats – with the numbers 1, 9, 14, 19, 27, 55 and 60 emblazoned across them to represent his most significant points of 2012.

One marks victory in the race for the Spanish title, while he became the first player ever to score against 19 different La Liga sides, and scored 60 times in 55 appearances over the course of the campaign.

In 2012, Ronaldo scored nine times for Portugal in 14 appearances – all of which he achieved by the age of 27.

Omitted from the list is the figure 30, which was the number of goals separating Ronaldo from Lionel Messi over the course of 2012, and there is no number 2, the position he will finish in the annual FIFA Ballon D’or awards for the third year running.

Finally…

John Terry has posted a photo of himself alongside Frank Lampard stating he is “devastated” at the prospect of his long-time team-mate leaving Chelsea

The pair are pictured holding the FA Cup aloft and for once, this is not one of those images that has been photoshopped to include Terry. It shows Terry with the FA Cup in 2012. You remember that, don’t you? It came just days before the club’s greatest ever triumph – the one that John Terry missed out on.

The Chelsea skipper has urged the club to retire the No8 shirt in honour of Frank Lampard.

“Devastated is an understatement,” Terry wrote on his Instagram social networking account. “We should retire the number 8 shirt in honour of Lamps.”

Terry, demonstrating a degree of affection usually reserved for his team-mates wives, added a series of tributes on Instagram to Lampard, including “theheartbeat” “legend” and “goal machine.”

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