In 2013, Kevin-Prince Boateng made headlines around the world when, while playing for AC Milan, he walked off the pitch in the face of racist abuse from fans during a friendly against lower-league side Pro Patria.
Backed by his captain Massimo Ambrosini, Milan abandoned the game in support of their teammate, while Boateng was later appointed FIFA’s first global ambassador for its anti-discrimination taskforce.
Boateng recounted the events of that day in Italy, tying them to the global situation in 2020 with the message that for real change to happen in football and beyond, there needs to be support and uptake from all races.
“As I walked off [the pitch against Pro Patria], a lot of people stood up and applauded me,” Boateng recalled in a searing piece for The Players’ Tribune. “And then — and this is the key — my teammates walked off with me.
“Not just the black ones. All of them. I still get goose bumps talking about that. When I got to the dressing room, I took off my clothes just to show everyone that I was not going back out there.
“The referee came in and asked us, ‘Do you want to continue playing?’ And at that moment Ambrosini stood up and said, ‘If Prince doesn’t play, no one plays.’”
The abandonment of the match – albeit only a friendly – garnered global interest, while Boateng was later approached by FIFA to help tackle racism in the game.
“None of that happened because a black person walked off the pitch. No. It happened because white people walked off with him,” Boateng continued. “That was the message that changed the world.”
The 33-year-old, who has played in four of Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues, understands that fighting racism is not the responsibility of black people, but of everyone – while it’s those in a position of power who can do the most to affect change.
He continued: “Right now the Black Lives Matter movement has a lot of power, but we cannot do it alone. It is white people who are controlling this world. It is white people who can undo systemic racism.
“But if the white hand keeps pushing us down, we have no chance.
“Some people are like, ‘Yeah, but all lives matter.’ Of course all lives matter. But the black community is burning. So if my house is burning and your house is not burning, which house is the most important right now?
“So help me put out the fire.”
Read Kevin-Prince Boateng’s full article on The Players’ Tribune