AC Milan custodian Mike Maignan said strong measures must be applied to prevent racism after temporarily leaving the ground in protest during Saturday’s 3-2 victory over Udinese in Serie A.
According to Italian media, Frenchman Maignan warned the referee before leaving the game after hearing repeated racist chanting from local spectators. His teammates followed him into the tunnel before returning to the goal after a few minutes.
Sheffield Wednesday, an English second-tier team, released a statement after Coventry City player Kasey Palmer said he was exposed to racial abuse by certain Wednesday supporters during their encounter on Saturday. Both Maignan and Palmer are black.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino called the acts as “totally abhorrent”.
Maignan told Sky Sports Italy that this was not the first time he had been abused.
“I said we cannot play football like this,” he was quoted as saying. “They must impose severe punishments since talking is no longer effective. We have to declare that what they are doing is incorrect. It’s not the whole audience; most supporters want to shout for their side and jeer you, which is acceptable, but not here.”
The France international demanded responsibility from “the entire system” in a Sunday post on X, previously Twitter.
“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 stand, who saw everything, who heard everything but who chose to remain silent, you are complicit,” he stated in the letter.
Palmer, a Coventry player, said he was subjected to monkey chants late in the game against Sheffield Wednesday.
“Both clubs roundly condemn any form of discrimination and abuse, and underline that there is no place for this kind of behaviour in football or our wider society,” the statement added.
Infantino backed Maignan and Palmer, saying that teams should be automatically defeated if their supporters engage in racist activity.
“Racism and other forms of prejudice have no place in football or society. “I fully support the players affected by Saturday’s events,” he stated 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 went on to say.
Maignan described the circumstances that prompted him to leave the pitch, saying that in the first half, he heard monkey sounds.
“The second time I went to collect the ball, I heard it again. “I told the fourth official and my bench what happened,” he said.
“I was furious since this wasn’t the first time it had occurred. I didn’t want to participate, but we’re a family, and I couldn’t abandon my teammates like way,” he said.
Udinese issued a statement on Sunday stating 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 the AC Milan player Mike Maignan in light of Saturday’s deplorable incident at our stadium,” the statement said.
“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.”
Alberto Felice De Toni, the mayor of Udine, welcomed Maignan to the city to “carry out concrete initiatives to combat discrimination” and said he would ask to the city council that the custodian be granted honorary citizenship.
“Udine is not racist… Friuli is a welcoming land, and Udinese Calcio has always been a multicultural and inclusive team,” De Toni said on Instagram on Sunday.
“These values cannot be humiliated by people blinded by racism with gestures that we strongly condemn.”
Milan won 3-2 when attacker Noah Okafor scored in stoppage time.