It was meant to be a simple training exercise to keep AC Milan fit during the winter break. Instead, the friendly against Pro Patria turned ugly midway through the first half, when the Lega Pro side's supporters began racially abusing Milan's Kevin-Prince Boateng. The midfielder responded by picking up the ball and kicking it toward the fans, before walking off the pitch. Rossoneri captain Massimo Ambrosini then withdrew the rest of his squad.
Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri supported his players' decision, stating there was no other choice that could have been made. Certainly, it was a bold move, and one that likely affected supporters more than a simple fine and reprimand. They'd come out for a chance to watch a Champions League side face their local team. and their day was cut short after about thirty minutes. Perhaps this is the best way to show that racism really will not be tolerated.
On the other hand, this match was a simple friendly. Taking a chance on leaving the pitch during a Serie A or Champions League game would bring much greater uncertainty. Would Milan be punished by being handed a 3-0 loss? Would the match be postponed indefinitely while officials conducted an inquiry? Would it be the victims that get the fine?
Walking off the pitch during a match that means something has yet to be done, at least, not in top leagues or tournaments. But as these incidents of racist abuse grow in prominence, and as football's top officials do little to actually curb the abuse, it seems more and more likely that a team will take the risk. And when they do, we can only hope that the national and supra-national organizations stand behind the clubs that were victims of supporters' degrading insults.