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"Common sense prevails" as Italian Football Federation overturns Muntari ban

Bobby Barnes

World footballers' union FIFPro and the Professional Footballers' Association have welcomed the Italian Football Federation's decision to overturn Sulley Muntari's one-match ban.

Muntari complained to the referee about racial abuse during Pescara's 1-0 defeat Cagliari last weekend but then walked off the pitch in protest after being shown a yellow card and was subsequently sent off.

The former Portsmouth and Sunderland midfielder had been trying to explain to referee Daniele Minelli that a group of Cagliari fans had been racially abusing him before he was booked for a second time for leaving the field.

FIFPro had called for the punishment - which was initially thought only to be a yellow card, Muntari's fifth of the season - to be rescinded.

Former Tottenham striker and PFA Trustee Garth Crooks wanted black players in Italy to go on strike if Muntari was forced to serve the ban.

FIFPro Division Europe President Bobby Barnes, also PFA Deputy Chief Executive, was relieved that common sense had prevailed.

"Anyone with a sense of justice will look at the situation and see the right thing has been done," Barnes told Press Association Sport.

"For the lad to have been racially abused is bad enough but to receive a ban as well because the correct protocol had not been carried out was very unfair, to say the least.

"There is clear protocol in place that should be triggered when this type of abuse happens and that did not happen.

"The player was forced to take action under his own volition because there was no support and the decision for him to be banned was clearly the wrong one.

"So, albeit belatedly, the authorities in Italy have now made the correct decision."

Speaking to Italian television after the match, Muntari said he had been abused by a group of fans in the first half but had tried to defuse the situation by giving one of the group, a child, his shirt "to teach him you're not supposed to do things like that".

The former Inter and AC Milan star, who also played 84 games for Ghana between 2002 and 2014, said the abuse continued in the second half so he tried to speak to Minelli.

Muntari said: "He told me that I'm not allowed to speak to the fans. I asked him: 'But didn't you hear?'"

"I told him he should have had the courage to stop the game. The referee's not just there to stand on the pitch and blow his whistle - he has to manage everything. He should also listen out for that kind of thing and set an example."

Earlier this week, a statement on Serie A's official website confirmed authorities had made the decision "not to take sanctioning measures against Cagliari".

The statement, published on www.legaseriea.it, claimed "only 10 supporters, and therefore less than one per cent" of fans were directly involved in the incident.

Barnes said he had been in contact with Muntari, who was now looking to put the incident behind him.

"The fact that in 2017 a player can be racially abused in this way is abhorrent, but the protocol has been put in place by the authorities to protect players," Barnes added.

"Clearly this did not happen in this case, but common sense has prevailed and the player can now get on with his life and his football.

"As a game, football is working very hard to eradicate racial abuse from the game and the fact that there are these deterrents in the statute books gives us a fighting chance."