AC Milan’s Rafael Leão latest victim of racial abuse in Italian soccer

AC Milan's Rafael Leao leaves the pitch after an injury during a Serie A soccer match between AC Milan and Lazio, at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Saturday, May 6, 2023. (Luca Bruno/AP)

MILAN — AC Milan forward Rafael Leão has denounced “small-minded” people after he was the latest victim of racial abuse as the problem continues to blight Italian soccer.

Leão, who is Black, shared an Instagram story from a social media user who had written in Italian: “I can’t bear to see you anymore. I can’t bear to support you on the field. I am becoming racist … Go away as soon as possible, you and your followers.”

The 24-year-old Leão commented on it in Portuguese on Tuesday, saying: “Unfortunately, there continues to be these type of small-minded people in the world.”

The latest incident of racism in Italian soccer comes exactly a month after Leão walked off the field with the rest of his Milan teammates after Rossoneri goalkeeper Mike Maignan was racially abused at Udinese.

The fans were swiftly identified and banned for life by Udinese.

“We stand with you Rafa,” Milan said in a post on X, formerly Twitter. “In our fanbase and in football, there’s no room for racism.”

There have been numerous racist incidents in Italian and European soccer for years, with victims in Italy including Kevin-Prince Boateng, Mario Balotelli and Romelu Lukaku.

Lazio was sanctioned with a one-match partial stadium closure last month for racist chants directed at Lukaku.

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