The Last Word: Kevin-Prince Boateng isn't a hero, just a human being - News & Comment - Football - The Independent

The Last Word: Kevin-Prince Boateng isn't a hero, just a human being

Some see footballers as inanimate objects, just repositories of bigotry

Kevin-Prince Boateng is no hero. He is as flawed and fallible as the rest of mankind. In other circumstances it would be easy to condemn him as a caricature of a modern multimillionaire footballer.

He has more tattoos – a florid 14 at the last count – than the average Hell's Angel. His girlfriend, Melissa Satta, inevitably a "model, actress and TV presenter", blamed his succession of muscular injuries this season on their robust sex life .

This may have struck a chord with Milan's president, Silvio Berlusconi, one of the first to applaud Boateng's decision to lead the players off the pitch in the club's midweek friendly against the lower-division side Pro Patria, but it wasn't rapturously received when Boateng was being criticised for poor form.

The significance of Boateng's gesture lies in its rationality. It was the understandable, inevitable act of a sentient human being. No one should have to endure the sort of racial abuse which reduces its victim to a caged creature in a Victorian freak show. It is abhorrent. But it also reflects an unavoidable aspect of contemporary culture: footballers, and others associated with the cult of celebrity, have been dehumanised, regarded as inanimate objects, repositories of hate, envy, bile and bigotry.

Simpletons flood social media casually to defame them. Footballers' wealth and social eminence is deemed to excuse the vilest insults. Ignorance, stupidity and over-familiarity fuel a collective amnesia that their basic human rights are being compromised.

In that context there was something uniquely disturbing about the confluence of Boateng's principled act and the latest psychodrama involving Mario Balotelli, a case study in the corrosive effects of sustained prejudice. Racist abuse has been the soundtrack of the striker's life.

Born to Ghanaian immigrants who gave him up for adoption, Balotelli suffered as the only black boy in a white neighbourhood. Subjected to monkey chants on his Internazionale debut, he has had bananas thrown at him in the street. Death threats were issued by extreme right-wing groups when, after a visit to Auschwitz, he revealed one of his adoptive parents was of Jewish heritage.

There were 59 incidents of racially aggravated abuse in Italian football last season, but let's not get too complacent. Terence Jones, a so-called Stoke City fan, was with his two children when he shouted "monkey", "black bastard" and "you're dirty, get a bath" at Balotelli during a game in September. He was banned from football for three years and fined £370.

The paucity of such punishment is instructive. Racism terrifies the authorities because it exposes their cynicism and inadequacy. Uefa's insistence that they cannot act in the Boateng case, because the friendly was outside their jurisdiction, is craven corporate cowardice.

Racism has convulsed the English game and will not be combatted by the candyfloss of Football Association action plans, or the equally empty rhetoric of dinosaurs such as Gordon Taylor, the PFA chief executive. Moral ambiguity is so ingrained that Chelsea fail to recognise the conflict between their "zero tolerance" approach to racism and the presence of John Terry as club captain.

In an ideal world a referee would lead players off in the event of abuse, but the Mark Clattenburg case confirms we do not live in an ideal world. Significant protest is rarely painless. This issue will be decided only by another conflagration, so shocking it will be impossible to ignore.

It may come as soon as Wednesday evening, when Milan play Juventus. If Juventus Ultras, who once chanted: "There are no black Italians" at Balotelli, reaffirm their notoriety, and Boateng repeats his protest in the Stadio Delle Alpi, he really will be a hero.

Pompey tears turn out to be prophetic

Kevin-Prince Boateng's last act in English football was to leave the Wembley pitch in tears after missing a penalty in Portsmouth's narrow defeat by Chelsea in the 2010 FA Cup final.

That memory, resurrected this weekend of all weekends, highlights the object lesson provided by a club whose spiral of decline is becoming deeper.

Pompey lost in the first round of the Cup this season. They lost again on Friday night at Walsall, where 500 travelling fans were short-changed by a ramshackle team which lacked substance, spirit and hope.

Relegation to League Two is inevitable, irrespective of whether a 10-point penalty is levied. Players on monthly contracts will drift away.

Even if the fans do take control of the club – a court hearing on 15 January may be inconclusive – they will have to risk alienating their peers by inflicting more swingeing cuts.

The fight for survival matters because of men like Alan McLoughlin, Portsmouth's former Republic of Ireland international. He has defied advice not to return as youth-team coach following a cancer operation which involved the removal of a kidney. His loyalty to a football club who can still be greater than the sum of their parts is inspirational.

Hiss and tell

Sources suggest Lance Armstrong is preparing to confess to having used performance-enhancing drugs. His apologists will be shrill but his motives must be questioned. Armstrong wants to set his own agenda and, having lived a lie for so long, is not to be trusted.

John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week