Netherlands news

Players 'should have right to walk off'

Ruud Gullit says footballers must be able to make personal stand against racism

ESPN staff

Gullit says players shouldn't keep quiet and play on© AP Images

Ruud Gullit says players who are victims of racist abuse at Euro 2012 should have the right to make a personal stand by walking off the pitch.

He criticised the UEFA ruling that any player leaving the pitch in response to abuse would be given a yellow card. Speaking last week, Michel Platini said referees would be able to stop games in the event of racist abuse from the crowd but that individual players would be punished for walking off.

Mario Balotelli has said he would leave the pitch if he heard racist abuse from the stands, and former Dutch international Gullit insisted: “Players shouldn’t just keep quiet and play on like in my day.”

Speaking after monkey chants were aimed at Netherlands players during an open training session in Krakow, Gullit told the Daily Mail: “The monkey sounds that greeted the Holland team at their training session this week were an embarrassment to the Polish authorities.

“The problem of racial abuse of footballers is now on everyone's radar - it has to be dealt with. The problem needs to be tackled straight away, so players shouldn't just keep quiet and play on like in my day.

“It has been suggested by the UEFA president [Platini] that players would be booked for leaving the field as an act of retaliation and defiance. That, in my opinion, is the wrong message.

“If a player is racially insulted, he should have the right to leave the field. I would like to think we can trust referees to take everyone off but, if the officials are not supporting the players correctly, then the individual should act.”

Gullit said the football authorities’ attitudes towards the problem of racism had improved since he was a player, but voiced fears that racism could “haunt” Euro 2012.

“When I played, I received racial abuse - but I was just one of a few black players and we weren't backed up by the authorities,'' he said. “I used to ignore the abuse and felt powerless to change attitudes. My only weapon was my performances on the pitch.

“We are beyond that now, though. We just have to hope that racism doesn't haunt this tournament but that, if it does, the response is strong. The players need the support of UEFA, and the football authorities need the support of the police.”


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