Leao recalls emotions after Maignan and Ibrahimovic racial abuse incidents

By Ben Dixon -

AC Milan winger Rafael Leao’s book ‘Smile’ was released today, and in the book, he recalls some of the emotions he felt during the racial abuse he witnessed during his time in Italy. 

On the pitch this season, Leao has not reached the same heights that he might have for Milan in recent years. However, behind the scenes, his role in the dressing room has increased, as he has been reported to be among the leaders of the team.

Additionally, the Portuguese winger has released a book titled ‘Smile’, and in it, he has covered several topics. One of those has been the racist abuse that he has witnessed during his time with the Rossoneri.

Most recently, Mike Maignan was subject to racist chanting in the game against Udinese, where the side won 3-2, signifying the strength and unity in the group. However, the incident further highlighted Italy’s issues with racism and the distance that is needed to go before the problem is eradicated.

MilanNews have relayed an extract from Leao’s autobiography about the events in Udine and others.

“In Udine, on 20 January, they insulted my friend and team-mate Mike [Maignan] with a racial slur. An absurd and very serious fact. And also when I saw [Romelu] Lukaku being cautioned after celebrating in the face of racist fans of the opposing team I got very angry.

“If a footballer is constantly harassed and allows himself to celebrate in a way that is responsive to those fans, what does the referee do? Sanction him? It makes no sense, and indeed only contributes further to an already exasperated atmosphere. It justifies those fools who think we can still live like this nowadays.

“The same thing happened to Zlatan [Ibrahimovic], in 2021, again against Roma, after being insulted throughout the match with a word that was incredibly annoying even to repeat. He celebrated and the referee cautioned him.

“I don’t think Italy is a racist country, in this country, I became a man, a great footballer and a professional. But I believe that the sports institutions are still far behind, and this is also the case in the rest of Europe.

“Constantly shifting the responsibility onto the subject, asking: ‘What did he do to provoke?’ is the best possible assist you can give to a racist. It happened to my friends Mike and Moise [Kean], before that to Balotelli and it will continue to happen until we know what to do to stop it.

“We are in a privileged position, we are famous, and even racists come and ask us for pictures. But not everyone can, not everyone has the armour of fame to protect them. Those people are not satisfied with Rafael Leão’s smile. They need something more, and they need it now.”

Tags AC Milan Rafael Leao
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