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Milan keeper Maignan wants stronger action after racist abuse. FIFA president eyes tougher sanctions

MILAN (AP) — AC Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan says too many people are “complicit” in allowing racism to continue blighting soccer, and urged authorities to take stronger action after he suffered racist abuse on Saturday night. And FIFA President Gianni Infantino suggested “an automatic forfeit" for any team "whose fans have committed racism.”

Maignan, who is Black, walked off after being abused by Udinese fans during a top-tier Italian league game, prompting the match to be suspended briefly during the first half. Maignan later told DAZN that he had been subjected to monkey noises.

On Sunday, he delivered a strongly worded response.

“It's not the player who was attacked. It's the man, it's the father. It's not the first time it's happened to me and I'm not the first person it's happened to,” Maignan wrote in French on X, formerly known as Twitter. “We've had statements, publicity campaigns, protocols and nothing has changed. Today it’s a whole system that must take responsibility."

Maignan said there still isn’t enough being done to eradicate racial abuse.

“The authorities and the prosecutor, with everything that’s happening, if you don’t act then you will also be complicit,” he wrote.

The 28-year-old Maignan, who is France's No. 1 goalie, said that those who witnessed the racist incidents should have called out the perpetrators, and that Udinese should have acted more firmly at the time.

“The fans in the stands, who saw everything, who heard everything but decided to stay quiet, you are complicit,” Maignan continued on X. “The club Udinese, who spoke only of interrupting the game, as if nothing had happened, you are complicit.”

Maignan had also told the referee about monkey chants earlier during the match. After being stopped, the Serie A game resumed about five minutes later.

There have been numerous racist incidents in Italian and European soccer for years, with cases in Italy aimed at Kevin-Prince Boateng, Mario Balotelli and Romelu Lukaku among others.

Infantino called the latest incident “totally abhorrent and completely unacceptable” and said world soccer's governing body could initiate tougher punishments.

“We need ALL the relevant stakeholders to take action, starting with education in schools so that future generations understand that this is not part of football or society," he wrote in a statement on X.

“As well as the three-step process (match stopped, match re-stopped, match abandoned), we have to implement an automatic forfeit for the team whose fans have committed racism and caused the match to be abandoned as well as worldwide stadium bans and criminal charges for racists."

Maignan's France teammate Kylian Mbappé posted a message of support for Maignan.

“We are all with you,” Mbappé wrote on X. “Always the same problems and still no solution. Enough is enough.”

Maignan, whose brilliant performances helped Milan win the Serie A title in 2022, praised those who helped him to cope.

“I would like to say thanks once again to my club AC Milan, to my teammates, to the referee, to the Udinese players who sent me messages, who called me, who supported me privately and publicy,” Maignan said, before concluding. “It's a difficult fight, which will take time and courage. But it's a fight that we'll win.”

Udinese also issued a statement on Sunday.

“Udinese deeply regrets and condemns every act of racism and violence,” the club said. "We reaffirm our aversion to any form of discrimination and express our profound solidarity with the AC Milan player Mike Maignan in light of Saturday’s deplorable incident at our stadium.

"Udinese will collaborate with all investigating authorities to ensure immediate clarification of the incident, with the aim of taking any necessary measures to punish those responsible. As an institution, we will continue to work diligently, as we always have, to promote diversity and integration of all ethnicities, cultures and languages among our players, staff, fan base and city."

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