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Jan 7, 2013

Sepp Blatter urges against protests

The Ballon d'Or trio were quick to condemn the actions of supporters at a friendly in Italy, that forced Milan star Kevin Prince Boateng to walk off the pitch.

ZURICH -- FIFA president Sepp Blatter praised Kevin-Prince Boateng for making a "strong and courageous" stand by leading his AC Milan teammates off the pitch to protest racial abuse by fans in Italy last week.

But Blatter told the FIFA Ballon d'Or ceremony on Monday that such protests are not the solution to stop discrimination inside stadiums.

"That is praiseworthy," Blatter said of the Ghana midfielder's action during the first half of a friendly against a fourth-tier Italian club. "But it cannot be the solution in the long term.

"We have to find other sustainable solutions to tackle the problem of racism and discrimination at its roots," Blatter said. "Otherwise, such stands will be made in isolation and lost in the heat of general polemic."

Earlier, Cristiano Ronaldo said it was "incredible" that fans still racially abuse players, but questioned if Boateng was right to walk off the pitch.

Boateng was supported by former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola who suggested the player and club acted "because they believe it was fair."

Blatter acknowledged that Boateng sent out a strong signal.

"A way of saying: this has gone this far, but it goes no further," the FIFA chief said. "Football must not separate people. Football brings people together."

Ronaldo expressed surprise that players were still being racially abused inside stadiums.

"I think this cannot happen in this moment in football," he told reporters before the ceremony. "Because, over time, FIFA, UEFA always speak about fair play and against racism.

"And why is this still happening? It's incredible. This is going to give more power for the racists, the whites against blacks. We should live in peace, all of us."

However, Ronaldo said "you cannot simply walk off" as Boateng did.

"We have to cope have to cope with this kind of audience in the stadium," said the Portugal captain, who suggested that incidents sometimes involve "just a few people. Maybe they have a couple of screws loose."

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