AC Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng has revealed he is glad he decided against quitting Serie A after being racially abused last season.
The 26-year-old walked off the pitch in a friendly match against Italian side Pro Patria in January after being the subject of racist remarks from fans.
But after initially contemplating leaving Italy in a bid to escape the issue, Boateng had a change of heart and instead opted to stay and fight, something he is glad he decided to do.
“At first I was really angry, and the anger had spoken. I said ‘I want to get out of Italy!’ But that has settled after two days, because I said to myself, ‘no, now more than ever I want to take action against it!’” he told SPOX.
“Frustration, anger, disappointment, aggression, it all comes together. That’s why I thought to myself, ‘okay, I do not want to continue playing here in Italy.’ It hurts.
“When I shot the ball into the stands and went off, the normal fans stood up and applauded me. I got very positive feedback immediately on the pitch.
“The team was running after me. This was once the icing on the cake that they have really supported me. And the other fans have all applauded and are against the hooligans, or whatever we want to call them.”
Boateng has been supported by his team-mates, as well as other major figures in the sport, including Fifa president Sepp Blatter, who has worked with the midfielder in the battle to eradicate racism from the game.
And he emphasised his own personal sense of pride at taking a stand to ensure other players don't suffer the same abuse he was victim of last term.
“I think it is the right time for someone to really do something about it. And it is always so, that one must make a difference so that the others follow. This is normal. Many people have thought about what I did, and that’s why they follow me.
“It’s a good feeling that I see many others support me; other soccer players and other superstars who think the same as I do, and of course that is a nice feeling.”
The Rossoneri superstar then reflected on his career and how he has matured not just as a player, but as an individual.
He added: “Sure, I have made many mistakes. As people have told me, I was previously a bad boy; I have been told I was too proud. Today I know that it was just kid stuff. Sure I’ve made mistakes. Of course I was maybe misunderstood. These things happen.
“Nowadays, there are still journalists who open the drawer when they have just found the handle, and again write negative things about me. It really bothers me. Anyone who gets to know me today sees a great footballer and a good man.”