‘Racists don’t realise they are racists’ – AC Milan’s Leao reflects on recent abuse

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AC Milan forward Rafael Leao says football fans who engage in racism do not know they are racists after he was recently subject to online abuse.

The Portuguese player of Angolan descent posted an Instagram story two weeks ago with a message that stated the poster was becoming racist and told Leao to leave the club.

Milan responded by showing their support for Leao over the incident. It came just a month after Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan was subject to racist abuse in a 3-2 away win over Udinese and walked off the pitch in protest.

“There are too many people like this, unfortunately. It’s a lack of education at school and within the family,” Leao told Corriere della Sera.

“He doesn’t even know what he did and this is the problem. Racists don’t even realise they are racists.

“Unfortunately, racism is everywhere this is why we footballers must do something given that we have popularity.

“We must use this strength and send signals. Milan are very sensible about this and you saw it after what happened with Mike Maignan in Udine. We did the right thing. It was right to left the pitch.”

Leao went on to emphasise why it was important to rid the world of racism and draws inspiration from Martin Luther King Jr. and former South African president Nelson Mandela, with tattoos of both men on his body.

“To us black people, they are two great men who fought until the end to make everyone understand that we are all the same. I wanted to have their messages on me forever. I have many dreams, one of which is a world without racism,” he continued.

“I am a God believer, I am catholic. Many thought I was Muslim, maybe because of my skin or my African roots. I used to go to mass every Sunday, but now I can no longer do it because of games, but prayers are part of my life.”

Leao has scored nine goals in all competitions, including four in the Serie A where Milan are third in the standings, 13 points behind leaders Inter Milan.

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