November 26, 2019 / 4:36 PM / 18 days ago

I would walk off pitch if racially abused, even in a final: Wijnaldum

(Reuters) - Liverpool and Netherlands midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum said he would walk off the pitch if he was subjected to racist abuse, even during a major European final.

Soccer Football - Champions League - Liverpool Training - Melwood, Liverpool, Britain - October 22, 2019 Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum during training Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

Among a series of racist incidents that have tainted European soccer recently, Italian striker Mario Balotelli threatened to walk off the field after receiving alleged abuse from Hellas Verona fans this month.

Shakhtar Donetsk forward Taison was shown a red card for reacting to racist jeers from the crowd during a match and Wijnaldum said racially abused players must be defended.

"Why should I play in that case? I think everyone should do it (walk off the pitch)," Wijnaldum told CNN here in an interview.

“I think that’s the way you support another person, because why should you go on? If you play on, it will never stop,” adding that he would leave the pitch even if it was the final of the Champions League or Euro 2020.

“I think you should protect the players. What I think now is that they use the players to just entertain other people. Who defends the players? You basically defend other people because you want the game to go on.”

Players in the top two divisions of Dutch football stood still for the first minute of matches last weekend as a protest against racism after Excelsior forward Ahmad Mendes Moreira was racially abused by a section of FC Den Bosch supporters.

Wijnaldum, who protested against racism by pointing at compatriot Frenkie de Jong’s skin during a Euro 2020 qualifier last week, said he did not like to see team mates preventing racially abused players from leaving the pitch.

“It frustrates me a lot to see that because you don’t know what he’s feeling,” the Dutch midfielder added.

“With Balotelli, it wasn’t the first time it had happened. Why don’t you support him and just walk with him from the pitch? They don’t feel the pain like the person who gets racial abuse.”

Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond

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