ZURICH (AP) — FIFA President Sepp Blatter lauded AC Milan's Kevin-Prince Boateng for a "strong and courageous" stand in leading his teammates off the field to protest racial abuse by fans in Italy last week.
But Blatter, speaking at FIFA's awards ceremony Monday, said such protests "cannot be the solution in the long term." He would like to see "other sustainable solutions to tackle the problem of racism and discrimination at its roots."
"That is praiseworthy," Blatter said the midfielder's action during the first half of an exhibition last week 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."
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo said it was "incredible" that fans still racially abuse players, but questioned whether Boateng was right to walk off the field.
Boateng was supported by former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola who suggested the player and his 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 head said. "Football must not separate people. Football brings people together."
Ronaldo expressed surprise that players still were racially abused inside stadiums.
"I think this cannot happen in this moment in football," he said, "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 national team captain, who suggested that incidents sometimes involve "just a few people. Maybe they have a couple of screws loose."