ZURICH (AP) — Footballers' union leader Theo van Seggelen is "proud" of Kevin-Prince Boateng's protest against racist abuse by fans, but agreed on Tuesday with Sepp Blatter that players leaving the pitch is not the answer.
FIFPro general secretary Van Seggelen told The Associated Press that Boateng chose "the right moment" to lead off his AC Milan teammates and stop a friendly against lower-tier team Pro Patria last Friday.
"We are very proud of that. The players said: 'Enough is enough,'" Van Seggelen said. "I think what happened with AC Milan was unique and was a good sign.
"Of course, you have to realize that when it is the Champions League final the circumstances are different," the Dutch lawyer acknowledged. "We have regulations for that. The referee is the only one who can stop the game."
Van Seggelen backed FIFA president Blatter who praised Boateng on Monday as "courageous," before adding in his world player of the year ceremony speech that players walking off "cannot be the solution in the long term."
Blatter's speech "was a good balance and I think he did it quite well," Van Seggelen said. "It is not fair always to criticize him."
Van Seggelen suggested that a recent incident at an English Premier League match offered an example for players and referees to work together against discrimination.
World Cup final referee Howard Webb helped ensure that a Swansea fan was ejected from the stadium and questioned for making a racially offensive gesture at Norwich defender Sebastien Bassong who was celebrating a goal with teammates. Bassong, a Cameroon international, alerted Webb who reported the incident before allowing the match to resume.
"The referee is playing a very important role in that, and there is contact with the players," Van Seggelen said.
FIFPro represents around 50,000 players in national unions around the world, and many members campaign against racism.
"We are playing an important role and we are doing our best, but we will not change the world," Van Seggelen said.