United States national team forward Jozy Altidore was targeted by racist chants during a Dutch cup quarterfinal while playing for AZ Alkmaar against second-tier FC Den Bosch on Tuesday in The Hague.
The 23-year-old Altidore, who is black, said he had never faced such serious abuse from the stands. He offered a diplomatic assessment of the incident after the game ended.
"It's a bit disappointing that these things still happen at this time that we're in, but what are you going to do," Altidore told the official website of the Dutch Eredivisie league. "You just hope that these people can find a way to improve themselves, and you can only pray for them... I'm not going to fight them - they just have some issues and they need some help."
According to AZ's official twitter feed, referee Reinold Wiedemeijer wanted to stop the match in the first half "because of jungle sounds chanted at Altidore" but AZ players, including Altidore, who is black, persuaded him not to.
Wiedemeijer halted play briefly in the second half because of fans throwing balls of ice at his linesmen, according to the Dutch Eredivisie official Twitter feed and Dutch news website Nu.nl.
AZ's director of soccer, Earnie Stewart, told Dutch television at halftime that "it is terribly sad that this can happen for those involved and for lovers of football in the Netherlands... You hear that and wonder what on Earth is going on."
Stewart said Den Bosch officials are "ashamed" of the fans involved.
Den Bosch repeatedly urged its fans to halt the monkey chants, to no avail.
The club's director, Peter Bijvelds, blamed "malicious supporters making a scandalous mess" of the evening. He said Den Bosch, AZ and the referee considered abandoning the match, but decided against it.
"We can't deny that, certainly when we play top matches ... we have a structural problem with a group of people who ruin things," Bijvelds told Dutch radio. "We have to crack down on it."
In the end, Altidore scored one goal - a penalty kick - as AZ won 5-0. Altidore has scored a career-best 20 goals this season, one more than in 2011-12.
Den Bosch finished with nine men after two players were sent off.
The racist chanting came just weeks after Dutch soccer authorities called for more respect in the game. In a game between youth teams near Amsterdam in December, players attacked and fatally injured a linesman after the match.
"I feel like I have an obligation - as a football player, to my club and my family as well - to not react to things like this, and show that the club stands better than that, and I was raised better than to respond to that ridiculous behavior," Altidore said. "At the end of the day, it's still alive, racism. All we can do now is just try to educate ourselves and the kids who are coming up to be better than that."