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Racist chants, legal action and stadium ban, Mario Balotelli makes stand

Officials and players persuade Mario Balotelli to continue
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Mario Balotelli was at the receiving end of racist chants in Brescia’s trip to Verona, kicking the ball into crowd and threatening to walk off the pitch.

The former Italy international hit the back of the net but could not save Brescia from an away defeat to Verona. However, it was the non-sporting events early in the second half that caught the headlines.

With the play suspended in the 54th minute, Balotelli kicked the ball into the crowd. In the ensuing moments, the forward complained about racist insults from a section of the Bentegodi stadium crowd. Balotelli threatened to walk off the pitch but stayed on after team-mates and officials persuasion.

Following the match, the much maligned attacker posted on Instagram and called out his detractors.

“The ‘people’ of this curva who made the monkey chants. Shame on you, shame on you, shame on you.”

“In front of your children, wives, relatives, parents, friends and acquaintances… shame.

“Thanks to all the colleagues on the field and off for the solidarity I had with me, and all the messages received from you fans.

“Thank you very much. You have proven to be true men not like those who deny the evidence. #notoracism.”

With Balotelli making his case, Luca Castellini,  head of the Verona ultras called him out.

“Balotelli is Italian because he has Italian citizenship, but he can never be completely Italian,” Castellini commented.

In this mayhem, four city councilors from Verona have come forward and echoed Castellini’s point of view. The councilors have written to the Verona city government to seek legal action against Balotelli for defamation. The Gazzetta dello Sport reported the motion proposed by the councilors.

“… the mayor and the legal offices of the municipality should take legal action against the footballer and all those who attack Verona by unjustly defaming it.”

“It is no longer fair that Verona is put in the dock when, as in this case, nothing happened,” the motion further stated.

Hellas Verona have distanced themselves from Luca Castellini’s point of view as they took a stand against racism. The club have handed out a ten-year ban on the ultras leader in an official statement on their website.

“Hellas Verona FC announces that it has adopted a disqualification measure against Mr. Luca Castellini, who expressed opinions that are seriously contrary to those that distinguish the ethical principles and values of our club. A suspension has been handed to the subject until 30 June 2030,” the statement read.

Racist chants from crowds is an ongoing issue in Italy and European football in general. Earlier in the season Romelu Lukaku suffered chants at the hands of Cagliari fans. Meanwhile play had to be stopped during Bulgaria and England’s European Championship qualifiers.