Mario Balotelli

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Brescia ultras criticize Balotelli after racial abuse

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File this under yet another inconceivable act by Italian fans in the prolonged saga of racial abuse in Serie A, most recently aimed at Brescia forward Mario Balotelli.

After the striker was racially abused at a game against Hellas Verona last weekend in which monkey chants could clearly be heard in videos taken from the away stand, Balotelli exploded, kicking the ball into the stands and nearly walking off the pitch before pleas from players on both sides managed to calm him and keep him on the field.

Days after the game, Hellas Verona ultras released a stunningly irresponsible and senseless statement in which they defended their actions, claimed Balotelli was not fully Italian, and said Balotelli had “voices in his head.” As a result of the statement, leader of the ultras Luca Castellini was banned by Hellas Verona for 11 years.

Now, fans of his own team have followed suit, releasing a statement accusing Balotelli of “arrogance” for his actions in response to the abuse. Brescia ultras posted a long diatribe on their website claiming that Balotelli’s character makes it hard to root for him (as they put it, “conflicting and unflattering opinions even before he wore our shirt”), and declared themselves insulted by the “witch-hunt…in yet another attempt to criminalize and destroy the entire ultras world.”

Instead of defending their player in the face of racial abuse, the statement criticizes Balotelli for his mental state. “We were not the only ones to have had doubts about him,” the statement claims. “It is true that thousands of fans from different Italian/foreign fanbases first welcomed him with open arms, and then disavowed him for his attitude.”

“No one has ever put pressure on him, so the nervousness that grips him and turns him negative every time he takes the field is unjustified, at least for us,” they wrote. “If Balotelli was not ready psychologically to face the Verona fanbase and, above all, such a delicate match in which our city and our coach – among the most beloved figures – was taking his final chance at saving his job, then he should have said so and left his place to someone less irritable than him.”

The statement did condemn the monkey chants, but seemed to pound over and over that a small, criminal minority does not define a supporter group. “This obviously does not mean that some chants are legitimate and acceptable, but also that the [Verona] fans are not all racists, and that the Curva del Verona is a sort of KKK den, as some would have us believe.”

It is stunning that a supporter group would attack its own player for his emotional reaction in the face of racial abuse, rather than lift him up with the support befitting of such a scenario. To think a player is “arrogant” for responding angrily to such vile chants from the crowd only proves further the systemic issues Serie A faces in tackling racial abuse.

The league has already passed judgement on the situation, having ordered the closure of Verona’s Poltrone Est stand for one game.

Balotelli responds to Hellas Verona ultras after racist chanting

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Mario Balotelli has responded to Hellas Verona ultras on social media after enduring yet another spell of racist chanting in Serie A play.

The Brescia striker booted the ball into the stands and was visibly upset after fans racially abused him in the 2-1 defeat to Verona at Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi. It appeared that Balotelli initially wished to walk off the pitch before players seemed to console him during the ensuing stoppage of play.

Luca Castellini, leader of the Hellas Verona ultras who were accused of the abuse, issued a disgusting statement via local radio that contradicted itself on numerous occasions, called Balotelli a “clown” and claims he is not fully Italian, played the abuse off as without “political or racist intentions,” and said the chants were “voices in [Balotelli’s] own head.” Verona president Maurizio Setti also refused to condemn the fans, saying the crowd was “light-hearted, not racist” and had “real sport in its DNA.”

Balotelli has since responded to Castellini’s words on Instagram, where he took to thank his teammates and supporters, who he said “you have proven to be true men, unlike those who deny the evidence.”

He then used his Instagram Story to provide further commentary, including a fan video of the incident where monkey chanting can be heard just before Balotelli kicks the ball into the stands. Balotelli himself writes, “Here, my friends, this has nothing to do with football anymore. You are implying about a social and historical situation much bigger than you small-minded people. You guys are losing it. Wake up, you ignorant people.” To the claims that he is not Italian, he wrote, “But when Mario scored and still guarantees to score goals for Italy, you were fine with it?” He states, “these ‘people’ must be cast out by society, not just by football.”

He finished off his posts with, “Just leave it alone. Enough. Enough.”

Balotelli scored in the loss – his second goal of the Serie A season – in the defeat to Hellas Verona, although the club was unable to snap its six-match winless run.

Serie A roundup: Late Correa goal squeezes Lazio past Milan (video)

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Aside from the disgusting racist abuse that Mario Balotelli received from Hellas Verona supporters, Lazio’s late victory over Rossoneri highlights Serie A’s Sunday action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

AC Milan 1-2 Lazio

With goals from Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correa, Lazio edged AC Milan in Serie A play at the San Siro for the first since 1989, snapping a 29-match winless streak.

With the 2-1 victory under their belts, Lazio climbed to fourth in the table, eight points adrift from leaders Juventus.

What proved to be a tightly contested encounter was, ultimately, defined by Correa’s blistering strike inside the penalty box. The Argentine covered three-quarters of the field before finishing off Luis Alberto‘s pace between two Milan defenders.

Like the league-leading goalscorer that he is, Immobile, too, contributed one of his own.

With Leo Duarte marking him from behind, the 29-year-old made a sneaky run towards the first post and met the incoming service with a well-placed and aggressive header, leaving Gianluigi Donnarumma with no chance of blocking the ball. It was Immobile’s 13th goal in 11 games this season, and his 100th with Lazio.

Down 1-0, the hosts pulled one back. In the 28th minute, Krzysztof Piatek’s right-footed volley deflected off Bastos’ chest and into the back of net. It wasn’t enough for Milan, who now stand 11th with 13 points.

With pressure at an all-time high, Stefano Pioli and Roma, travel to Turin to take on leaders Juventus, while Lazio prep for a midweek, Europa League showdown against Scottish giants, Celtic, at home.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Atalanta 0-2 Cagliari 

Genoa 1-3 Udinese

Hellas Verona 2-1 Brescia 

Lecce 2-2 Sassuolo 

Fiorentina 1-1 Parma 

Balotelli leaves pitch after racial abuse, later scores at same end

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Don’t let the fact that Mario Balotelli scored a beautiful goal in front of the fans who racially abused him distract from another ugly incident in Serie A.

Balotelli left the pitch after hearing racial abuse from Hellas Verona fans in a 2-1 loss on Sunday. According to Football-Italia, this is not the first time the Hellas Verona fans have been a part of such an incident.

[ MORE: Another big day for Pulisic ]

The Brescia man was victimized at the Stadio Bentegodi, and kicked the ball into the stands before eventually returning to the match after his teammates intervened.

During this spell, the match was halted and an announcement was made inside the stadium as a warning to fans according to UEFA’s protocol for racial abuse.

Balotelli scored a magnificent goal after returning to the pitch, but it feels too casual to note it as a just dessert or last laugh; It’s embarrassing that the pervasive cries for better treatment of minorities hasn’t been heard by all; It’s one thing for bad seeds to continue their abuse of players, another for a lack of universal support from his peers on the pitch (though certainly some did).

Mancini says Italy’s EURO 2020 squad is ‘more or less decided’

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FLORENCE, Italy (AP) Italy’s squad for next year’s European Championship will look much the same as the one used in qualifying, coach Roberto Mancini said Monday, denting the hopes of players such as Mario Balotelli.

[ MORE: Christian Pulisic reacts to assist, being back in Chelsea team ]

Italy is on the brink of securing qualification for Euro 2020 after winning all six of its matches so far. Two more victories would confirm Italy as Group J winner, and it could even seal its place at Euro 2020 on Saturday if it beats Greece in Rome and Armenia fails to win against Liechtenstein.

And as far as Mancini is concerned, there’s no reason to make any major changes to his team before the championship starts.

“The group is more or less decided, two or three players might come in or out, maybe,” Mancini said at a news conference on Monday. “Then if someone is suddenly unavailable then we’ll see what happens, but the players who will go to the Euros are all here.”

Balotelli was one of the notable absentees from the group of 27 players called up for the qualifiers against Greece and Liechtenstein.

The striker, who was included in Mancini’s first two squads as coach, has long said his goal is to rejoin Italy’s team for next year’s European Championship.

After returning from a ban, the 29-year-old forward scored for Brescia in his second match for his hometown team, a 2-1 defeat to Napoli.

[ MORE: Carlos Vela sets single season MLS goalscoring record ]

“He’s only just come back after months out and he’s not quite there physically yet. He did well against Napoli but he needs to play more games,” Mancini said.

Mancini has got Italy back on track, nearly two years after the Azzurri’s embarrassing failure to qualify for the World Cup.

Their six wins out of six is a record for the Azzurri in European Championship qualifying but there has been some criticism that the group has been too easy.

“It would be fantastic to qualify early, this wasn’t a foregone conclusion given where we came from,” Mancini said. “Everyone can express their opinion. We believe we’ve put together a good side.”

He then added with a smile: “We asked for a group with Germany, France, the Netherlands and Spain, but they didn’t give it to us.”