Mario Balotelli Returned to Italy Crushed Again by Racism
Balotelli returned to Italy with hope. It has been crushed again by racism
The racist abuse of Mario Balotelli made for another awful day in Serie A, accentuated by those who deny it is even occurring.
‘You can’t delete racism. It’s like a cigarette. You can’t stop smoking if you don’t want to, and you can’t stop racism if people don’t want to.”
Six years have passed since Mario Balotelli spoke those words in an interview with Sports Illustrated. He was on top of the world, Italy’s No 9 and fresh from a triumphant half-season at Milan. Signed from Manchester City during the January transfer window, he had scored 12 times in 13 games, carrying Milan to third place.
The magazine’s front cover depicted him walking on water. Yet even when so much seemed possible for the striker whose goals had obliterated Germany at Euro 2012, Balotelli acknowledged his powerlessness to stop football fans in his home country from abusing him for the colour of his skin.
Returning to Italy this summer, after stints away at Liverpool, Nice and Marseille, he wondered if things had changed. “I hope with all my heart there won’t be any repeat of the things that happened when I was last here,” he said after signing for Brescia. “I hope Italy has taken some steps forward.”
He was destined to be disappointed. The Serie A season has witnessed several instances of players being racially abused, from Romelu Lukaku at Cagliari to Dalbert at Atalanta and Ronaldo Vieira during a home game for Sampdoria against Roma.
On Sunday, Balotelli was the target for monkey chants during Brescia’s game at Verona. In the 55th minute, he responded. Fighting to keep the ball in play down by the corner flag, Balotelli turned suddenly and lashed it up towards supporters.