Mario Balotelli praised for standing up to racism during Italy match
Anti-discrimination group FARE has praised Mario Balotelli for his reaction to a racist banner displayed during Italy’s 2-1 friendly win over Saudi Arabia on Monday.
The banner, which said: “My captain is of Italian blood,” was displayed after suggestions that Balotelli would be given the armband should Leonardo Bonucci be substituted with the Nice forward still on the pitch.
In an Instagram story, Balotelli wrote: “It’s 2018 guys, wake up!” and FARE responded by tweeting: “Well done to Mario Balotelli, standing up to racism in Italian football once again.”
Balotelli has recalled some of his experiences of racism in a book, “Demons,” written with Sky Sport Italia reporter Alessandro Alciati and published in Italy this week.
“At school, it happened from time to time that some snacks would disappear and they would think it was me straight away, without investigating, but there is one incident I’ll never forget: my tears wouldn’t stop pouring out,” the forward said.
“I’d done all my homework and I knew my mum would let me go out to play football, so I went out. ‘Hi lads, are we playing?’ I asked. ‘No Mario, you’re not,’ they replied. ‘But I’ve done my homework.’ ‘No, Mario: you’re black.’
“I was black, so in their eyes I was different. I thought they didn’t want me because I was already eccentric, but as the years passed I discovered the truth.”
Balotelli recalled that “during Juventus-Inter, they said all sorts of things: ‘monkey,’ ‘negro,’ ‘get back to Africa.’ The monkey chants … [Inter president Massimo] Moratti said that, out of anger, he was going to pull the club out of the league.”
Balotelli said bananas had been thrown at him in Rome while he was out with friends and added that he feared things would take time to change.
“I don’t really know for sure if people’s attitudes have improved,” he said. “There are lots more people of colour, and even if attempts are made to welcome them and accept everybody I don’t think people really manage it all the way.
“The Medieval years are gone and now everybody is realising it. Change is in the hands of the new generation — we’ve got to teach our children that we are all equal. It should be something we take for granted. It’s almost banal, but it isn’t.
“Then my daughters Pia and Lion will talk about it to my grandchildren, and that way future generations will be better than we are for sure.
“But certainly if I had been white, I would have had fewer problems.”
Balotelli is set to return to Italian football next season, with his departure from Nice confirmed, and former Italy forward Luca Toni said he believed promoted Parma could be a good option.
“It’s an ideal place because they are a relaxed club without too much pressure and you can work well there,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Of course if Parma were to sign Balotelli, they would have to build a side around him and maybe they don’t have all these funds, because the main investment would be Mario.”
Toni added that he believed Balotelli had matured and would not pose any problems to a club offering him a move.
“He would be crazy to waste another opportunity due to his attitude,” he said. “The other night, Mario behaved well and I saw him enter into the game with the right attitude.
“It’s all down to him and his desire to be involved and to do things.”