Italy striker Mario Balotelli admitted he was “angry and bitter” after suffering racial abuse while on international duty in Austria. Balotelli started for Italy in Wednesday’s 1-1 friendly draw against Romania in Klagenfurt, a Euro 2008 venue. But he was jeered by both Italian and Romanian fans alike while an Italian mob known as ‘Ultra Italy’ unveiled a banner saying: “No to a multi-cultural Italy.”
It is not the first time Manchester City forward Balotelli, an Italian of Ghanaian origin, has suffered racial abuse from Italians.”I don’t know what to say, maybe they came out here (to Klagenfurt) because they don’t have a TV at home,” said a bemused Balotelli.”I’ve learnt that it’s better to pretend that nothing is happening, thankfully I don’t know the people who insult me, what hurts more are the insults of those who know and love you.
“This time I was good, that way no-one can accuse me of having provoked them, so you can be the judges but I will stay angry and bitter.”From where I live in Manchester I’d like to see my country talking more about the problem of racism rather than about my team-mates.”Balotelli is well used to being jeered over the colour of his skin having suffered racial abuse from fans during his three years with Inter Milan before moving to City in the summer.His worst detractors were a section of the Juventus crowd who regularly last season chanted racial slurs against him, leading to the club being repeatedly fined.
Earlier this season a Serie A match between Cagliari and Inter in Sardinia was stopped for a few minutes after Inter’s Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o was targetted by home fans.But after a tannoy appeal to desist, the match was able to continue without further incident.But that’s not a route Balotelli favours travelling.”It hurts to be booed but you can’t stop a match because of the actions of a few people,” he said. “I’m delighted to play for my country.”
He also pointed out that if certain Italians don’t want a multi-ethnic Italy, it’s too late.”Where I used to live in Brescia there’s already a multi-ethnic Italy.”Italy coach Cesare Prandelli vowed not to give in to the bigots and said that their opinions reflected an underlying problem in the country.And the coach also hit out at Italians for their hypocrisy.
“I’ll definitely not change my ideas, my team will always be open to whoever holds an Italian passport,” he said.”My anger and disappointment are so strong that I want to make a powerful statement but I’m holding myself back so as not to give them (the racists) more publicity.”It’s a sign that our country has many problems but we forget that for decades we were the country with the most emmigrants in the world; Italians can be found everywhere, in every corner of the planet.”What we need in cases such as this is a strong symbolic gesture so at the end of the game I gave Balotelli a hug and if this happens again, we all will.
“If this game had been played in an Italian stadium I would have liked to have seen how the rest of the fans reacted.”It wasn’t just Prandelli who spoke out, some of Balotelli’s Italy team-mates also hit out at this issue.“Italy has a racism problem, action needs to be taken,” said Alberto Aquilani, who plays for Juventus on loan from Liverpool.And Palermo’s Federico Balzaretti, who made his Italy debut, added: “It feels like we’ve got backwards several decades.”Italian police accompanying the Italian fans handed over a list of 41 names to Austrian police while one Italy fan was arrested for punching an Austrian.