The Italian National team manager Cesare Prandelli has called for action by footballing bodies to help tackle the racism that has made news in Italy this season.
“This is not just a problem of AC Milan and Italian football, it is everyone's problem,” told the 55-year-old to the Italian sport newspaper Tuttosport.
The comment followed the latest racist incident in Italy that marred the match between AC Milan and Roma on May 12 which led to the targeting of three AC Milan players, including Mario Balotelli.
Prandelli also criticized former Roma boss Zdenek Zeman for refusing to acknowledge the incident as racism-related and claiming Balotelli’s behaviour provokes fans.
“Zeman said he [Balotelli] pays for his attitude. That's a serious problem, it is like saying that women are subjected to violence because they take care of their looks,” Prandelli retorted.
“We must no longer tolerate anything, we must have a determination to stay on the subject. It'll be a long path, but we must insist on this road and think about our children. First of all we must have respect for the person, always, and be aware of what everyone has experienced on their own.”
Balotelli threatens to walk off
After the game against AS Roma, the AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli told CNN he will walk off the pitch if he is racially abused at a football match again.
“I always said that if it (racism) happened in the stadium I will just do like 'nobody says nothing and I don't care,'”
“But this time I think I've changed my mind a little bit. If it's going to happen one more time, then I'm going to leave the pitch because it's so stupid.” said the 22 year-old.
The abuse by the Roma supporters also targeted Balotelli’s team mate Kevin-Prince Boateng, who in January walked off the pitch after being racially abused during a friendly against Pro Patria. This time, at AC Milan’s San Siro stadium, the game was interrupted for two minutes as the stadium's PA announcer warned the Roma supporters to end it or the match would be stopped.
For their fans behaviour, Roma was fined 50,000 euros and given a partial stadium closure, specifically the Curva Sud section, for one game at the start of next season.
In response to the ruling, the club released a statement condemning the actions of their supporters.
It read: “This type of behaviour from any football supporters, including ours, is completely unacceptable. We are committed to facing this issue head-on to rid our sport of this problem and promote respect for all.”
Balotelli consistently abused
The incident at San Siro was not an isolated event. Over the last few months, the former Manchester City striker has been racially abused consistently in games against Fiorentina, Genoa, Inter Milan. Kevin-Prince Boateng has also been abused against Pro Patria and Juventus and Victor Ibarbo and Paul Pogba have also been victims. The latter was racially insulted by the Torino player Riccardo Meggiorini, who used the expression “dirty black”.
Discriminatory incidents in the UEFA Europa League matches between Lazio v Borussia Monchengladbach and Inter Milan v Tottenham Hotspur have added to the sense that Italian football has a critical issue that is not being effectively tackled by fans, clubs or governing bodies.
Events off the field of play have not helped in casting Balotelli as an outsider, speaking at an event held by the Italian centre-right Freedom People party (PDL), AC Milan Vice-president Paolo Berlusconi made a pejorative remark about Mario Balotelli – “And now let's go and watch the ‘little black boy’ (negretto) of the family, the hot head”.
On April, the Italy football squad met a group of youngsters to underline a stand against racism in Italy. The group included political refugees, asylum seekers and the children of immigrants in a symbolic gesture to underline the necessity for co-existence and in an attempt to stamp racism out of football that is more than fines and sanctions.