Balotelli threatens to leave football field amid racist chants

VERONA, Italy (AP) – Brescia striker Mario Balotelli has threatened to leave the pitch due to racist chants directed at him by Hellas Verona fans during a top-level soccer match in Italy on Sunday.

Visibly upset as he fought for the ball near the corner flag at the end of the stadium from which the monkey chants were emanating, Balotelli interrupted the action, picked up the ball with his hands and threw it high in the stands to vent his frustration.

Brescia’s teammates and Verona players went to hug Balotelli and persuaded him to stay as the referee ordered a warning to be read over the stadium’s sound system.

“Thank you to all colleagues on and off the pitch for the solidarity expressed towards me and all the messages received from your fans”, Balotelli later wrote in Italian on Instagram accompanied by a video of the match. ” A big thank-you. You have shown yourself to be real men, not like those who deny the evidence.

Balotelli was even more direct in a post he posted in an Instagram story on a video from the stands where monkey noises are clearly heard, followed by crazy cheers as he tossed the ball into the stands. The message read: “To the ‘people’ for this purpose who made monkey noises: Shame on you. Shame on you. Shame on you in front of your children, wives, parents, relatives, friends and acquaintances… shame.

The game at Bentegodi stadium was suspended for several minutes, Verona leading 1-0 at the time before resuming.

It was the second time this weekend that a Serie A game has been suspended for offensive chants, after Roma supporters led anti-territorial chants in Naples on Saturday.

Verona coach Ivan Juric said he had not heard any racist chants.

“There was absolutely nothing,” Juric said. “There were a lot of whistles every time he got the ball but no racism. I didn’t hear a single (song).

Brescia coach Eugenio Corini also said he had not heard the offensive chants but added: “If the referee has decided to suspend the game and ask for this announcement to be made, something must have happened.

“Honestly, I was far away and didn’t hear a thing,” Corini said.

Corini was then fired by the club which has struggled this season and is near the bottom of Serie A. No new manager has been announced immediately.

Balotelli, who is black, was born in Italy to Ghanaian immigrants and represented the Italian national team. He recently returned to Serie A after several seasons in France.

Balotelli, 29, also experienced racism early in his career in Italy, when he first rose to prominence with Inter Milan.

Verona took the lead 2-0 before Balotelli scored for Brescia and the game ended 2-1.

Balotelli also touched the post in the first half of one of his best performances since joining Brescia – his hometown club – in August.

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