Balotelli threatens to leave football pitch amid racist chants

VERONA, Italy (AP) — Brescia striker Mario Balotelli has threatened to walk off the pitch due to racist chanting directed at him by Hellas Verona fans during a high-profile soccer match in Italy on Sunday.

Visibly upset as he battled for the ball near the corner flag at the end of the stadium from which the monkey chants emanated, Balotelli broke up the action, picked up the ball with his hands and tossed it high into the stands to clear his frustration.

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

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

Balotelli was even more blunt in a message he posted to an Instagram Story on a video from the stands where monkey noises are clearly heard, followed by wild cheers as he kicks the ball into the stands. The message read: “To the ‘people’ of this end 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 match at Bentegodi Stadium was suspended for several minutes with 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 fans launched anti-territory chants in Napoli on Saturday.

Verona coach Ivan Juric said he hadn’t heard any racist chanting.

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

Brescia coach Eugenio Corini also said he hadn’t heard the attacking 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 anything,” Corini said.

Corini was then fired by the club which have struggled this season and are near the bottom of Serie A. No new manager was 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 rose to prominence with Inter Milan.

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

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

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