Italian striker Mario Balotelli has hit back at Hellas Verona fans who allegedly insulted him with monkey noises during a Serie A match on Sunday after one of their leaders said it was merely part of their “irreverent” nature.
Balotelli, playing for Brescia, threatened to walk off the pitch after hearing monkey chants from the stands during the second half of his side’s 2-1 defeat but was dissuaded by players from both teams.
In the latest in long line of racist incidents to hit Serie A, play was interrupted by the referee for nearly five minutes while announcements were made to the crowd.
On Monday, Verona-based Radio Cafe interviewed a man identified as Verona ultras leader Luca Castellini who played down the incidents and said that Balotelli had been “clowning around.”
“We have an identity culture of a certain kind, we are irreverent supporters,” he said. “We make fun of bald players, the one with long hair, the southern player and the player of colour but not with political or racist instincts. This is folklore, it stops all there.”
He added: “Balotelli’s Italian because he has Italian citizenship, but he can never be completely Italian.”
Balotelli, born to Ghanaian parents in Sicily and then given up for adoption to an Italian family when he was three, said the comments had nothing to do with football.
“You’re referring to social and historical situations that are bigger than you small-minded people. Here you are, going crazy, ignorant... You are the ruin,” he said on Instagram.
“But when Mario was doing it, and I guarantee you he will still score for Italy, it was fine, wasn’t it?”
Balotelli has suffered racist abuse throughout his career. When he played for Inter Milan, he was taunted by rival fans with shouts of “there are no black Italians” and he suffered more insults playing for AC Milan against AS Roma in 2013.
Serie A’s disciplinary committee is expected to deal with the incident on Tuesday although it has avoided sanctions in similar recent cases, saying the alleged chanting was of limited perception and could therefore not be considered a break of league rules.
“There is no avoiding it: if someone makes the sound of a monkey to a player because he’s black, that’s racism,” the Italian players’ union head Damiano Tommasi told the ANSA news agency. “Even if it’s just one or two, it’s too many.”
Ajax coach Ten Hag will stay despite Bayern links
Ajax Amsterdam coach Erik ten Hag says he will stay at the club until the end of the season despite links to the vacant position at Bayern Munich.
The Bundesliga champions parted ways with Niko Kovac on Sunday after a 5-1 thrashing at Eintracht Frankfurt in the league and Ten Hag has been heavily linked to the role.
The coach signed a new contract at Ajax until June 2022 in the close season after leading the club to a league and cup double as well as the Champions League semi-finals.
Ten Hag previously coached Bayern Munich’s reserve team between 2013 and 2015.
“I can confirm I feel a strong connection with my team and everyone at Ajax,” Ten Hag told reporters ahead of Ajax’s Champions League clash with Chelsea.
“I can confirm I’m staying at Ajax this season. Bayern is a fantastic club, it is still in my heart, but I’m at Ajax."
“I’m not a dreamer. I focus on Ajax and live for today, and tomorrow’s game, which is important.”
Bayern are fourth in the Bundesliga, four points behind leaders Borussia Moenchengladbach, while unbeaten Ajax are six points clear at the top of the Eredivisie.
In the Champions League, Ajax are second in Group H, level on six points with first place Chelsea after three games.
“I have a lot of respect for Chelsea but I also trust my players,” added Ten Hag. “When they play as a team for 90 minutes we have a chance to win. We will go for it.”
Leeds' Casilla denies FA charge of racially abusing Charlton's Leko
Leeds United goalkeeper Kiko Casilla has “strenuously” denied racially abusing Charlton Athletic forward Jonathan Leko in a Championship match after the FA charged him on Monday.
The FA said last month that it was investigating the allegation after Charlton confirmed the incident had been reported to the referee following their 1-0 win at The Valley in September.
"It is alleged that, contrary to Rule E3(1), the Leeds United goalkeeper used abusive and/or insulting words towards a Charlton Athletic player during an EFL Championship fixture on 28 September 2019," the FA said in a statement here
“It is further alleged that the words constitute an ‘aggravated breach’... as they made reference to race and/or colour and/or ethnic origin.”
Leko, 20, was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but has played for England’s youth teams, making his debut for the Under-20s in September.
The FA said Spaniard Casilla has until Nov. 12 to respond and Leeds released a statement later on Monday to acknowledge the charge.
"Kiko strenuously denies the allegation and has proactively worked with the FA during their investigation to date," the second-tier club said in a statement here