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Amid slurs, Balotelli threatens to quit game

November 3, 2019

Italian footballer Mario Balotelli stopped play and booted the ball into the crowd after fans in Verona taunted him with racial slurs. It's not the first time the Brescia striker has been targeted with abuse.

Mario Balotelli holds his finger up
Image: Getty Images/AFP/M. Bertorello

Mario Balotelli threatened to abandon Sunday's top-tier game between Hellas Verona and Brescia over alleged racist chants from home fans.

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The Serie A match at Verona's Stadio Bentegodi was suspended for several minutes in the second half after the visibly frustrated striker kicked the ball into the stands. As he walked off, players from both sides ran to embrace the 29-year-old and persuaded him to stay on the field.

A message was then read out over the stadium loudspeaker, warning fans that the game would be put on hold if the abusive slurs continued.

After play resumed, Balotelli scored a late goal, but the game finished with a 2-1 victory for Verona.

Balotelli later posted an Instagram message addressing spectators, accompanied by a video from the stands where monkey noises are clearly heard.

"To the 'people' in this end who made the monkey noises: Shame on you. Shame on you. Shame on you in front of your children, wives, parents, relatives, friends and acquaintances..shame," he wrote.

'No racists chants'

Verona coach Ivan Juric denied that his team's fans had been racist.

"Nothing happened today. No racists chants, nothing at all," Juric told Sky Sport. "Racist abuse disgusts me, I get called a filthy gypsy all the time. But there was nothing today, not even a little bit, nothing. To say otherwise is a lie."

Balotelli's agent Mino Raiola told Agence France-Presse he supports his player: "We are with Mario and we are against all forms of racism. Racists are just ignorant."

Balotelli, who was born in Italy to Ghanaian parents, has often been targeted by racist chants during his three stints playing in his home country. The former AC Milan and Manchester City player recently returned to Italy's Serie A after several seasons in France.

A number of other black players have also suffered abuse from soccer fans in Italy. In September, Milan midfielder Franck Kessie was targeted by Verona fans, while Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku was abused by Cagliari fans.

nm/jlw (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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