MILAN – 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."