Balotelli threatens to walk off over racist abuse in Verona
ROME – Brescia striker Mario Balotelli threatened to walk off the pitch after receiving alleged racist abuse from Hellas Verona fans during the teams’ Serie A meeting on Sunday.
The Italy international was left enraged by the chants coming from a section of the home support at the Stadio Bentegodi.
Nine minutes into the second half, Balotelli stopped the game when he picked the ball up and volleyed it into the offending section of the stadium.
He walked behind the goal before the striker’s team mates and opponents convinced him to stay on the field.
The referee Maurizio Mariani stopped the game and a message was read out over the stadium loudspeaker threatening to suspend the match for a longer period if the chants continued.
Scenes in Italy. Mario Balotelli, presumably in response to racist abuse from fans, picks up ball and kicks it into stands.— Henry Bushnell (@HenryBushnell) November 3, 2019
Here's the aftermath.
We - football, society – need teammates/opponents to stop pleading with victims to not walk off, start walking off with them instead pic.twitter.com/wQ6rfs7j0K
Play was on hold for around four minutes before continuing.
Verona coach Ivan Juric denied hearing anything offensive from the stands.
“I am not afraid to say there were no racist chants today," Juric told Sky Sport Italia.
"They might have jeered and mocked the great player, but there was nothing there...
“You can ask him, there was nothing there. I am disgusted by racist abuse and I will be the first to condemn it when it happens, but this was not it.
“They provoked him with jeers and sarcastic chants, but they were not racist. Anything else is a lie."
The game finished in a 2-1 victory for Verona, but Balotelli made his mark by scoring a superb strike with five minutes to go.
Astonishing: 21 minutes after Racist Abuse from opposing Verona fans caused Mario Balotelli to walk off field in protest, he returns, scores this exclamation point of a goal. In truth, game better off if all 22 players walked off at first sign of Racism pic.twitter.com/Wjf6WB0Ubc— roger bennett (@rogbennett) November 3, 2019
It was the second time this weekend that a Serie A match has been interrupted because of offensive chants.
AS Roma’s game against Napoli on Saturday was briefly halted because of discriminatory chants from the home supporters about the city of Naples.Reuters