Juventus will have to play a home game behind closed doors after fans racially abused Internazionale striker Mario Balotelli in Saturday’s 1-1 Serie A draw. A statement from the league’s disciplinary body said the abuse was deplorable and happened on numerous occasions during the game.
Balotelli, an Italy U21 international, was born to Ghanaian immigrant parents but was brought up by an Italian family, whose surname he goes by – his real parents’ surname is Barwuah. The striker is an at times controversial figure who angered home fans at the Stadio Olimpico throughout the game, particularly for his role in the sending off of Juve midfielder Tiago.
Balotelli was playing keep ball on the touchline with Sulley Muntari when Tiago let his frustrations get the better of him and kicked both of them, earning a straight red card. Balotelli, who fell down from Tiago’s swipe, earned the wrath of a small section of the home fans.
But Juventus president Giovanni Cobolli Gigli condemned the chants.
“On behalf of Juventus and the great majority of our fans I want to strongly condemn the racist chanting against Inter Milan’s Mario Balotelli,” he said. “There are no excuses or justification for this type of behaviour. Football fans can get het up but episodes such as this are inexcusable. Together we must all try to promote a sporting culture that puts respect for the adversary at its core and fights against racism.”
Italian police are studying video evidence of the racist chanting to try to identify those responsible. Marcello Nicchi, president of the Italian Referee’s Association said the chants were very serious.
“There are 16,000 matches played in Italy every weekend, we have to send out the right signals and educate the people,” he said. The racist chants directed at Balotelli are very serious, UEFA and FIFA are always talking about eliminating them. Referees don’t have the power to stop a match but they can report on the events to the right authorities.”