Italian footballer Mario Balotelli has taken a stand during a match between Brescia and Hellas Verona after being subjected to vile racist abuse.
Hellas Verona fans had targeted the 29-year-old striker throughout the match, singing racist chants from the stands at the Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.
By the 50th minute, Balotelli could stand it no more. He booted the ball into the area where the racist chanting could be heard, and attempted to storm off the pitch.
Mario Balotelli is making a stand in Italy.
Following racist abuse from Hellas Verona fans, Balotelli left the pitch and had the game temporarily suspended.
A statement was read to supporters before play continued. pic.twitter.com/IQyaJVMsTd
— Goal (@goal) November 3, 2019
Balotelli had to be calmed by both teammates and opponents, who persuaded him to remain on the pitch, Sky Sports reported.
Referee Maurizio Mariani stopped play in the 54th minute, with a message read out over the PA system ordering the racists to stop their offensive chants. Mariani initially issued Balotelli with a yellow card, however this was later rescinded.
Balotelli bravely returned to the pitch and continued with the match. Not only this, but he excelled, scoring a goal in the 84th minute despite having undergone the cruel taunts.
Sad scenes in Verona as Mario Balotelli grows fed up of being subjected to racist chants, picks up the ball and hoofs it towards his abusers in the stands. Kick racism out of football the Balotelli way. Never liked him more
— Rahul Kalvapalle (@Kalvapalle) November 3, 2019
According to a tweet from Get French Football News, Balotelli opened up earlier this year about his personal experiences of racist abuse.
Speaking about his childhood in Brescia, Balotelli said:
When you are young, you don’t understand why other kids are being mean. How do you tell a 5-year old what racism is? If you do that, you ruin their childhood in my opinion.
I remember at school, a kid asked me laughing if I had a white or black heart. I remember saying to him, I don’t know. I asked my mum and dad and they explained to me that my birth parents were from Africa & that all Africans were black, but not different.
Where I grew up, in Brescia, there were maybe 4 or 5 black kids in the whole town. In football, I would always be left out, even at school. Then I had a different character to others also. If anything ever went wrong, it was my fault. Little things like that.
When I was 13 or 14, I heard my first racist insults. I was arguing with someone on the pitch & then it started: ‘Oh look it is the n***** . Go back to your country’.
Scenes in Italy. Mario Balotelli, presumably in response to racist abuse from fans, picks up ball and kicks it into stands.
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
— Henry Bushnell (@HenryBushnell) November 3, 2019
The match ended with Brescia losing 2-1 to Hellas Verona. The post-match discussion, however, centred around Balotelli’s reaction as well as the wider issue of racism in football.
According to statistics from anti-racism charity Kick It Out, racism is on the rise in football, with a 43% rise in reported incidents from 2017/18 to 2018/19.
Kick It Out is football’s equality and anti-racism organisation. If you’ve been affected by any of the issues within this article, you can report it here
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.