Verona given partial stadium ban over racist abuse

Brescia’s Daniele Gastaldello talks to teammate Mario Balotelli following racist chants against the latter during the match against Verona. — Reuters pic
Brescia’s Daniele Gastaldello talks to teammate Mario Balotelli following racist chants against the latter during the match against Verona. — Reuters pic

MILAN, Nov 5 — Serie A club Verona have been handed a one-match partial stadium closure over the racist abuse suffered by Brescia forward Mario Balotelli on Sunday while the club themselves have banned one of their leading ultras for more than 10 years.

However, Balotelli also came under attack from politicians and a group of Verona councillors asked the municipal government to take action against him for damaging the city’s image as the fallout continued from Italian football’s latest racism scandal.

Balotelli kicked the ball into the crowd and threatened to walk off the pitch early in the second half of Verona’s 2-1 league win because he said some fans were making monkey noises.

The referee stopped play for around five minutes while announcements were made to the crowd.

The 29-year-old, who was born in Sicily to Ghanaian parents and given up for adoption when he was three, has faced racist abuse throughout his career in Italy. He was backed by Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti and by rival club AS Roma, among others, for his action on Sunday.

Serie A’s disciplinary tribunal today ordered Verona to close the part of the stadium where the abuse was heard for their next home game.

It said in its report that Balotelli was the target of racially discriminatory chanting which was “clearly perceptible” to both the player and the match delegate. Both the home club and Verona’s mayor had denied the abuse had taken place.

Meanwhile, Verona banned ultra Luca Castellini from its matches until June 2030 for “considerations and expressions... utterly contrary to the ethical principles and values of this club.”

That appeared to refer to an incendiary radio interview on Monday when Castellini said that Verona fans were merely being “irreverent”, that Balotelli was “clowning around” and that the player could never be considered completely Italian.

Earlier today, the Gazzetta dello Sport published a motion sent to the Verona council by four councillors proposing that “the mayor and the legal offices of the municipality should take legal action against the footballer and all those who attack Verona by unjustly defaming it.”

The motion added: “It is no longer fair that Verona is put in the dock when, as in this case, nothing happened.”

Italian authorities have long been criticised by anti-racism campaigners for not doing enough to tackle the problem and last month Cagliari escaped sanctions after Inter Milan forward Romelu Lukaku allegedly suffered racist abuse from their fans. — Reuters

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