Mario Balotelli has been criticised by Italian politician Matteo Salvini after the Brescia striker was racially abused in a Serie A match with Hellas Verona.

Balotelli kicked the ball at the Verona ultras after receiving racial abuse from sections of the home support during Sunday's clash.

The former Manchester City striker subsequently called out "a few idiots," while Verona responded by banning the leader of their ultras for 11 years.

In the week, Salvini - the leader of the party Lega Nord - claimed the abuse of Balotelli was "the least of his concerns," but added the behaviour should be condemned.

Salvini has now hit out at Balotelli again, with the former minister of the interior suggesting Italy has bigger problems to deal with than racism.

"Poor, innocent Balotelli, poor star. A person so staid and polite. I condemn every gesture of violence and racism but I prefer others in the field to Balotelli," he said.

"Italy has other problems."

Jorginho wants Serie A to take a "broader look" at the issue of racism beyond just penalising Hellas Verona following the abuse Mario Balotelli suffered at the weekend.

Brescia striker Balotelli kicked a ball into the stands and threatened to walk off the pitch having heard monkey chants during the match at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi on Sunday.

Verona's coach Ivan Juric insisted there was no racist chanting, but Serie A punished the club by giving them a one-match partial stadium ban.

There have been other recent incidents of players suffering racist abuse in Italy this season, with Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly and Inter striker Romelu Lukaku subjected to offensive chants during games, and Jorginho wants Serie A to take a wider look at the problem.

"I am really sorry, because these things shouldn't happen - neither in football nor in the world," the Chelsea and Italy midfielder said.

"Unfortunately, they happen and I am really sorry. I'd like to send my affection to Mario, who doesn't deserve this.

"And if I may, I'd like to ask not to do things like this, because it really hurts these people and it should never happen.

"Unfortunately, it happened, but I don't think this happened only in Verona. It's happening everywhere.

"Therefore, I think we shouldn't penalise or point the finger only on Verona, we should take a broader look, because it didn't happen only in Verona.

"Yes, they made a mistake and it is true that it's not the first time, but how many times [has] it happened in other cities as well? It shouldn't happen, I repeat, and I am really sorry, but we have to take a broader look to all the cities where it happened and not only to Verona."

 

Brescia striker Mario Balotelli has criticised the "idiots" who racially abused him over the weekend but holds no grudges towards Hellas Verona.

Balotelli kicked a ball into the stands and threatened to walk off the pitch after being subjected to monkey noises during the Serie A match at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi on Sunday.

The referee brought play to a halt and followed protocol, with a prepared statement read over the public address system, as players from both sides persuaded Balotelli to play on.

Serie A has since enforced a one-match partial stadium closure while Verona have banned the leader of their ultras for 11 years, despite head coach Ivan Juric claiming no racist chanting took place.

Balotelli reserved his anger for the individuals responsible for the abuse.

"I didn't accuse Verona, I didn't accuse the Verona curva, I accused the few idiots who did it. I heard them," Balotelli told SportMediaset programme Le Iene.

"It wasn't two or three, because I heard them from the pitch. If I don't react, nothing happens. It's not a mistake, it's a serious matter.

"I tell the truth, the Verona stadium and the Verona fans are also nice to me, with their banter. But if you want to distract a player, you can do it in a thousand ways. Not like this. This is not good."

Balotelli, who scored for Brescia in the 2-1 defeat, said the treatment was particularly hurtful as his daughter had been watching on television.

"It makes it three times worse," he said. "It's already happened to her. You can't insult a child with words like that. Education and respect come from us adults.

"I'm not saying that I am different from the other players who have had the same noises and the same howls, but the problem is that I am Italian, and I want to be back in the national team."

Juventus head coach Maurizio Sarri says it is "unacceptable" that racism is still an issue in football in 2019 after Mario Balotelli was abused by Hellas Verona fans on Sunday.

Brescia striker Balotelli kicked the ball towards a section of Verona supporters in the second half of their Serie A clash after hearing abuse, then threatened to walk off the pitch.

The referee halted play before following protocol, with a statement read out to the crowd in an attempt to resolve the issue.

Balotelli was persuaded to stay on and see out the game, the former Manchester City and Inter striker scoring a stunning late goal in Brescia's 2-1 defeat.

Serie A confirmed a one-match partial stadium closure for Verona on Tuesday, while the club have banned their head ultra for 11 years after he defended the discriminatory chants.

Speaking ahead of Juve's Champions League meeting with Lokomotiv Moscow on Wednesday, Sarri expressed his frustration that racism continues to plague not just football but also society as a whole.

"It's not like these people come from an isolated world," he told a media conference. "It is people who live in society, which means there is racism everywhere.

"It is unacceptable that in 2019 there is still talk of racism. There is only one race and it is human. We have the technology to identify those responsible and stop them from going into stadiums."

Sarri knows a win in Moscow will secure their place in the knockout stages with two games to spare.

Gonzalo Higuain is pushing for a starting place up front, with Sarri believing the striker has become a more rounded team player this season.

The 31-year-old has managed just three goals in 12 appearances but has generally performed well alongside Cristiano Ronaldo or Paulo Dybala in attack.

"He has improved in making himself available to the team," Sarri explained.

"Before he was more focused on scoring goals; he was more selfish. Now he is more involved in the team play. He is perhaps less dangerous in the penalty area, but he works a lot for the team."

Serie A has confirmed a one-match partial stadium closure for Hellas Verona after supporters racially abused Brescia's Mario Balotelli, while the club have banned their head ultra for 11 years after defending the discriminatory chants.

Balotelli kicked the ball into the stands and threatened to walk off the pitch in the second half of his side's 2-1 defeat at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi on Sunday after hearing monkey chants.

The referee brought play to a halt before following protocol, with a statement read out in an attempt to resolve the situation, and Balotelli was persuaded to play on, later scoring Brescia's goal.

But Verona coach Ivan Juric subsequently insisted there was no racist chanting, while the club's president claimed he did not hear any abuse, and Luca Castellini – the head of their ultras – was involved in a controversial radio interview.

In the conversation, Castellini said the racial element was only "in [Balotelli's] own head", that Balotelli cannot be considered "completely Italian" and the fans' chants were to "make fun" of the striker, rather than racially abuse him.

Serie A's disciplinary commission on Tuesday confirmed the closure of the Poltrone Est stand by way of punishment, opting against more severe sanctions because the chants only came from that sector.

The confirmation of the punishment came shortly after Verona released a statement condemning Castellini's comments and barring him from attending matches until June 30, 2030 for "expressions seriously contrary to those that distinguish the ethical principles and values of our club".

Antonio Conte has challenged his Inter side to play with "personality" in Tuesday's mouth-watering Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund.

Inter ran out 2-0 winners over the Bundesliga outfit a fortnight ago to leave both sides on four points in Group F, three points behind leaders Barcelona.

Conte believes Barca are assured of a place in the knockout stages and knows his side will have to stand strong in the face of a red-hot atmosphere at Signal Iduna Park to ensure they join them in the last 16.

"It's an important match as we are on equal points," he told a media conference. "Barcelona have already guaranteed their place. 

"We were good when we beat [Dortmund] at home and we know the difficulties we will face tomorrow. We face a strong and proven club, who have been in the Champions League for many years. 

"The environment will be hot and electric; we know what motivation Dortmund fans can give to their players. It will be important for us to play with personality.

"We want to play offensively everywhere. If it is a defensive game, it will be only because Dortmund have forced us to do it. Our mentality is to always hurt the opponent. We always want to attack."

Meanwhile, Conte had strong words for the Hellas Verona supporters who racially abused Brescia striker Mario Balotelli in Sunday's Serie A clash, describing them as "ignorant" and "morons".

Former Inter star Balotelli kicked the ball angrily towards Verona supporters early in the second half after hearing abuse, before threatening to walk off the pitch.

The referee brought play to a halt before following protocol, with a statement read out to the crowd in an attempt to resolve the issue.

Balotelli was persuaded to stay on and see out the game by team-mates and Verona players, before he scored a stunning late goal in Brescia's 2-1 defeat at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.

"I was not in the stadium, but I believe it is necessary to be very strict and inflexible," Conte said. "We must punish these ignorant people. The morons must be punished. It is absurd that, in 2019, we are still faced with things like this."

Napoli head coach Carlo Ancelotti has praised Mario Balotelli's reaction to the racist abuse he received during Brescia's Serie A clash with Hellas Verona on Sunday.

Balotelli kicked the ball angrily towards Verona supporters early in the second half after hearing abuse, before threatening to walk off the pitch.

The referee brought play to a halt before following protocol, with a statement read out to the crowd in an attempt to resolve the issue.

Balotelli was persuaded to stay on and see out the game by team-mates and Verona players, before the former Manchester City and Inter striker scored a stunning late goal in Brescia's 2-1 defeat at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.

Ancelotti believes Balotelli was right to highlight the abuse and suggested the stoppage shows football is making advances in its efforts to combat racism.

Speaking ahead of Napoli's Champions League clash with RB Salzburg on Tuesday, Ancelotti said: "He did the right thing, he had the right reaction.

"There have already been a couple of episodes when the match has been stopped, so we are on the right path."

Ancelotti's Napoli are top of Champions League Group E and will qualify for the knockout stages if they beat Salzburg while Genk fail to beat Liverpool in the pool's other game.

The former AC Milan coach says it would be "exceptional" if they qualified with two games to spare but the experienced boss is refusing to get carried away.

"The Champions League is a way shorter competition than Serie A," he added. "For this reason, we have to be focused and our first goal is to go through.

"If we can manage it with two matchdays to spare, it would be exceptional. Tomorrow we have this chance and all our energy will be spent on getting it done. Then we will see.

"Many things can change and usually the Champions League is decided on little details."

Brescia have sacked head coach Eugenio Corini as the club languish in the Serie A's relegation zone.

Sunday's 2-1 loss at Hellas Verona proved to be the final straw for Brescia's hierarchy, with the Italian side one point adrift of safety after 10 games.

Brescia turned to former Juventus and Napoli midfielder Corini in September last year as the club struggled in Serie B.

Corini – who emerged from Brescia's youth team in 1986 and enjoyed two spells with his boyhood club – led the squad to an unexpected promotion to Italy's top flight last season.

However, three consecutive defeats and six games without a win prompted Brescia to part with the 49-year-old.

Brescia striker Mario Balotelli says those who deny he was racially abused during Sunday's Serie A match at Hellas Verona are not "real men".

Balotelli kicked the ball angrily towards Verona supporters early in the second half after hearing abuse, before threatening to walk off the pitch.

The referee brought play to a halt before following protocol, with a statement read out to the crowd in an attempt to resolve the issue.

Balotelli was persuaded to stay on and see out the game by team-mates and Verona players, with the former Manchester City and Inter Milan striker going on to score a stunning late goal in Brescia's 2-1 defeat at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.

Speaking after the game, Verona's head coach Ivan Juric and president Maurizio Setti claimed they heard no abuse directed at Balotelli, with the former stating: "I'm not afraid to say it: today, there was nothing, no racist booing."

Alongside a video showing his reaction to the abuse and his goal on Instagram, Balotelli wrote: "Thanks to all the colleagues on and off the field for the solidarity expressed toward me and all of the messages received from fans. A heartfelt thanks. You've shown yourself to be real men, not like those who deny the evidence."

Balotelli also reposted a video taken by a fan of him being abused, and the Italy international wrote: "To the 'people' in this end who made the monkey noises: shame on you. Shame on you. Shame on you in front of your children, wives, parents, relatives, friends and acquaintances…shame."

The result leaves Brescia in the relegation zone, with the club announcing after the game they had sacked head coach Eugenio Corini.

Hellas Verona president Maurizio Setti says he did not hear any racist abuse aimed towards Brescia striker Mario Balotelli during Sunday's Serie A clash.

Balotelli kicked the ball angrily towards Verona supporters early in the second half after hearing abuse, before threatening to walk off the pitch.

The referee brought play to a halt before following protocol, with a statement read out to the crowd in an attempt to resolve the issue.

Balotelli was persuaded to stay on and see out the game by team-mates and Verona players, with the former Manchester City and Inter Milan striker going on to score a stunning late goal in Brescia's 2-1 defeat at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.

Setti insists he did not hear any of the abuse, and he rejects accusations that Verona supporters are racist.

"We did not hear anything," Setti told reporters. "I arrived in Verona eight years ago and immediately saw that the Verona fans are ironic, but absolutely not racist. When Balotelli made his debut here for AC Milan six years ago there were episodes of racism, and we condemned it. We have always done.

"It is wrong to generalise and speak for all 20,000 fans when a couple of people have said something. If there are two or three people who have said something, we are ready to take action against them because we condemn any episode of this type.

"But to speak of Verona as we were 30 years ago is wrong. We are a club that only has sport in our real DNA. There are many players of colour who wear the Gialloblu from the youth team to the first.

"Racism is a path that doesn't exist for us and Verona is not a correct position for generalisations. In eight years of my presidency, you could confirm this. The attitude of our fans is absolutely correct."

Verona coach Ivan Juric shares Setti's view, earlier telling Sky Sport Italia: "I'm not afraid to say it: today, there was nothing, no racist booing.

"There was a lot of booing and teasing of a great player, but there was nothing really racist today."

Hellas Verona head coach Ivan Juric insists fans did not racially abuse Brescia striker Mario Balotelli in Sunday's Serie A match.

Balotelli kicked the ball into the stands and threatened to walk off the pitch in the second half of his side's 2-1 defeat at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.

The referee brought play to a halt before following protocol, with a statement read out in an attempt to resolve the issue.

After appeals from his team-mates and Verona players, Balotelli decided to stay on the pitch and see out the game.

The striker, who has had a fractious relationship with Verona fans, went on to score a stunning goal five minutes from time and there were chants of support for the player from large sections of the crowd after the initial incident.

Croatian Juric, a former Genoa player and coach who has been subjected to discriminatory chants in his time in Italy, admits there is a serious problem with racism in the country but is adamant the taunts aimed at Balotelli were not of that nature.

"I'm not afraid to say it: today, there was nothing, no racist booing," Juric said to Sky Sport Italia.

"There was a lot of booing and teasing of a great player, but there was nothing really racist today.

"I am Croatian, and I've often heard 's***** gypsy', so chants like this and racist insults make me sick. The whole of Italy is moving in this direction, but there was nothing at all today."

When asked why Balotelli reacted in such a way if he had not been racially abused, Juric replied: "You'll have to ask him. I only heard teasing, nothing else.

"I have no problem reporting allegations if there are any, even those against our own fans. This is something that can't be accepted in 2019. But, today, there was nothing at all.

"I repeat, I am the first to condemn racism, but today I only heard a lot of jeering of a great player.

"We're not talking about racism, because that's a lie. We're not creating a case where there isn't one."

In his post-match news conference, Juric added: "I think, on a human level, being racist is an absolute low. In this case, I don't think anything has happened. I spoke with the fourth official, too.

"There was only teasing of a great player. I don't want to say anything against Mario. It may have happened to him elsewhere."

Mario Balotelli almost walked off the pitch during Brescia's Serie A visit to Hellas Verona on Sunday after being subjected to racial abuse.

The 29-year-old kicked the ball into the stands and started to walk off during the second half of his side's 2-1 defeat at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.

The referee brought play to a halt before following protocol, with a statement read out in an attempt to resolve the issue.

After appeals from his team-mates and Verona players, Balotelli decided to stay on the pitch and see out the game.

Chants of support for Balotelli from large parts of the crowd were heard after the incident.

The former Manchester City and AC Milan striker, who has historically had a fractious relationship with Hellas Verona supporters, went on to score in the 85th minute.

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