February 2 – As controversial refereeing decisions go, few are as worthy of condemnation as the booking meted out over the weekend to Nice’s former Italian international striker Mario Balotelli after he reportedly claimed he was the victim of racist chanting during a top-flight French game.
The Anti-discrimination body Kick It Out has expressed its “shock” at the former Manchester City and Liverpool forward, who has been a regular target throughout his career, being cautioned in the second half of the game against Dijon on Saturday when he was seen gesturing to the crowd while talking to the referee.
“Kick It Out was shocked to see Mario Balotelli booked for bringing to the attention of the referee alleged racist chanting directed towards him by Dijon supporters,” a statement read.
“It is unacceptable and wrong to see that once again, a match official has failed to apply the UEFA protocol – in place for a number of years – which requires action to be taken to stop the game to deal with the offending abuse.
“Although Kick It Out’s remit is within English football, the organisation has contacted anti-discrimination network Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) to see what actions they will be taking in raising this with Ligue 1 officials.
“The organisation expects a strong response from the French football authorities in condemning both the alleged racist chanting from Dijon supporters and the failure of the referee to follow protocol to halt the behaviour, as well as the decision to compound Balotelli’s experience as a victim by booking him for merely asking the match official to do his job.”
The Nice president, Jean-Pierre Rivère, hit out at the standard of refereeing, telling the club’s website: “I am scandalised. It’s been four consecutive games that we have the feeling of playing at 11 against 12.”
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