November 4 – As well as VAR making headlines after another weekend of top-flight action across Europe, racism was once again at the forefront of controversy – and yet again in Italy where striker Mario Balotelli kicked a ball into the stands and briefly walked off in protest at being targeted by Hellas Verona fans.
The game was 53 minutes old when Balotelli, the former Manchester City striker who these days plays for his hometown club of Bescia, was competing for the ball at a corner flag in front of the home supporters when he received the abuse.
He picked up the ball while it was still in play, kicked it into the crowd and walked off despite protests from Verona players.
An announcement was then read out to the home supporters before the game resumed, with Balotelli persuaded by team-mates to continue.
Later, Balotelli, who back in 2013 when he was at AC Milan threatened to walk off if he was again subjected to racial abuse, posted an update on Instagram, including both a video of the on-pitch incident and footage taken from the stands.
“To those ‘people’ in the Curva who made monkey noises at me… Shame on you. Shame on you,” Balotelli wrote. “Thank you to all my colleagues on the pitch and off for the solidarity expressed and for all the messages I have received from fans. You proved yourselves to be real men, not like those who deny the evidence.”
He appeared to be referring to Verona boss Ivan Juric who insisted after the game there was no racist abuse.
“I’m not afraid to say today there was nothing. Lots of whistling and teasing against a great player, but there was nothing else,” said Juric. “I have also taken so many insults over the years, I know what it means – but today there has been nothing. Today I heard nothing. We don’t create a case where there isn’t, it would be a lie.”
Brescia later issued a statement criticising Verona’s senior managerial representatives for “an attempt to deny or minimise the gravity of the incident.”
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