No joke: Cellino’s Balotelli ‘black’ comment falls flat

November 26 – The controversial president of Italian club Brescia is facing accusations of racism after wading into the debate over striker Mario Balotelli who earlier this month briefly walked off in protest at being targeted by Hellas Verona fans.

Brescia coach Fabio Grosso left Balotelli out of Sunday’s 3-0 defeat at Roma and challenged him to show more “determination and enthusiasm” to regain his place.

Asked about Balotelli’s issues, Brescia president Massimo Cellino, who used to own Leeds United, commented: “He’s black, what can I say, he’s working  on clearing himself but he has great difficulties in this.”

“I signed him at the end of the window, not to sell tickets, but because he could be of real value. But it’s now become a point of weakness because of the over-exposure. If we keep talking about him, it’ll only hurt us and him.”

Brescia, bottom of Serie A, four points from safety after two wins from their opening 12 matches, immediately issued a statement downplaying Cellino’s remarks by saying they were a “paradoxical joke”.

“It was clearly misunderstood and it was said in an attempt to defuse excessive media exposure and with intent to protect the player himself”.

That will do little, however, to diminish criticism of the scourge of racism affecting Italian football which, this season alone, has not only targeted Balotelli but also Romelu Lukaku, Franck Kessie, Dalbert Henrique, Miralem Pjanic, Ronaldo Vieira and Kalidou Koulibaly in Serie A.

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