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Balotelli threatens to leave pitch after racist abuse in Verona defeat

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Inter Milan’s Argentinian forward Lautaro Martinez fights for the ball with Brescia’s Italian defender Daniele Gastaldello and Brescia’s Italian forward Mario Balotelli during the Italian Serie A football match Brescia vs Inter Milan on October 29, 2019 at the Mario-Rigamonti stadium in Brescia. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)

Mario Balotelli threatened to leave the pitch on Sunday after apparently hearing racist abuse by Hellas Verona fans before scoring for Brescia in their 2-1 Serie A defeat.

With his side, a goal down to Eddie Salcedo’s powerful header Balotelli, who has been a frequent target for racist chants during his three spells playing in his home country, booted the ball into the crowd after around an hour and charged towards Verona fans.

Pointing towards his ears, the former AC Milan and Manchester City striker then tried to leave the pitch, only to be stopped by his teammates and Verona players, some of whom hugged him.

The match was suspended for a few minutes before a message was read out of the stadium loudspeaker threatening both teams would all leave the field if there was a repeat of any abuse.

The message was whistled loudly by a large number of the home fans, who have a notorious reputation in Italy for hard-right politics and open racism.

With the game back underway Matteo Pessina doubled the hosts lead when he squeezed home a neat finish with nine minutes left before Balotelli pulled one back with a superb curling long-range effort.

Balotelli’s side remains in the bottom three after the defeat, while Verona jumped up to ninth, level on points with Fiorentina ahead of their match with Parma.

A number of black players have been racially abused by supporters in Italy in the opening weeks of the season, with Milan midfielder Franck Kessie targeted by Verona fans in September and Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku abused by Cagliari fans, also serial offenders.

Balotelli has a particularly hostile relationship with Verona fans, who six years ago targeted him with ironic cheers after then-mayor of the city Flavio Tosi called him a “troublemaker” who brought racist abuse on himself.


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