Mario Balotelli has been branded ‘arrogant’ by a section of his own supporters after being racially abused by fans of Verona.
The Brescia 1911 ‘Ultra’ fan group released a statement seemingly taking the side of their rivals, playing down their behaviour in the dispute and choosing instead to criticise their own player.
Italian Balotelli was playing for Brescia at Hellas Verona when he was targeted by home supporters and subjected to monkey chants by a section of the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi.
The former Manchester City and Liverpool striker reacted by kicking the ball into the crowd and attempting to walk off the pitch before both teammates and opposition players convinced him to continue.
Despite being clearly visibly upset, the 29-year-old was persuaded to carry on and even went on the score his side’s consolation goal in the 2-1 defeat.
In the fallout, Verona were handed a partial stadium closure by Serie A. Luca Castellini, head of the Verona ultras, was also banned for attending matches for 10 years after saying Balotelli could ‘never be Italian’ despite the Palermo-born biological son of Ghanaian immigrants earning 36 caps for the Azzurri.
Responding to ongoing controversy, the Brescia ultras posted a statement on their website reading: “If Balotelli was not ready psychologically to face the Verona fanbase then he should’ve said so and left his place to someone less irritable than him. None of us would’ve been upset if he had.
“We have absolutely no doubts that Balotelli is to all intents Italian, and even a Bresciano, but the arrogance that he continually gives off is unjustifiable.
“The notorious ‘Balotellate’ antics are now all too well known. What matters more to us are the spirit of sacrifice, passion respect, motivation and sweating for the shirt, concepts that seem to be entirely unknown to him.”
The fan group also attempted to downplay the racist behaviour of Verona’s fanbase, claiming that Castellini’s comments were not indicative of other supporters.
They added: “The personal declarations of one of the leaders of the Verona Curva cannot justify the witch-hunt sparked by the media and institutions in yet another attempt to criminalise and destroy the entire Ultras world.
“This does not mean that certain chants are legitimate or acceptable, but nor are all Verona fans racists and the Verona Curva some sort of KKK coven.
“We condemn any gesture or provocation that is clearly hostile and discriminatory, but, we also want to give our solidarity to those who once again saw their liberty destroyed. This time it wasn’t even by the authorities, who considered his behaviour not that serious, but by his own club.”
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