Italian football has a serious problem. Every week there seems to be another story emerging about racist abuse at a football game in the country, with some very high profile targets. The abuse directed at Moise Kean last season is one well-known example, while the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Fiorentina's Dalbert have also been on the receiving end this season.
Mario Balotelli hit the headlines last week after Brescia's game at Verona, during which the striker had been targeted by sections of the home support. Verona ultra directed monkey noises at the player, which led him to boot the ball into the crowd and threaten to walk off the pitch.
Balotelli walking off the pitch after racist chants from Verona fans, Italian football is the pits.
Again! and Again...when will FIFA impose heavy sanctions on racists bigots. #Balotelli pic.twitter.com/8Y2mFJ9ANp
— Sbu Mthembu (@sbu_mthembu) November 3, 2019
He was ultimately convinced to continue with the game, and would go on to score an absolute beauty to silence those who abused him.
Much has been made of the incident in the media over the past few days, with countless people coming out to condemn the actions of the home supporters in question. Verona have also taken action, banning ultras leader Luca Castellini for ten years.
The Brescia ultras have now commented on the incident. Instead of backing their player who was at the end of abuse, they have come out in support of the Verona ultras, condemning Balotelli for his behaviour.
In a statement they said (h/t Football Italia):
If Balotelli was not ready psychologically to face the Verona fanbase and, above all, such a delicate match in which our city and our coach – among the most beloved figures – was taking his final chance at saving his job, then he should’ve said so and left his place to someone less… irritable than him...
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 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.
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 problem is becoming ever more prevalent in Italian football, with the authorities seemingly doing little to combat it.
Unfortunately, things will likely get worse before they get better.