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‘Wake up, you ignorant people’: Mario Balotelli responds after fan says he’ll never be ‘fully Italian’

Mario Balotelli on Monday reacted with anger after the head of Verona's hardcore ultras fans group fuelled a racism row by denying any abuse had been directed at the Brescia forward, who he said could not even be considered Italian.

'Wake up, you ignorant people': Mario Balotelli responds after fan says he'll never be 'fully Italian'
Mario Balotelli tried to leave the pitch after Hellas Verona fans made monkey noises. File photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Italian international Balotelli scored in a 2-1 Serie A defeat on Sunday, but his performance was overshadowed by his fury at monkey chants from a section of Verona's supporters.

But Verona's supporters group leader Luca Castellini insisted their fans were not racist.

READ ALSO: Italian fans to black footballer: 'Monkey chants aren't racist in Italy'

“Balotelli's a clown. He only heard it in his own head,” Castellini told Radio Cafe on Monday. “We have a cultural identity of a certain kind. We're an irreverent fan base, who make fun of bald players, ones with long hair, southern players and the ones of colour, but we don't do it with political or racist instincts.

“The chants came from only four people, who were only heard by the people who recorded the video.”

Despite denials of abuse from Verona, a video published on Twitter by a fan showed a number of supporters clearly directing monkey chants at Balotelli before the Italy international booted the ball at them in the stands.

The 29-year-old, who was born in Palermo to Ghanaian parents and raised just outside Brescia, had to be held back by players from both teams to stop him from leaving the field of play.

Castellini claimed that the 36-times capped international could not be considered Italian.

“Balotelli's Italian because he has Italian citizenship, but he can never be completely Italian,” said Castellini.

That prompted Balotelli to reply on Instagram: “Here, my friends, this has nothing to do with football anymore. You are implying about a social and historical situation much bigger than you small-minded people. You guys are losing it. Wake up, you ignorant people.”

Balotelli added: “But when Mario scored and still guarantees to score goals for Italy, you were fine with it?”

When asked if Verona fans were racist, Castellini added: “We have a negro in our team and he scored yesterday and all of Verona applauded.” Castellini was referring to Verona forward Eddie Salcedo.

Verona coach Ivan Juric had earlier told Sky Sport that he heard “no racists chants, nothing at all” after a win that lifts his side to ninth, adding that “to say otherwise is a lie”.

The club's president Maurizio Setti said that his club's supporters were “light-hearted, not racist” and were a crowd with “real sport in its DNA”.

“We are the first to condemn racism but it is wrong to generalise… Maybe two or three people among 20,000 fans might have said something,” he said to Sky.

READ ALSO: 

The match was suspended for a few minutes as Balotelli tried to leave the pitch before a message was read out on the stadium loudspeaker threatening that both teams would leave the field if there was a repeat of any abuse, a message that was whistled loudly by a large number of the home fans.

Former England manager Fabio Capello on Monday praised the former Manchester City and Inter Milan player's reaction, and called for strong action.

“Balotelli's reaction was excessive in one respect but important,” the 73-year-old told Radio Anch'io Sport. “We give importance to these people, nobody has the strength to condemn them. They feel strong in groups and are sheep when they are not in a group.

“It would be enough to do as in England, there are cameras. We need decisions, not small talk.”

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 at Cagliari, also serial offenders.

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PHOTOS: Italy’s most memorable medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

The Tokyo Olympics were Italy's best Games yet, with Italian athletes taking home more medals than ever before. Here are the highlights.

PHOTOS: Italy’s most memorable medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs and Gianmarco Tamberi celebrate after winning golds in the 100m sprint and high jump. Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP

With ten golds, ten silvers and 20 bronzes, the Azzurri representing Italy in Tokyo were tenth on the medal table overall and top in Italian sporting history.

Previously the most medals Italy had ever won at a single Olympics was 36, which the country hadn’t equalled since the Rome Games in 1960.

READ ALSO: ‘Do Italy just win everything now?’: Celebrations after Italian athletes take Olympic gold

As well as a ceremony at the presidential palace in September, Italy’s Olympic champions will be welcomed back with prize money from the Italian National Olympic Committee: gold medalists are awarded €180,000 each, while silver medallists get €90,000 and bronze medallists get €60,000.

And then there’s the glory: after an exceptionally successful summer of Italian sport and music, Italy’s Olympic team dubbed their athletes “stupor mundi” – Latin for ‘the wonder of the world’. 

Italy’s gold medals at the 2020 Olympics

  • Men’s high jump: Gianmarco Tamberi

Italian high jumper Gianmarco Tamberi couldn’t have been happier to share the gold with his fellow competitor Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar, in what was hailed as one of the most touching moments of the Games. 

Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP
  • Men’s 100m: Lamont Marcell Jacobs

Relatively unknown long jumper-turned-sprinter Lamont Marcell Jacobs was in the form of his life when he outran the favourites and hurtled to first place in the biggest race in men’s athletics. He’s the first Italian ever to qualify for the Olympic final of the event, let alone win it.

Photo by Jewel SAMAD / AFP
  • Men’s 4 x 100m relay 

Lorenzo Patta, Lamont Marcell Jacobs, Eseosa Desalu and Filippo Tortu pulled off an astonishing victory by the smallest of margins, with Tortu flinging himself over the finish line to snatch gold from the favourites, Great Britain, by just a hundredth of a second. It was another historic first for Italy: the country has never before won the event, and the last time an Italian team got onto the podium was at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin (silver). 

Photo by Jewel SAMAD / AFP
  • Men’s 20km race walk: Massimo Stano
  • Women’s 20km race walk: Antonella Palmisano

Antonella Palmisano cemented Italy’s domination of the walking competition when she followed up her teammate Massimo Stano’s gold with her own victory a day later. She actually performed slightly faster at the Rio Olympics in 2016, but that time only earned her fourth last time round.

Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP
  • Track cycling, men’s team pursuit

Italy’s four-man team set a new track cycling world record by completing 16 laps (4km) in just 3:42.032. While Great Britain had long dominated the event and Denmark were reigning World Champions, no Italian team had won it since the Rome Olympics of 1960.

Photo by Greg Baker / AFP
  • Karate, men’s kumite -75kg: Luigi Busa
  • Rowing, lightweight women’s double sculls 
Valentina Rodini (L) and Federica Cesarini (R) celebrate their win in the lightweight women’s double sculls final. Photo by Luis ACOSTA / AFP
  • Sailing, mixed multihull – Nacra 17 foiling
  • Taekwondo, Men’s -58kg: Vito Dell’Aquila

Vito Dell’Aquila won Italy its first gold of the Games, at the age of just 20. It was his first Olympics but at this rate, it won’t be his last.

Photo by Javier SORIANO / AFP

Italy’s silver medals at the 2020 Olympics

  • Artistic gymnastics, women’s floor exercise: Vanessa Ferrari

Arguably Italy’s greatest competing gymnast, 30-year-old Vanessa Ferrari proved the value of experience when she became the first Italian to win an individual Olympic medal for women’s artistic gymnastics.

Photo by Loic VENANCE / AFP
  • Men’s individual archery: Mauro Nespoli
  • Men’s kayak single 200m: Manfredi Rizza
  • Fencing, men’s foil individual: Daniele Garrozo
  • Fencing, men’s sabre individual: Luigi Samele
  • Fencing, men’s sabre team

Fencing has long been one of Italy’s strongest sports, and these Games were no exception. Altogether Italian fencers took three silvers and two bronzes in both team and individual events. 

Italy’s Luca Curatoli (L) competes against South Korea’s Gu Bongil in the men’s sabre team gold medal bout. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
  • Women’s skeet shooting: Diana Bacosi
  • Swimming, men’s 4 x 100m freestyle relay
  • Swimming, men’s 800m freestyle: Gregorio Paltrinieri 
  • Weightlifting, women’s 64kg: Giorgia Bordignon
    Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

    Italy’s bronze medals at the 2020 Olympics

    • Women’s individual archery: Lucilla Boari
    • Women’s featherweight boxing: Irma Testa

    Irma “Butterfly” Testa made history as the first Italian woman to win an Olympic medal for boxing, a victory she dedicated to all of Italy’s female boxers.

    Photo by Luis ROBAYO / POOL / AFP
    • Women’s cycling road race: Elisa Longo Borghini 
    • Track cycling, men’s omnium: Elia Viviani 
    • Men’s 10km marathon swimming: Gregorio Paltrinieri 

    Gregorio Paltrinieri is one of the best long-distance swimmers there is, holding the men’s world record for the 1500m freestyle. He comes home from Tokyo with two medals: silver in the 800m freestyle, and bronze in the gruelling 10km swim.

    Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP
    • Swimming, men’s 100m breaststroke: Nicolo Martinenghi
    • Swimming, men’s 100m butterfly: Federico Burdisso
    • Swimming, men’s 4 x 100m medley relay
    • Swimming, women’s 800m freestyle: Simona Quadarella 
    • Judo, women’s -52kg: Odette Giuffrida
    Photo by Franck FIFE / AFP
    • Judo, women’s -63kg: Maria Centracchio
    • Fencing, women’s épée team
    • Fencing, women’s foil team 
    • Karate, women’s kata: Viviana Bottaro

    Accomplished karateka Viviana Bottaro won Italy its first Olympic medal in karate, which made its debut at the Tokyo Games. 

    Photo by Alexander NEMENOV / AFP
    • Rowing, lightweight men’s double sculls
    • Rowing, men’s four
    • Rhythmic gymnastics, group all-around

    Nicknamed le Farfalle (‘the Butterflies’), Italy’s five-woman rhythmic gymnastic team provided one of Italy’s last medal-winning performances on the final day of the Games, and one of the most spectacular.

    Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP
    • Weightlifting, men’s 67kg: Mirko Zanni 
    • Weightlifting, men’s 81kg: Antonino Pizzolato
    • Wrestling, men’s freestyle 97kg: Abraham de Jesus Conyedo Ruano 
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