The Serie A season has been blighted by a series of ugly incidents where players have been subjected to racist chants. On Sunday, the scourge of racism reared its ugly head again as Italian football star Mario Balotelli was racially abused by Hellas Verona fans during a Serie A match. The former Manchester City striker, angered by the racist chants, kicked the ball at the Verona fans in the stands. It seemed the Italy international would storm off the field but was held back by players from both teams from leaving the field.
Mario Balotelli kicks the ball into the stand and attempts to walk off the pitch.— Lawrence Evra Okoro (@LawrenceokoroNg) November 3, 2019
If all 22 players walk out of the pitch every weekend, I guess this racist chants in football grounds will be eliminated.
This is terrible to watch and my heart goes to Balotelli.#SayNoToRacism pic.twitter.com/cKTwUGzI8N
Mario Balotelli even took to Instagram later and thanked his fellow players and supporters for their support. He also had a few terse words for those who denied the incident.
"Thanks to all the colleagues on and off the field for the solidarity expressed toward me and all of the messages received from you fans," Balotelli wrote in a message on Instagram alongside a video of the incident.
"A heartfelt thanks. You're real men, not like those who deny the evidence."
Grazie a tutti i colleghi in campo e non per la solidarieta avuta nei miei confronti e a tutti i messaggi ricevuti da voi tifosi.. grazie di cuore.Avete dimostrato di essere veri uomini non come chi nega l'evidenza . #notoracism #forzabrescia #testaallaprossimapartita #noinonciarrendiamo
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 then 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.
The match was suspended for a few minutes around the hour mark as Balotelli tried to force himself from the field 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.
(With AFP inputs)