Mario Balotelli has been pictured crying on the AC Milan bench shortly after being substituted during Milan’s 3-1 defeat to S.S.C Napoli due to alleged racist taunts by a section of Napoli supporters*.
This is not the first time that clubs in Italy have been involved with the ugly topic of racism. Michael Essien and Daniel Sturridge were amongst several Chelsea players who were targeted by Napoli ‘supporters’ back in 2012 while Lazio were punished by UEFA for anti-Semitic chanting in a match against Tottenham Hotspur earlier this season.
Racism along with derogatory chanting in football has been strongly debated in Italy in the past. Opinions have been raised that clubs in the south of Italy have been discriminated against, former Napoli goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis voiced his dissatisfaction for the Italian Football Federation (IFF) last year. “The Neapolitans [people who live in the Naples area or in the surroundings] are the subject of a territorial discrimination that is not considered as racial discrimination, but it is just as bad”.
Despite these recent disgusting episodes of racism from the minority of so-called fans in Italy, the IFF imposed stronger racial sanctions for clubs who fail to keep racist supporters away from their stadiums such as the imposing of a minimum of 10 game banning orders for supporters along with the closure of parts of stadiums for more serious cases. AC Milan were fined €50,000 along with being forced to play their next match behind closed doors for abusive chanting in a game against Juventus.
*Milan manager Clarence Seedorf has now played down this incident stating that racism was not the reason for Balotelli’s tears but for a chance missed by himself in front of goal. “What can I say about Balotelli’s tears? They were the tears of a sportsman,” said coach Seedorf in a press conference.