Mario Balotelli says he will walk off the pitch next time he is racially abused
AC Milan forward subjected to racist chanting during league game against Roma
Roma was fined $65,000 over the incident
Level of punishment drew sharp criticism from FIFA president Sepp Blatter
Editor’s Note: CNN will publish a full exclusive interview with AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli on Friday May 17 at 1200 ET, where he says he thinks he was treated unfairly in England, finds it hard being a global icon and admits having a love for women and fast cars.
Leading international soccer player Mario Balotelli has had enough – the AC Milan striker has vowed to walk off the pitch next time he is racially abused at a football game.
Balotelli, who was subjected to racist chanting during Sunday’s Italian league game against Roma, has told CNN in an exclusive interview that he came close to leaving the field following the abuse at AC Milan’s San Siro stadium in a match that finished 0-0.
The 22-year-old put his fingers to his lips in front of the visiting supporters’ section as a section of fans directed “monkey chants” at him and teammate Kevin Prince-Boateng.
“I always said that if it (racism) happened in the stadium I will just do like ‘nobody says nothing and I don’t care,’” Balotelli told CNN.
“But this time I think I’ve changed my mind a little bit. If it’s going to happen one more time, then I’m going to leave the pitch because it’s so stupid.”
The abuse led to the game being halted for two minutes as the stadium’s PA announcer warned the Roma supporters to end the abuse or the match would be stopped.
Balotelli is not the first player from AC Milan – one of Europe’s top clubs, having won 18 national titles and seven continental crowns – – to face racist abuse this season.
In January, Boateng did walk off the pitch after being racially abused during a friendly against Pro Patria.
That action prompted governing bodies FIFA and UEFA to rethink the way clubs and players are punished if they are found guilty of racist abuse.
Balotelli revealed that his teammate Boateng – who was a guest speaker at the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in March – persuaded him not to leave the field of play on Sunday.
“I spoke with Prince,” added Balotelli. “I was about to leave the pitch on Sunday, but they thought I wanted to leave because we had some difficulty with the game and then we are going to win 3-0.
“I said ‘no, it’s better we play and I will talk,’ that’s it.
“But if it wasn’t for this reason, then I was going to leave the pitch on Sunday.”
On Monday Roma was fined $65,000 by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) – a punishment that drew sharp criticism from FIFA president Sepp Blatter
“What is $65,000 for such an incident? I’m not happy and I will call the Italian Federation,” the head of football’s world governing body told the FIFA website. “That’s not a way to deal with such matters.”
Throughout the season Italian football has been plagued by racist incidents as the country struggles to deal with the problem.
Only last month, Inter Milan was fined around $60,000 by European governing body UEFA after its fans were found guilty of “improper conduct” after racist chants were directed at Tottenham’s Togolese striker Emmanuel Adebayor.
In February, Roma’s fierce city rival, Lazio, received its fourth UEFA charge of the season for racist behavior with the club accruing fines of up to $300,000
“Family’s little black boy”
This is not the first time Balotelli has suffered racist abuse.
The striker was targeted by fans of his former club – Inter Milan – in a Serie A game after he joined Milan in a $30 million deal from Manchester City in January.
Inter was fined $65,500 by the FIGC following the incidents while the player was also hit with a $13,000 fine for aiming a gesture at fans as he left the field at the full time whistle. Balotelli played for Inter between 2006 and 2010.
The 22-year-old was also subjected to racist abuse while on international duty with Italy – Croatia fans were found guilty of throwing bananas at the forward during the 2012 European Championship Finals.
There was also embarrassment for Milan in February when the club’s vice president Paulo Berlusconi, the younger brother of former prime minster and team owner Silvio Berlusconi, was caught on camera referring to Balotelli’s arrival by saying: “OK, we are all off to see the family’s little black boy.
“He’s a crazy head. All the young ladies are invited as well – you can even have a chance to meet the president (Silvio Berlusconi).”
The video, which was featured on the website of Italian Newspaper La Repubblica, was condemned by anti-racism campaigners.
Milan have won the Italian title 18 times and the European Cup (now known as the Champions League) seven times.