Rome

Balotelli wins support for threat to 'walk' from racism

Striker says will leave pitch at next incident of racial abuse

Balotelli wins support for threat to 'walk' from racism

(By Paul Virgo) Rome, May 16 - Italy and AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli won backing on Thursday after threatening to walk off the pitch the next time he is the victim of racial abuse. Balotelli was one of the black Milan players to have monkey chants directed at them from AS Roma fans during a 0-0 draw at the San Siro on Sunday, which was briefly suspended because of these incidents early in the second half. Italy has a big problem with racism on the soccer terraces and Sunday's was the latest in a long series of incidents of abuse that the 22-year-old, who has Ghanaian roots, has been hit with in recent years. "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". On Thursday his stance won the support of Fabrizio Cicchitto, a senior member of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party. Berlusconi owns AC Milan. "Balotelli is right about lots of things," said Cicchitto. "The phenomenon of racist chants is truly despicable. "The only solution is probably to dock points from the team whose fans are responsible for such manifestations of barbarism". Another of the victims of the abuse from Roma fans, Ghanaian midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, won plaudits for leading Milan players in walking off the field after racist abuse in a friendly match at fourth-tier side Pro Patria. That incident took place before Balotelli joined Milan from English side Manchester City in the January transfer window. The immensely talented Balotelli is seen as something of a rebel due to his poor disciplinary record, his history of run-ins with coaches and his tendency to hit the headlines with bizarre off-field antics. For many he is a symbol of the new multicultural Italy and he was mobbed in scenes resemblant of Beatle-mania when he arrived at Milan. Others criticise him though for allegedly being arrogant and childish. In 2010 some Italian fans travelled abroad to abuse him in a 1-1 draw with Romania, holding up a banner reading ''No to a multiethnic national team'' during a friendly in Klagenfurt, Austria. Juventus had to play a game behind closed doors in 2009 after their supporters directed chants of "there's no such thing as a black Italian" at him when he was an Inter Milan player. He also had bananas thrown at him in a Rome bar before the European Under-21 Championships in June 2009. Joseph Blatter, the head of international football's governing body FIFA, on Tuesday blasted the Italian Soccer Federation (FIGC) after Rome were only given a 50,000-euro fine as punishment for the racist chants. "What is surprising and is not understandable for me, is that the Disciplinary Committee of the Italian Football Federation has taken a decision, not even 24 hours after the event, by just imposing a fine," Blatter said. "They have not made any investigation of what happened. And just to give a pecuniary sanction is not valid, that is not acceptable. "You will always find money. What is 50,000 Euros for such an incident? "I'm not happy and I will call the Italian Federation. That's not a way to deal with such matters". UEFA President Michel Platini praised the referee of Sunday's match for suspending the game.

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