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Soccer: Balotelli calls for change amid racism storm

AC Milan forward had to be held back from Fiorentina fans

Soccer: Balotelli calls for change amid racism storm

(By Paul Virgo) Rome, May 20 - Mario Balotelli called for change as a storm over racism in Serie A soccer continued on Monday, when AS Roma were hit with a partial stadium closure for chants targeting the AC Milan and Italy forward. The 22-year-old said that it was inhuman for the authorities to expect him to stay on the soccer field if he is the victim of racist abuse from the stands. His appeal came the day after he reportedly had to be held back after being targeted by monkey chants from Fiorentina fans on the way back from his side's 2-1 win at Siena. Balotelli scored a controversial late penalty to help Milan to a win that enabled them to finish third and qualify for the Champions League preliminaries at Fiorentina's expense. A video released on the Internet shows Milan players coming under a hail of abuse when they arrived at Florence's Campo di Marte railway station to take a train home after their match at the nearby Tuscan city of Siena. As well as monkey chants, Fiorentina fans called Balotelli, who has Ghanaian roots, a "piece of s**t". Balotelli said last week that he would walk off in protest next time after being one of the black Milan players to have racist boos directed at them from AS Roma fans during a 0-0 draw at the San Siro. It was the latest in a long series of incidents of racist abuse that the 22-year-old, who has Ghanaian roots, has been hit with in recent years. But Marcello Nicchi, the head of the Italian Referees' Association (AIA), warned the striker that he would effectively be sending himself off if he carried through the threat, as he would leave his side in 10. "This rule about racist buu need to be changed cos is no human that if i leave the picth my team gonna rest in 10 pls!," Balotelli said via his Twitter account, @FinallyMario. "Change it im not agree". Roma will have to play a future home match with part of the Stadio Olimpico closed to the public as punishment for racist chants against Balotelli in Sunday's 2-1 win over Napoli, the last match of the Serie A season. Serie A's sporting judge said the Olimpico's 'Curva Sud' end stand, where Roma's hardcore ultra fans watch home matches, will be shut because of "expressions of racial discrimination" directed at the Italy and AC Milan forward. The punishment is severe as Roma fans were guilty of a number of previous incidents of racist abuse, including those at the San Siro. Roma were also fined 50,000 euros, as were Inter Milan for racist chants by their fans in Sunday's 5-2 defeat to Udinese. Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, meanwhile, said that suggestions Balotelli in some way brought racism abuse on himself were "ridiculous". Prandelli was responding to comments by former Roma coach Zdedek Zeman, who last week suggested that if Balotelli faces jeers, it is due to his attitude, and not his skin colour. "It's a serious problem, it's like saying that if many women suffer violence, it is because they look for it," said Prandelli. "This is not just a problem of AC Milan football, or Italian (football), it is a problem for everyone". The issue of racism in soccer has been heating up amid continued fan attacks and angry responses from players. Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge, however, stressed that that not all taunts directed at black players were of a racist nature. "It's necessary to be lucid to understand when we are talking about racism, when it is about sport or a defeat, and when there are other reasons," Congo-born Kyenge, who has been hit by racist abuse after becoming Italy's first black minister last month, said at the Turin book fair. Some Roma fans denied allegations they made monkey chants during the match against Milan, saying they simply booed Balotelli.

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