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Balotelli: There are racists in England - they're just hiding

ESPN staff
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Italy head coach Cesare Prandelli backs striker Mario Balotelli

Mario Balotelli says there are racist football fans in England - they just hide it better than their Spanish and Italian counterparts.

The former Manchester City striker, whose name was never far from the headlines during his time in England between 2010 and 2013, was racially abused by fans at an Italy training camp last week.

Last year, he was targeted by Roma fans while playing for AC Milan and said afterwards he would walk off the pitch if he encountered it again.

Balotelli abused at Italy World Cup camp

Mario Balotelli has been targeted by racists on numerous occasions © Getty Images
  • Mario Balotelli was subjected to racial insults while training for Italy at the Italian Football Association's (FIGC) training centre in Coverciano, near Florence, last week.
  • The AC Milan forward did not respond or react to the insulting chants from one fan, who was identified and led away from the training centre. Most of the fans watching the 30-man Italy squad training showed their support for the 23-year-old, the FIGC reports on its website.
  • A statement from the FIGC read: "Some boys surrounding the field made some offensive chants towards Mario Balotelli and one of them pronounced a racial insult."
  • Although he was "distressed" by the incident, Balotelli continued to train with his colleagues. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Balotelli said to his team-mates: "It's incredible, these things happen only in Rome and Florence."

Balotelli claimed racism was not restricted to Italy and Spain, but accepted it was more publicly prevalent there.

Asked whether he had experienced overt racism while playing for City, he added: "Not open, no. Just after I joined, we were on a plane going on tour somewhere and I looked around and I realised there were more black players than white players on the team.

"That was a big difference. That was kind of amazing. In Italy, I was often the only one," he told GQ.

"Racism is everywhere. Maybe it is more open here [in Italy] or in Spain. There are racists in England but I think they hide it more."

Balotelli believes the presence of overt prejudice in his homeland makes him a target for criticism and abuse because of his skin colour. The AC Milan player, 23, said if he was white he would be treated more sympathetically by his compatriots.

"They aren't used to seeing people who are different, not white, who act not as rebels but normally," he said. "I think what the ignorant people don't like is that people who are different are allowed to act that way.

"These stupid people, they get angry with me, they say horrible things, but I haven't done anything different from other people.

"I have made mistakes, like everyone does, and I have always paid for my mistakes. I think that if I was white maybe some people would still find me irritating or annoying but it wouldn't be the same. Absolutely not.

"Jealousy is a horrible thing, but when this jealousy is towards people who are different from the majority, and who maybe also have more than you, then it becomes anger, it becomes rage, and that's the overt racism."

Balotelli feels much more could be done in the battle against racism but does not want to be seen as leading the fight on his own without the support of a sustainable campaign.

"People are fighting this thing, and it's important," he said. "But in the media every time I have talked about this subject people talk about it for three or four days but then everything goes back to normal.

"So, either there is something really strong for all of us to do, some real movement or real action, and in that case I will be the first guy to participate, but if it's just talk, I'd rather not.

"We can talk about it as much as we want but things don't change that way.

"When there will be something real and strong to really help people and society, and really help people who have less than me, then I will help."

Were Balotelli's goals to fire Italy to victory at the World Cup this summer he would become a national hero, but the striker thinks that would miss the point.

"It's really sad to think that we can change Italy only by winning the World Cup. I hope we can change things even if we don't win it," he added.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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