Mario Balotelli at a disadvantage, claims agent who believes Italian football is racist
The agent of striker Mario Balotelli has claimed that the player would not be so harshly judged by the fans and media if he was white, and has insisted that racism remains a significant problem in the Italian game.
Balotelli – who plays for AC Milan on loan from Liverpool – has not featured in a match for his new side since September because of a groin injury, and has found himself under considerable criticism for a perceived lack of loyalty and discipline.
And his agent, Mino Raiola, has told the Italian media that this is because attitudes in the country remain “light years behind other places” when it comes to questions of race and tolerance.
“People judge (Balotelli) too much and I think that is because he lives in a country that is not ready to have such a strong black player,” Raiola said.
“Italy is light years behind other countries in that respect. There is racism in the game: some of it is unconscious but black players have to do twice as much as others to prove themselves.”
The Italian game has long battled allegations of prejudice and racial discrimination, with Italian players, coaches and fans all falling under the spotlight in recent months.
In October, the former Milan and Derby footballer Stefano Eranio was sacked by a Swiss television company, after the Italian said live on air that “black players are not accustomed to paying attention to certain details”.
A few months before, the former Milan and Italian national team coach, Arrigo Sacchi, was forced to deny he was a racist after he told the national media that Italy’s youth set-up features “too many blacks”.
Balotelli has experienced racial hatred first-hand. During his first spell at AC Milan he was – along with team mate Kevin Prince Boateng – frequently a target of whistling and monkey chants, and he has been booed by racist fans whilst training on national team duty.
A study conducted by the anti-discrimination body Kick it Out meanwhile found that, whilst playing in England’s Premier League, he was the subject of more than 4000 racist messages via social media.
Despite the prejudices Balotelli must contend with, Raiola also took the opportunity to urge the current manager of Italy, Antonio Conte, to select the striker for Euro 2016.
“Conte should call up Mario because he is the best Italian striker,” Raiola added.
“Enzo Bearzot called up Paulo Rossi in 1982 despite his inactivity and we went on to win the World Cup.
“I am convinced that Mario will win over Conte with his performances and his goals at Milan.”
From: The Telegraph