Balotelli Praised

Anti-discrimination group FARE has praised Mario Balotelli for his reaction to a racist banner displayed during Italy’s 2-1 friendly win over Saudi Arabia on Monday.

The banner, which said: “My captain is of Italian blood,” was displayed after suggestions that Balotelli would be given the armband should Leonardo Bonucci be substituted with the Nice forward still on the pitch.

In an Instagram story, Balotelli wrote: “It’s 2018 guys, wake up!” and FARE responded by tweeting: “Well done to Mario Balotelli, standing up to racism in Italian football once again.”

Balotelli has recalled some of his experiences of racism in a book, “Demons,” written with Sky Sport Italia reporter Alessandro Alciati and published in Italy this week.

“At school, it happened from time to time that some snacks would disappear and they would think it was me straight away, without investigating, but there is one incident I’ll never forget: my tears wouldn’t stop pouring out,” the forward said.

“I’d done all my homework and I knew my mum would let me go out to play football, so I went out.’Hi lads, are we playing?’ I asked. ‘No Mario, you’re not,’ they replied. ‘But I’ve done my homework.’ ‘No, Mario: you’re black.’

“I was black, so in their eyes I was different. I thought they didn’t want me because I was already eccentric, but as the years passed I discovered the truth.”