While the Mayor of Florence apologised to Mario Balotelli, Zdenek Zeman and the Minister for Integration warn “it’s not always racism.”
Milan and Italy striker Balotelli has been the subject of racist abuse from fans in recent weeks, as the game with Roma had to be stopped for two minutes, while he got into an altercation with Fiorentina fans at a train station on the way back from Siena last night.
Because of that incident, involving around 30 ultras, the Mayor of Florence Matteo Renzi phoned Balotelli to personally apologise.
It is believed Renzi said that no amount of upset over sporting results can justify racist abuse.
However, the debate continues to rage in Italy over how to handle these incidents after Pierluigi Collina suggested the rules should change. If a player walks off during a game due to racist insults without permission from the referee, he will by the current rules be shown a red card.
Ex-Roma Coach Zeman insists the chants aimed at Balotelli are “not racist. Those who do these things are stupid people who don’t even know what racism is. Balotelli’s behaviour certainly doesn’t set a good example and this has a huge influence.”
Unusually, Minister for Integration Cecile Kyenge – the first black Minister in Italy’s history – agrees with Zeman.
“We have to be very careful and clear to understand when we’re talking about racism, about a sporting defeat or about other motivation that pushes people to do certain things.
“Racism is an issue that certainly needs to be addressed, but I think in this case we should also look at the context and when these chants came about, as they can be traced back to the results of the games.”
Roma ultras were heard making racist chants for the second match in a row, so the Disciplinary Commission has ruled their next home game must be played with the Curva Sud empty. This is where the ultras usually sit.