Italy’s bid to tackle racism in football: Make Balotelli captain
La Gazetta dello Sport, the Italian sports daily, is campaigning to get Mario Balotelli appointed as captain of the national team for Italy’s friendly against Germany in February in a bid to tackle racism in Italian football.
Balotelli was again the subject of racist abuse from both sets of supporters during Italy’s 1-1 draw with Romania in Austria last week. A group of Italian fans displayed banners reading, “no to a multi-ethnic Italy team” and “there are no black Italians”.
After the match the 20-year-old striker, who earlier this year became the first black player to represent Italy’s senior side, said he is growing tired of the ongoing problem but believes calls for him and his team-mates to abandon future matches are excessive.
Balotelli, born to Ghanaian immigrants in Palermo in 1990, instead called for more help from within Italy to combat racism in the sport.
“I was very disappointed yesterday and I didn’t want to say anything,” he said. “I can’t do anything on my own, that’s for sure. Everyone needs to do something against racism.
“We need to change these people but it’s not me that has to do it. Where I live, they don’t reason like these people. A multi-ethnic Italy already exists and we can do better.”
Now, La Gazetta dello Sport is ready to join the former Inter Milan striker in Italy’s battle against racism.
The newspaper is calling for Balotelli to be handed the captain’s armband for next February’s friendly after Italy manager Cesare Prandelli and other members of the Azzurri squad threatened to leave the pitch next time Balotelli is subjected to racist abuse.
“Balotelli, captain on 9 February in Dortmund against Germany,” wrote the newspaper. “So there are no black Italians? Yes there are, and they represent us.
“Balotelli is one of us: this would be the message on that night. Mario was born in Italy, but he had to wait 18 years for a document proving his nationality: that armband will be fine on him.”
The article also draws comparisons to other nations’ travelling supporters, particularly Dutch and Irish fans.
It asks: “Why is it that every time Holland and Ireland play away, they are followed by hordes of fun-loving orange and green supporters, whilst all we export are extremists?
“Can’t the Italian Football Federation do something to encourage normal fans to travel with their team – fans who can drown out the racist insults and jeers in applause or normal football chants?”