Verona get one-match partial stadium closure for Balotelli racist abuse

Milan (AFP) –


Italian club Verona were on Tuesday given a one-match partial stadium closure for monkey cries from their fans directed at Brescia forward Mario Balotelli during a Serie A game at the weekend.

Italian international Balotelli scored in Sunday's 2-1 Serie A defeat but his performance was overshadowed by his fury at the racist abuse from a section of Verona's supporters.

The Lega Serie A's disciplinary commission on Tuesday said that the chants "were clearly perceived, in addition to the player, also by the federation representative positioned nearby."

The commission found that "after these cries .. there were also cries of support followed by long applause".

As a result they ordered that a section known as the "Poltrone Est" in the Bentegodi Stadium, which can host around 3,500 spectators in the 30,000-capacity stadium, be closed for one match.

Despite denials of abuse from Verona, a video published on Twitter by a fan showed a number of supporters directing abuse at Balotelli before the forward booted the ball at them in the stands.

The match was suspended for a few minutes around the hour mark as Balotelli tried to force himself from the field before a message was read out on the stadium loudspeaker threatening that both teams would leave the field if there was a repeat of any abuse.

The message was whistled loudly by a large number of the home fans.

Verona coach Ivan Juric insisted he heard "no racists chants, nothing at all," adding that "to say otherwise is a lie".

Earlier Verona announced they have banned Luca Castellini, the leader of their hard-core ultras supporters group, until June 2030 for saying that Balotelli would never be "completely Italian".

"Balotelli's Italian because he has Italian citizenship, but he can never be completely Italian," Castellini said in a radio interview on Monday.

When asked if Verona fans were racist, Castellini added: "We have a negro in our team and he scored yesterday and all of Verona applauded."

Verona barred Castellini from their stadium "based on considerations and expressions seriously contrary to those that distinguish the ethical principles and values of our club".

Balotelli, 29, who was born in Palermo to Ghanaian parents but was raised just outside Brescia, had to be held back by players from both teams to stop him leaving the pitch.

"Balotelli's a clown. He only heard it in his own head," continued Castellini.

Former Manchester City and Inter Milan striker Balotelli, who obtained Italian citizenship at the age of 18, has been capped 36 times for Italy.