VERONA, Italy (AP) — Brescia striker Mario Balotelli threatened to leave the field due to racist chants on Sunday. Hellas Verona fans directed the chants at him during a top-tier soccer game in Italy.
Balotelli was visibly upset as he fought for the ball at the end of the stadium, which is where he heard the “monkey” chants. Then, he interrupted the action, picked up the ball and angrily drop-kicked it high into the stands to vent his frustration.
As the referee ordered a warning read out over the stadium’s public address system, Brescia teammates and Verona players both embraced Balotelli and persuaded him to stay
Opposing coach heard nothing against Balotelli
Verona coach Ivan Juric said he didn’t hear any racist chants.
“There was absolutely nothing,” Juric said. “There were a lot of whistles every time he had the ball but not racism. I didn’t hear a single (chant).”
Second suspension this weekend
The match at Bentegodi stadium was temporarily suspended. At the time, Verona lead 1-0.
It was the second time this weekend that a Serie A game was suspended for offensive chants. On Saturday, Roma supporters aimed anti-territorial chants at Napoli.
Balotelli was born in Italy to Ghanaian immigrants and has represented Italy’s national team. He recently returned to Serie A after several seasons in France.
Not the first time for Balotelli
The 29-year-old Balotelli also experienced racism at the beginning of his career in Italy, when he rose to prominence with Inter Milan.
Verona went ahead 2-0 before Balotelli scored for Brescia and the game ended 2-1.
Balotelli also hit the post in the first half of one of his best performances since joining Brescia — his hometown club — in August.
Balotelli’s on- and off-field antics
Considering his physique, technical ability and qualities as a finisher, Balotelli is potentially one of the world’s best strikers. But his on- and off-field antics have often overshadowed his on-the-field achievements.
Balotelli won the league title during his time at Manchester City. But he was also sent off-field four times. He also threw a dart at a youth-team player. And he was involved in an incident that involved fireworks in his bathroom. After scoring against Manchester United, he revealed a T-shirt under his City jersey reading, “Why Always Me?”
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports