Verona councillors want legal action against Balotelli for defamation

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By Reuters
Verona councillors want legal action against Balotelli for defamation
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Serie A - Brescia v Inter Milan - Stadio Mario Rigamonti, Brescia, Italy - October 29, 2019 Brescia's Mario Balotelli reacts REUTERS/Daniele Mascolo/File Photo   -  Copyright  Daniele Mascolo(Reuters)

MILAN (Reuters) – Verona’s city government has been asked by a group of local councillors to take action against footballer Mario Balotelli after he complained about racist insults from the crowd during a match at the Bentegodi stadium on Sunday.

Balotelli, playing for visiting side Brescia, kicked the ball into the crowd and threatened to walk off the pitch early in the second half because he said some fans were making monkey noises. The referee stopped play for around five minutes while announcements were made to the crowd.

The 29-year-old, who was born in Sicily to Ghanaian parents and given up for adoption when he was three, has faced racist abuse throughout his career in Italy. He was backed by Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti and by rival club AS Roma, among others, for his action on Sunday.

But the Verona club and the city’s mayor Federico Sboarina, who said he was at the game, denied the racist insults took place.

On Tuesday, the Gazzetta dello Sport published a motion sent to the Verona council by four councillors proposing that “the mayor and the legal offices of the municipality should take legal action against the footballer and all those who attack Verona by unjustly defaming it.”

The motion added: “It is no longer fair that Verona is put in the dock when, as in this case, nothing happened.”

Serie A’s disciplinary tribunal was due to announce its decision in the case — the latest in a long line of alleged racist incidents to mar Italian football — later on Tuesday.

Italian authorities have long been criticised by anti-racism campaigners for not doing enough to tackle the problem and last month Cagliari escaped sanctions after Inter Milan forward Romelu Lukaku allegedly suffered racist abuse from their fans.

The insults against Lukaku were judged by the tribunal to be too limited in terms of “real perception” for it to take action.

(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge)