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‘Verona isn’t racist, the fans are’ – AIC president Tommasi after Balotelli incident

The former Italian international believes the city isn’t responsible for the derogatory chants of supporters

Racism directed at Brescia striker Mario Balotelli by Hellas Verona fans does not mean the city itself has a problem, says Italian Footballers’ Association (AIC) president Damiano Tommasi.

Balotelli, who has been the target of attacks throughout his career, was again singled out for abuse from the stands during Sunday’s Serie A encounter at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi in Verona.

The Italian reacted angrily, booting the ball into the crowd, before being convinced to stay on the pitch by team-mates and opponents.

After a statement was read out on the public address system, the match continued and Balotelli scored an 85th minute goal, but couldn’t prevent Brescia going down 2-1.

Tomassi condemned the racism problem in Italian football but was adamant that the city of Verona did not have an equality issue and that the blame lies with some football fans of its club.

“I hear too much [racism], and even if there are even just two people [shouting racist abuse], it is two too many,” Tommasi said.

“Few people know its patron saint Zeno was a black bishop and that the Comboni Missionaries active in Africa were born here. The city is not racist, but the behaviour [of Verona’s ultras] is, yes.”

However, Hellas Verona manager Ivan Juric accused Balotelli of lying about the racism claims, insisting it was ‘his problem, not ours’.

“Today there was nothing, no racist abuse,” Juric told Sky Sport Italia. “There was whistling and some goading against a great player. There was nothing.

“I don’t know why he reacted like that. Let’s not put it that way, it’s a lie.

“We don’t talk bullsh*t, if it had happened I would say so, and even if it was our own fans it would make me sick.

“But not today. When he scored the goal, there was a lot of goading. It was his problem, not ours.”

Balotelli responded on social media by labelling racism deniers as ‘not real men’ while also calling out racist abusers in a separate post.

“Thanks to all the colleagues on and off the field for the solidarity expressed toward me and all of the messages received from fans. A heartfelt thanks. You’ve shown yourself to be real men, not like those who deny the evidence,” Balotelli wrote on Instagram.

Balotelli also reposted a video taken by a fan of him being abused, and the Italy international said: “To the ‘people’ in this end who made the monkey noises: shame on you. Shame on you. Shame on you in front of your children, wives, parents, relatives, friends and acquaintances…shame.”

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