Should Juve receive stadium ban for Balotelli abuse?
After years of racist chanting from the stands, Italian soccer has finally realised it has a problem.
Inter Milan goalscorer Mario Balotelli, born in Palermo and of Ghanaian descent, was racially abused by sections of the Juventus crowd during Saturday’s 1-1 Serie A draw in Turin.
Fans sang “a black Italian does not exist” at the Italy under-21 international.
Maybe it is because the high-profile game was a top-of-the-table clash, maybe it is because Balotelli is Italian, but this time the revulsion felt by fans and the media is much greater than at any time in the past.
Monkey chants towards non-Italian black players are a reasonably regular occurence but clubs normally get just a small fine, like 8,000 euros, from the league. Media coverage is minimal.
This time even some Juve supporters are calling on the authorities to make an example of the Turin club and make them play games behind closed doors at the Stadio Olimpico or force them to move their matches to another stadium.
Making them play at another stadium might not be a huge punishment, though. Despite what Inter and AC Milan think, Juve are Italy’s biggest club and most of their fans are from the rest of the country not Turin. Being forced to play games in the south for example would please many Juve supporters who rarely see their team.
The newspapers expect nothing more than the usual fine but momentum is building with the police involved and Inter president Massimo Moratti saying he would have pulled his team off the pitch if he had been in Turin on Saturday.
Balotelli is a controversial character who likes to wind up opponents and fans but no one deserves the treatment he received.
UPDATE: JUVE MUST PLAY ONE GAME BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
PHOTOS: Inter Milan’s Mario Balotelli (C) celebrates with supporters after scoring against Juventus during their Serie A match in Turin, April 18, 2009. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi