Mario Balotelli is widely known in football circles but not always for footballing reasons. The Italian striker has often been at the center of controversy both on and off the pitch. However, this time I must commend the Italian for taking a stand.
During a Serie A match between hosts Verona and Balotelli’s club Brescia, Balotelli was subjected to racist chants from fans in the stadium. Mario had possession of the ball when it all got too much for the striker. He picked up the ball and booted it into the stands and wanted to walk off the field. His teammates and players from the opposition tried to console the clearly devastated Balotelli and eventually play was to resume with the Brescia striker still on the field. Balotelli did manage to find the back of the net later in the game with a superbly struck first time shot but this game will sadly not be remembered for Mario’s beautiful goal but rather the racist incident which preceded it.
I know it seems like I am saying the same things in my reports on racism in football, but I feel compelled to underline the fact that European football has a problem, a problem they are not dealing with properly in my view. Again, there will be a partial stadium closure for Verona, but this is not enough. Has this approach worked thus far to deter the behavior? I would say no, because it is still a big problem all over Europe. Only until bans get longer and the real fans suffer as well will we be able to deter these racists who believe they are superior to someone else because of the color of their skin. You see by making everyone suffer most fans will weed out the racist ones. I refuse to believe the non-racist fans are in the minority and as such will be able to keep the racists from attending the games.
The leader of the ultras has been handed a ten-year ban for the incident and again I don’t think this is harsh enough. One of these days an example will need to be made. A lifetime ban should have been given to the leader even if they have no proof against him personally. The fact that people who follow him believe this behavior is acceptable is enough to ban their leader for life and set an example of what can happen if you don’t change the way you behave. Sadly, the powers that be have missed yet another opportunity.
The fact that the players protests are becoming more visual and more frequent should be extremely worrying for the European football federations as something like this could cause violence in the stands and rioting if they don’t come down harder on this behavior. Players are going to start taking matters into their own hands by not wanting to travel to certain stadiums and walking off the field and this will ruin the beautiful game we love so much. I love watching football, but I would rather players walk off than face racial abuse. I am glad players are taking a stand against racism but now it’s time for their respective football federations to back them up and make the punishments fit the crimes.