Rome: Mario Balotelli’s most important kick on Sunday had nothing to do with the curling shot that he whipped into the top corner of the goal from beyond the box.
Rather, it was the drop-kick the Brescia striker made moments earlier when he booted a ball high into the stands to express his frustration at racist chants from Hellas Verona fans.
Balotelli then attempted to leave the field in the most high-profile incident yet in a Serie A season that has been marred by constant episodes of discrimination.
“Thanks to all the colleagues on and off the field for the solidarity expressed toward me and all of the messages received from you fans,” Balotelli wrote later in Italian on Instagram, accompanied by a video from the match. “A heartfelt thanks. You’ve shown yourself to be real men, not like those who deny the evidence.”
Balotelli was even more direct in a message he posted in an Instagram story over a video from the stands where monkey noises are clearly heard, followed by wild cheers when he kicked the ball into the stands. The message 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.”
It was the second time this weekend that a Serie A game was suspended for offensive chants, after Roma supporters aimed anti-territorial chants at Napoli on Saturday.
Derogatory chants have also been aimed at Romelu Lukaku, Dalbert Henrique, Miralem Pjanic, Ronaldo Vieira and Kalidou Koulibaly in Serie A this season. There was also a case of racist chants aimed by Verona fans at AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie in September.
Visibly upset as he fought for the ball near the corner flag at the end of the stadium where the monkey chants were emanating from, Balotelli had heard enough. He interrupted the action, picked up the ball with his hands and drop-kicked it into the crowd.
Brescia teammates and Verona players went over to embrace Balotelli and persuaded him to stay as the referee ordered a warning to be read out over the stadium’s public address system.
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).”
Brescia coach Eugenio Corini also said he didn’t hear the offensive chants but added, “If the referee decided to suspend the match and ask for that announcement to be made something must have happened.“ Honestly, I was far away and I didn’t hear anything,” Corini said. Corini was later fired by the club who have struggled this season and are near the bottom of Serie A.