STADIO MARIO RIGAMONTI (Brescia) – On January 6, 2010, when Mario Balotelli scored the first Serie A goal of the decade for Inter against Chievo he probably wouldn’t have imagined that ten years on he’d be doing exactly that again for his Brescia against Lazio.
But so it proved. Balotelli has opened the scoring for each of the last two decades in Serie A, having shone in France and conquered England as well as representing both Inter and AC Milan in between.
Doing so in the city where he grew up should have been cause for celebration, but the Italian was unfortunately made to endure yet more racist abuse from opposing supporters.
From the very first kick the forward’s every touch was greeted with whistles and jeers from the away support, which drowned out the monkey chants aimed in his direction.
Those chants were there though. Balotelli heard them, the Brescia fans heard them, other players surely heard them. He brought them to the attention of referee Gianluca Manganiello.
The game wasn’t brought to a halt, despite the reports suggesting that it was, but an announcement was made warning Lazio fans that discriminatory chanting would lead to protocol being followed and the game potentially being suspended.
Moments later, Balotelli cleverly turned in the Lazio area and scored in front of Brescia’s Curva Nord with a fine finish. Making his way back to the halfway line for kick off, he gestured to the fans in the far corner by pointing to his ear, indicating that he could hear what they had been chanting.
It’s no longer a surprise that Balotelli is still on the end of this kind of abuse, but what’s most depressing is the reaction to it from some Lazio fans and others who have their own preconceptions about the forward.
A quick scroll through social media stories reporting the abuse will show Lazio fans, many of which weren’t at the Mario Rigamonti, denying that the chants ever happened, instead pointing out that other abuse was aimed in his direction, but there was nothing to do with his race.
The Italian knows what he heard though, as do the many Brescia supporters who responded by whistling and drowning out the idiotic chants.
“Balotelli, son of a b****” and “Balotelli, piece of s***” were also sung in his direction, which Lazio fans have been quick to point out, but that doesn’t mean the other chants didn’t happen.
They did, they were heard, and this trend of accusing victims of racism of lying needs to stop.
Often accused of immaturity, Balotelli should instead be praised for how he’s dealt with the vile abuse he’s had to endure on an almost weekly basis since returning to Italy.
At Hellas Verona he tried to walk off the pitch only to stay on and score an excellent long-range effort, while on Sunday he again kept his cool and scored in the face of racism.
“Shame on you Lazio fans who were at the stadium.” he wrote on Instagram on Sunday afternoon, along with the hashtag #SayNoToRacism.
The 29-year-old has acted admirably, though it’s sad that he feels the need to just keep playing on.
Racist abuse happens too often in Italian stadiums and hopefully sooner rather than later more in Italy will show solidarity with him and refuse to play on when it happens.