The Sweeper: Mario Balotelli and Racism in Italian Football

Mario Balotelli

Big Story

Last season, Juventus were forced to play a game behind closed doors after fans racially abused Inter’s Mario Balotelli. On Saturday, Balotelli was abused again — this time by Cagliari fans — and the match went on, a decision criticised after by both Massimo Moratti, President of Inter, and by Italian Footballers Association president Sergio Campana. Campana believed the referee should have stopped the game, saying “Faced with this type of behaviour, referees should suspend the match, something which did not happen in Cagliari. In these cases the rules are very clear. Suspension of matches are part of the rules and rules have to be respected.”

Unfortunately, the referee can only do this if the official in charge of public safety at the stadium orders it and this is conveyed to the referee.  It would work better if this is a two-way process, as the referees (especially the fourth official) are best-placed to notice racial abuse of a player: they should be able to take the initiative to abandon a game.

Meanwhile, Cagliari president Massimo Cellino — who was not even at the game — has claimed the abuse was not because of Balotelli’s race. “It’s wrong to take the whistles and interpret them wrongly,” he said to Sky Sport 24. “It was just a small episode that should not be made more important than it is. In Cagliari people aren’t racist.” Many Cagliari fans have taken this tack, claiming the abuse was because of his personality.

If the authorities conclude otherwise, they should ensure precedent is followed from last season and force Cagliari to play behind closed doors as well as beef up the ability of referees to take prompt action.

Worldwide News

  • Turns out the MLS Cup final isn’t a bigger draw for network television than Desperate Housewives: due to its primetime spot, Disney are putting MLS Cup on ESPN instead of ABC this year, the SportsBusiness Journal reports. It’s not news the game is on a Sunday night, and ESPN is hardly Mun2, so all the fuss about this seems a little overblown.
  • Ronaldinho has denied reports he’s to quit the game. The Brazilian’s decline hasn’t had the dramatic serious substance-abuse drama of Maradona, Best or Gascoigne, but in its own way, his story in footballing terms is just as sad: a decline based on malaise and money cutting in its prime one of the sport’s greatest ever talents.
  • Adidas and Puma have finally ended their feud! Meanwhile, Adidas extended their major sponsorship deal with UEFA through 2017.
  • A touch of trouble broke out in Australia’s A-League, between fans of the Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United. The Roar points out just how minimal it was, but offers the familiar warning that just the whiff of violence could turn off the general public in Australia.
  • It’s about time: the Football League have finally announced they are investigating the takeover of Notts County. We pointed out many weeks ago that the mystery behind the financing of the club needed to be solved by authorities.
  • Which top flight European team has had the most disappointing start to the season?  It simply has to be Hertha Berlin, in title contention last season but now humiliatingly rooted to the bottom of the Bundesliga.

The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

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