The Sweeper: The Racist Abuse of Mario Balotelli

Mario Balotelli

Big Story
The treatment of Inter’s Mario Balotelli by Juventus fans is headline news again as they ignored an open plea from their president to restrain their offensive abuse on Sunday. In the English-language press, everyone is tip-toeing around the racism word.

In the Guardian, Paolo Bandini tells us that Juve fans kept up “an almost constant chorus” of “if you jump Balotelli dies”. Bandini simply presents Juve’s fans assertion that they are not racist and moves on.

At Football Italia, Susy Campanale takes it to the other extreme, blaming Balotelli for the fans behaviour and reducing the threat of racism to just another annoying issue of modern football: “The Juventus fans held up a banner during the match that read: ‘Don’t kid yourself Balotelli, you’d annoy us even if you were white.’ It’s pretty difficult to disagree with them after this sorry performance. Racism must be stamped out of football, but so must play-acting, provocation of opponents and the kind of gamesmanship that has become your bread and butter. This was the perfect opportunity to separate the bigots from the genuine lovers of fair play, but you’ve only united them now in seeing you as the villain. Shame on the racist chants and shame on you, Mario.”

Over at Treasons, Strategems and Spoils, sometime Pitch Invasion contributor Supriya takes Campanale to task for this conflation in an open letter:

Dear Susy,

This is unbelievable. So Juve fans actually bring a banner into the stadium saying YOU WOULD ANNOY US EVEN IF YOU WERE WHITE and you mention it as an aside in a blog that berates Mario for acting like a kid who faces extreme provocation when he goes out to play – which, that’s right, he is! In a match where, according to C4′s own match report, he was not started because they were afraid it would trigger racist chanting? It’s as good as saying ‘…but he provokes it!’ in spite of your neatly-placed caveats.

Why is Mario’s attitude constantly hogging the focus in any discussion about the reactions he faces? Is this how Italy always treats its bratty kids who are good enough to make it to the national team? No. It isn’t. The Tottis and Chiellinis – and even the Cassanos – of the world haven’t confused people the way Mario does. Come on. Basic decency goes beyond acknowledging what is right, it’s about doing what is right. Shame on you, Ms Campanale. And shame on you, Juve, for sending open letters to your hate-mongering fans when you should be locking them out of your matches.

Please read the rest of her thoughts, and I’ll be interested to see Campanale’s response.

Worldwide News

  • A couple of days ago,we featured a photo of Aberdeen’s Red Ultras, Britain’s first ultras group founded ten years ago. Two Hundred Percent has an excellent piece on the slowly growing ultras movement in Britain, and the attempt by fans to reclaim the matchday experience in increasingly plastic settings. More on this later, as I’ll try to annoy English fans by suggesting a thing or two they could learn on how to do this from — gasp — Major League Soccer.
  • How not to inspire confidence in your new fans: Christian Gross pops up at a big club again, taking over at Stuttgart immedialy after Markus Babbel’s departure by “mutual consent”, with the inspiring statement that “I am here to save what is left to save.” Honigstein’s weekly piece has an excellent take on what happened to Babbel and the crisis the club faces, as a dream year turned into a nightmare, with Babbel rightly criticising fans who had attacked the team bus and lamenting that “We’ve had two 19-year-old players on the pitch today and they were scared. Even so-called football millionaires don’t deserve to be threatened with murder and to be confronted with all this naked, angry hate.”
  • It’s a big 2010 ahead for Adidas, who have unsurprisingly struggled with slow sales this year, but who are banking on the World Cup to revive their fortunes. This piece in the Oregonian has some interesting details on the fierce battle between Nike and Adidas for sponsorship rights, with the former quadrupling the latter’s previous deal with France.Their approach to the American market is discussed in some detail, with some commentary on their MLS deal: $150m over ten years for sponsorship of the league, though curiously,  even though Adidas does not sponsor the professional women’s league here (WPS is not mentioned at all), the article cites the female market as critical to the company in the U.S.

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

The Juventus fans held up a banner during the match that read: ‘Don’t kid yourself Balotelli, you’d annoy us even if you were white.’ It’s pretty difficult to disagree with them after this sorry performance. Racism must be stamped out of football, but so must play-acting, provocation of opponents and the kind of gamesmanship that has become your bread and butter.

This was the perfect opportunity to separate the bigots from the genuine lovers of fair play, but you’ve only united them now in seeing you as the villain. Shame on the racist chants and shame on you, Mario.

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