The Sweeper: Mario Balotelli and Racism in Italian Football
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.
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The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.