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03rd Jun 2018

Mario Balotelli calls on Italy to become more like England after fans displayed racist banner

Italy fans unfurled an offensive banner at their last match against Saudi Arabia.

Reuben Pinder

He has had to deal with this his whole career

Mario Balotelli is a complex character. For years he has been criticised by fans and the press for his erratic behaviour, but it is not surprise that he occasionally acts out when you consider what he has had to endure throughout not only his career but his entire life.

Balotelli’s return to the Italy squad was tainted by yet another incident of racially fuelled abuse aimed at him, as Italy fans displayed a banner saying ‘Il mio capitano è di sangue italiano’ which translates to: ‘My captain has Italian blood’.

He responded to the banner on Instagram, stating “Guys, we’re living in 2018! Wake up! Please stop with that.”

In the build up to tomorrow night’s friendly between Italy and the Netherlands, Balotelli has spoken to the press, and has called on Italy to follow in the footsteps of France and England when it comes to tackling racism.

“It’s complicated, I lived it when I was younger, and today I do not know if it’s true racism or jealousy … It hurts, it’s time for Italy to become like France and England. As I wrote, it’s time to wake up”, he said.

Leonardo Bonucci is the current captain of the Italy side, who are now without Gigi Buffon and Daniele De Rossi. Balotelli has been in the frame to become vice-captain, as the coaching staff consider him to have matured greatly during his four years outside the national set-up. He was asked about these rumours, and responded by saying:

“To be a captain would not change that much for me, I’m in this National team to score goals. I can be an example without the captain’s armband, for the others, the African immigrants, it would be a strong signal.”

When asked about why he was left out of the national squad for the past four years, Balotelli acknowledged that he was not in the right physical condition to play under Antonio Conte, but was less convinced by Gian Piero Ventura’s reasoning.

“Ventura? We talked but I did not understand his explanations, but I respect his choices. Why did not he call me up? I have an idea, but I keep it to myself.”

It is not a coincidence that his return to the side has come after Roberto Mancini’s appointment as manager. Mancini coached Balotelli at Manchester City and has a strong relationship with the 27-year-old forward.