Nine minutes into the second half, Brescia striker Mario Balotelli threatened to walk off the pitch after receiving alleged racist abuse from Hellas Verona fans during the teams’ Serie A match Sunday.
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Balotelli stopped the game when he picked the ball up and volleyed it into the offending section of the stadium.
Reuters reported that Italian football player was convinced to stay in the game by team-mates, Verona players and officials before referee Maurizio Mariani initiated the anti-racism protocol. As a result, the game was temporarily suspended while a message was read out by the stadium announcer which warned that the match would be canceled if racist abuse continued.
This was the second time such a protocol has been followed in Serie A this weekend after the game between Roma and Napoli was briefly halted when territorial chants were directed at the Napoli supporters.
Despite the incident, Verona's coach Ivan Juric denied hearing anything offensive from the stands. “I am not afraid to say there were no racist chants today,” Juric told Sky Sport Italia while admitting that Balotelli may have received some provocations but not with a racist tone.
The game finished in a 2-1 victory for Verona, but Balotelli made his mark by scoring a superb strike with five minutes to go.
Later on, the Italian football player, send a message on his Instagram account thanking his teammates and followers.
Brescia manager Eugenio Corini was quick to offer full support to the player, saying the incidents had also been heard by players on the pitch from both sides and expected the Italian Football Federation to open an investigation.
“This afternoon it happened to one of our players, but it could have happened to anyone else, of any team and the sentence should be as equally firm and determined,” the club statement read, adding that “football is for everyone and everyone deserves the same respect.”
Last month, FIFA President Gianni Infantino urged authorities to hand out stadium bans for supporters guilty of racism after another incident in a Serie A match between Atalanta and Fiorentina.
Infantino underlined the importance of "identifying those responsible for racist conducts and throw them out of the stadiums, we need to combat them until they stop, we can't have racism in society or football, and in Italy, the situation hasn't improved much lately."
Inter Milan's Romelu Lukaku and AC Milan's Franck Kessie have also been targeted this season but no club has been punished by the league judge.