June 21, 2012
Politician at centre of racism storm
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
WARSAW - Mario Balotelli just can't stay out of the news ... only this time he isn't to blame.
Ever since Euro 2012 started, the Italian forward has been at the centre of controversy, some of it for being on the receiving end of racist comments and chants from fans.
This time it was a member of a right-wing political party who stirred things up.
Paulo Ciani of Italy's Future and Liberty party mocked up a picture of Balotelli, wearing his Italian No. 9 shirt, picking cabbages from a field.
In Italy, many immigrants from Africa or South America work in the produce fields under all sorts of poor conditions. Balotelli was born in Italy to Ghanaian parents.
Ciani captioned the picture with a reference to an elbow Balotelli directed at Irish player Richard Dunne.
"He commits a foul worthy of a red card, scores, then unleashes a verbal onslaught against the bench forcing them to shut him up. This clown should go and work in the fields," Ciani said.
Ciani has since been accused of racism.
"What I was doing was making a footballing comment," Ciani said. "I was highlighting how Balotelli had committed a bad foul which could have got him sent off -- then his reaction after scoring was so over the top, one of his teammates had to put his hand over his mouth.
"I am friends with (Ghanaian) footballer Kwadwo Asamoah, who is blacker than Balotelli, but he has never been whistled and jeered at because before being a footballer, he is a man. As I said, all I was doing was making a footballing comment."