Mario Balotelli and dozens of the biggest Black soccer stars around the globe have spent years dealing with an endless barrage of racism coming from soccer fans across Europe.
Thousands of fans routinely shout monkey noises at Black players and often throw banana peels at them during games. Sunday was no different as fans of Lazio pelted Balotelli with racist chants for minutes, forcing the stadium to stop the game and beg people in the stands to stop.
Balotelli scored in the match, but his team lost 2-1. After the game, he posted on Instagram about the racist chants he heard coming from the stands.
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Sconfitta che fa male ma ci rifaremo siamo sulla strada giusta. Laziali presenti oggi allora stadio VERGOGNATEVI! #saynotoracism✊???????? Is a lost that hurt but we will come back stronger and we are on the right way! Lazio fans that were today at the stadium SHAME ON YOU! #saynotoracism ✊????
The superstar forward is one of Italy's greatest players, nearly winning the country a European Championship in 2012. However, he is repeatedly forced to address racist fans who harass his family and question his nationality. Balotelli was born in Italy to Ghanian parents and was adopted at the age of 3.
When the chants began to get louder around halftime, Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi begged the crowd to stop. The 29-year-old was forced to listen to the racist chants for the entire game, forcing the Lazio team management to address the situation after the game.
“As has always happened in the past, Lazio dissociates itself in the most exhaustive way possible from the discriminatory behavior carried out by a very small minority of fans during the match against Brescia,” the team said in a statement.
“The club reiterates once again the condemnation of similar unjustified behavior and confirms its intent to prosecute those who betray their sporting passion causing a serious injury to the image of the club and the team,” the team added.
Balotelli and other Black soccer stars like Romelu Lukaku, Franck Kessie, Dalbert Henrique, Ronaldo Vieira and Kalidou Koulibaly have said they will walk off the field if the racist abuse continues, but their threats have done little to stop fans from continuing to use monkey chants and other racist abuse throughout matches.
In November, Italian soccer team Hellas Verona FC handed down a 10-year ban to outspoken fan group leader Luca Castellini, who downplayed racist monkey chants directed toward Balotelli and said he isn't Italian because he's Black.
During a November match between Hellas Verona FC and Brescia Calcio, the crowd erupted in monkey chants every time Balotelli touched the ball. At one point during the match, the superstar player kicked the ball into the stands in frustration and threatened to walk off the field before players from both sides apologized.
Serie A's disciplinary commission forced the stadium to close a section for one game as punishment and at a meeting soon after, Italian FA president Gabriele Gravina spoke about proactive methods they could use to stop Italian fans from shouting monkey chants at Black players.
"Balotelli is Italian, he proved to be more Italian than those who offended him. The FIGC will not give up until we put an end to these deplorable episodes. We must respond with advanced technological systems, which remove all alibis. Hence the need for an ever-closer collaboration between our Public Prosecutor's Office and the Ministry of the Interior for the identification of the subjects. In this the FIGC claims a central role," Gravina said.
In another Instagram post last year, Balotelli said, “The ’people’ of this curva who made the monkey chants. Shame on you, shame on you, shame on you. In front of your children, wives, relatives, parents, friends and acquaintances…shame.”