'Balotelli must prove himself'

Roberto Mancini says when he calls up Mario Balotelli to play for Italy again it will not be because of the colour of his skin.

13 November 2019 | Sports

Italy coach Roberto Mancini says he will only call up Mario Balotelli if he deserves it for football reasons, and not to make a statement against racism.

Balotelli, who has not played for Italy since September 2018, kicked the ball towards opposition fans and threatened to walk off the pitch, after being subjected to racist insults from the crowd during Brescia's Serie A match against Hellas Verona earlier this month.

“When I call (up) Mario Balotelli it will be because he deserves it, not because of the colour of his skin,” Mancini told a news conference.

“I know Mario and I love him. Remember, I got Mario to play when he was a boy, so I know him really well.”

Italian soccer federation president Gabriele Gravina said last week that naming Balotelli in the squad would send a strong message against racism, but Mancini said the player had not done enough on the pitch to deserve a recall. “You can think like the president said, but you need to understand that if Balotelli gets another chance, it will be because he deserves it from a technical point of view,” Mancini added. Racism has been a problem in Serie A in recent months. Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku was abused by Cagliari fans in September and a game was briefly suspended when Fiorentina defender Dalbert said he had been racially abused by Atalanta supporters.

Italy has already qualified for next year's European Championship, but a victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina on Friday would give them a 10th consecutive win.

Balotelli earned his first cap for Italy in a friendly match against the Ivory Coast on 10 August 2010. He amassed over 30 caps and represented his country at Euro 2012, the 2013 Fifa Confederations Cup and the 2014 Fifa World Cup.

He helped the national side reach the final of Euro 2012, and also won a bronze medal at the Confederations Cup. Along with Antonio Cassano, he is Italy's top-scorer in the Uefa European Championship with three goals. He is also Italy's top-scorer in the Fifa Confederations Cup, alongside Giuseppe Rossi and Daniele De Rossi.



NAMPA/REUTERS

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