- (Photo: Reuters/Phil Noble)
Italian soccer star Mario Balotelli was racially insulted by Paolo Berlusconi, the brother of the former Italian prime minister, who is also the vice-president of AC Milan, the club Balotelli just signed for in January.
At a political meeting in Monza, Italy, that was filmed on video, Paolo Berlusconi said in Italian:
"OK, we are all off to see the family's little n*****. He's a crazy head. All the young ladies are invited as well – you can even have a chance to meet the president (Silvio Berlusconi)." Berlusconi's comments came at a rally for a candidate for his brother's right-wing People of Freedom party, The Guardian reported.
Balotelli, the 22-year-old striker, who moved in January from English club Manchester City to AC Milan in Italy, is the country's first black player to play for the national team. He has been outspoken against the racial abuse he has received in Italy, and threatened during last summer's European Championship tournament in Poland and Ukraine to walk off the pitch during any games if he was targeted by fans.
"If [racism] does happen I would leave the pitch and go home," Balotelli told BBC in an interview. "Racism is unacceptable to me, I cannot bear it. We are in 2012, it can't happen.
"If someone throws a banana at me in the street, I will go to prison because I will kill him," he added.
Paolo Berlusconi's famous brother, Silvio Berlusconi, is both the current president of AC Milan and the former prime minister of Italy, who is facing prison over tax evasion.
Italy has had a long-standing problem with racism, and AC Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng walked off the pitch during a friendly game in January after he was racially abused, a decision which the club defended.
Fans have been reacting to Paolo Berlusconi's comments, saying that they cannot be excused for whatever reason. But others have tried to argue that the vice president's remarks were in jest and not meant to be offensive.
"Italian Government should punish Paolo Berlusconi for his disgraceful racist remarks. But I don't think they will, so FIFA should do something about it," one user on the Sun website wrote.
"Balotelli should quit the club. There is no room for racist remark in the world of football," another suggested.
"You guys do not catch his drift. Considering the jovial conversation the guy is engaging in, as usual for the Berlusconi family, that word, given the context, is not meant to be an insult to Balotelli," one fan argued.