Mario Balotelli appears set to become a leader in a battle against racism that flared up in the final part of the Italian Serie A season.
Local media on Tuesday reported that the mayor of Florence Matteo Renzi called the Italian international after he and other AC Milan team-mates with African origins were racially abused at a train station of the Tuscany town.
Balotelli on Sunday was held back as he tried to confront some fans of Fiorentina, who jeered him and his team as they arrived at a Florence train station after defeating Siena 2-1.
The win in the season finale prevented Fiorentina from leapfrogging the Devils in the race for a Champions League berth. “I called Mario and told him that no one can be attacked for the colour of his skin,” said Renzi, who is an active Fiorentina fan.
Italy’s Minister of integration Cecile Kyenge, who is a native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said: “we must be very careful to understand when we talk about racism, about sports, and about a sports defeat, or when other motives lead people to do certain things. Racism is certainly an issue to be tackled,” Kyenge said, “but I think that we must look at when these chants happened and link them to the result of games.”