Brescia fans have have sided with Hellas Verona supporters instead of Mario Balotelli in the racism row that has engulfed Serie A.
The former Manchester City striker kicked the ball into the crowd and threatened to walk off the pitch in the 54th minute when he was subjected to monkey chants by a section of Verona supporters.
He was convinced to stay by team-mates, Verona players and officials before referee Maurizio Mariani initiated the anti-racism protocol.
Balotelli, who was booked for his actions, went on to score a stunning consolation goal for his side in the 85th minute in their 2-1 loss.
Following the match, Verona banned one of their leading ultras, Luca Castellini, for more than 10 years for comments made about Balotelli, claiming he ‘will never be 100 per cent Italian’.
He said: “We have a n***o in our team and he scored and all of Verona applauded.”
The Serie A side issued a response on the official club website, stating Castellini’s words were ‘ideas contrary to the ethical principles and values of our club’.
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But the racism row has rumbled on, with Verona’s ultras now backing Castellini.
Their statement read: “If Balotelli was not ready psychologically to face the Verona fanbase and, above all, such a delicate match in which our city and our coach – among the most beloved figures – was taking his final chance at saving his job, then he should’ve said so and left his place to someone less irritable than him.
“None of us would’ve been upset if he had, quite the contrary.
“The personal declarations of one of the leaders of the Verona Curva cannot justify the witch-hunt sparked by the media and institutions in yet another attempt to criminalise and destroy the entire Ultras world.
“This does not mean that certain chants are legitimate or acceptable, but nor are all Verona fans racists and the Verona Curva some sort of KKK coven.
“Entire fanbases cannot be considered racist, but racism does exist and it is often used to create mass panic in public opinion.
“This unconventional language is used more and more by public and political figures, but of course nobody would think of banning them because of some code of ethics.
The statement then appeared to justify the fans’ racist action by saying the former Liverpool and Man City striker was ‘arrogant’.
“We have absolutely no doubts that Balotelli is to all intents Italian, and even a Bresciano, but the arrogance that he continually gives off is unjustifiable.
“The notorious ‘Balotellate’ antics are now all too well known.
‘What matters more to us are the spirit of sacrifice, passion respect, motivation and sweating for the shirt, concepts that seem to be entirely unknown to him.
“We condemn any gesture or provocation that is clearly hostile and discriminatory, but, we also want to give our solidarity to those who once again saw their liberty destroyed.
“This time it wasn’t even by the authorities, who considered his behaviour not that serious, but by his own club.”
Balotelli recently explained his reaction to the vile abuse, saying: “I know that we’re not supposed to give these people attention, but we can’t just not underline the seriousness of what they are doing either.”