(Reuters) - A 38-year-old Italian man has been handed a five-year stadium ban after being found guilty of directing racial abuse at Italian striker Mario Balotelli in November, the ANSA news agency said on Thursday.
Balotelli, playing for Brescia, threatened to walk off the pitch after hearing monkey chants from the stands during the second half of his side’s 2-1 defeat, leading to Verona being handed a suspended one-match partial stadium closure.
The man accused of initiating the racist chants, which led to a visibly angry Balotelli kicking the ball into the crowd, was identified by Verona police after they reviewed CCTV footage and eyewitness accounts.
The Europe-wide ban will bar him from attending sporting events in the European Union until 2025 and also visiting areas where fans frequently gather on match days.
Balotelli again faced racial insults this month, from Lazio fans, in a 2-1 home defeat and the Serie A club was fined 20,000 euros ($22,206). Police are in the process of identifying those responsible for the abuse.
Balotelli, 29, has suffered racist abuse throughout his career. When he played for Inter Milan, rival fans taunted him with shouts of “There are no black Italians,” and he suffered more insults playing for AC Milan against AS Roma in 2013.
Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Clarence Fernandez
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.