Mario Balotelli, the star striker for the Italian soccer club AC Milan was brought to tears during an away game at Napoli on Saturday. Reports from many of those in attendance say that his reaction was due to racist chants directed at him by huge sections of the crowd.
Balotelli has been the target of racist epithets in the past targeting the color of his skin and his African heritage. He has also faced anti-Jewish bigotry due to the fact that he was raised by a Jewish woman. Even Italy’s best selling Sports Gazette depicted Bolotelli as “King Kong” – a giant ape – climbing England’s “Big Ben” (now called “Elizabeth’s Tower”).
Still, statements from Balotelli’s coach downplayed any element of racism in causing the AC Milan star to cry. One teammate indicated that it may have just been his “passion for the game” and “desire to play” that brought him to tears.
“We are players and there are times when we express ourselves that way. I see nothing wrong or abnormal in that. I experienced it at times too,” Coach Clarence Seedorf rationalized to Sky Sport Italia.
“What can I say about Balotelli’s tears?” he continued. “They were the tears of a sportsman.”
Others tried to dismiss the tears as reaction to a paternity test. But Balotelli began crying even while on the field, and there was no evidence that he was checking his smart phone either from the field or the bench to receive word of such a DNA test. As well, it seems that he Tweeted word about that paternity test several days before the game, the chants from the crowds and the tears.
It seems that a lot of people will go to great lengths to dismiss claims of racism.