Mario Balotelli is involved in a controversy again, but this time it's through no fault of his own.
This time, no one seems to know exactly what happened.
Balotelli, an Italian forward of Ghanaian descent, reportedly suffered racial abuse during Sunday's Milan Derby between AC Milan and Inter Milan. The match finished 1-1, but all the headlines afterwards have focused on Balotelli and inflatable bananas.
According to Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport (in Italian), Inter Milan fans waved inflatable bananas at Balotelli. The 22-year-old played for Inter Milan from 2006 to 2010. He joined Manchester City (where he garnered a reputation as a troublemaker) in 2010 and transferred to AC Milan last month.
Serie A, the top professional league in Italy, will meet on Tuesday to discuss Sunday's incident (Press Association via BBC Sport).
Italian journalist Tancredi Palmeri disputed the accuracy of the allegations. In a series of Twitter posts, Palmeri questioned whether the inflatable bananas were used for racist purposes. He said the bananas are often present in football stadiums.
From the conditions where I was,nothing distinguishable racist happened. As said,sometimes camera's eyes might be more spot on than human's— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) February 25, 2013
English tabloid the Daily Mail reported on Monday that an eyewitness had shown video of Inter Milan supporters waving the inflatable bananas at Balotelli. The source was not identified.
"Balotelli did very well not to react to the provocations, I'm just sorry he wasn't able to score," AC Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri said (per Daily Mail). "He had a great first half. Let's not forget that he's 22 years old and he was playing against his former squad. It's to be expected that he felt pressure for this match."
This is not a first for either Inter Milan or Balotelli. Earlier this month, Lega Serie A fined Inter Milan €15,000 after fans directed racist chants at Balotelli during a league match between Inter and Chievo Verona (via Daily Telegraph).
Shortly after Balotelli's arrival in Milan from Manchester City, Paolo Berlusconi—vice-president of AC Milan and the brother of club owner and president Silvio Berlusconi—used a racial slur when talking about Balotelli (via The Guardian).
Last summer, at Euro 2012, Balotelli threatened to kill any fans who would have thrown a banana at him in the street or on the pitch (via The Guardian).
The latest allegations are troubling, though it's important to remember that all the facts are not yet known. In this case, patience is probably the key.
That said, if the allegations prove true, Inter Milan should receive stiff punishment. The club's fans have already disgraced themselves with regard to Balotelli, and they've already been punished.
If it turns out that they once again abused Balotelli racially, that would suggest the previous punishment was not nearly harsh enough.