Mario Balotelli has once again suffered racial abuse, this time receiving insults during an Italian training session for the summer's World Cup.
Balotelli was working with the rest of Cesare Prandelli's squad when fans shouted "black piece of s--t" in his direction, reported by Marcus Christenson of The Guardian. A "small group of young men" were said to be the perpetrators by Football Italia (via Eurosport), who believe police intervened at the Coverciano complex.
Christenson indicates Balotelli "did not react," but turned to teammates and said, "This only happens in Rome and Florence." Wednesday's incident comes at a busy time for the 23-year-old forward, who has just finished the Serie A season with AC Milan and is preparing to lead Italy's charge for World Cup glory.
Sky Sports' Staff later provided a statement from Italy's football chief Giancarlo Abete discussing the chants with Gazzetta dello Sport:
"This is unacceptable behaviour," Abete said. "This should not happen. We will take this episode into account. The important thing is that this is only a minority and they have no regard for civil coexistence."
The former Manchester City striker was recently the victim of a burglary which saw his Porsche stolen, per the Associated Press, via The Independent. He is also currently working through a legal hearing with ex-girlfriend Raffaella Fico, in which he is aiming to see his daughter Pia on a regular basis, reported by Hannah Roberts of the Daily Mail.
Balotelli returns to England for a friendly against the Republic of Ireland on May 31, which takes place at Fulham's Craven Cottage. He is set to face the Three Lions during Italy's opening World Cup clash and will proceed to battle against Costa Rica and Uruguay in a testing group.
Unfortunately, Balotelli has been on the end of racist abuse multiple times throughout his young career. Inter Milan fans, a club Balotelli used to represent, were said to have waved "inflatable bananas" in his direction during last year's San Siro derby, reported by Rik Sharma of the Daily Mail.
After receiving further abuse during a later match against Roma, Balotelli indicated he would leave the field if it happens again, reported by Pedro Pinto and James Masters of CNN:
I always said that if it (racism) happened in the stadium I will just do like "nobody says nothing and I don't care." But this time I think I've changed my mind a little bit. If it's going to happen one more time, then I'm going to leave the pitch because it's so stupid.
Joe Krishnan, writer for The Independent on Sunday, highlighted the ridiculousness of abuse coming from Balotelli's home camp after the most recent incident:
Whether Balotelli is set to receive similar abuse at the World Cup remains to be seen. The talented forward will be a key player during Italy's bid for the title if he can remain fit and focused. Rather sadly, he is used to shaking these things off.
Justice is rarely delivered to racists in football, and there's unlikely to be much of a repercussion for those who caused this latest offence. Balotelli will be hoping to move beyond the occurrence with a fine performance at this year's tournament, reminding the narrow-minded onlookers he should be judged on his footballing ability, not the colour of his skin.