[Europe] Photographers report Balotelli abuse
Monday 11 Jun 2012
Italian football star Mario Balotelli was subjected to racist abuse at Euro 2012 yesterday (10 June).
Around 300 Spanish fans made constant monkey chants at the Manchester City striker during the 1-1 draw with Spain.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander has advised England players to walk off the pitch in protest if they are targeted by racists.
He said: “I support referees taking the strongest possible action in the face of racist abuse from the terraces. They have the power to stop the game.
“However, if a referee ignored blatant racist abuse, and the England players or their management felt they were justified in walking off, they should be supported in their action.”
Photographer Chris Brunskill was one of the witnesses of the appalling scenes last night at the 40,000-seater Arena Gdansk in Poland.
He said the supporters were “clearly audible” every time Balotelli got the ball.
Freelancer Chris, 35, from Liverpool, also took a photograph of two fans who he says were frequently involved in the abuse.
“I was sat behind the goal with all the Spanish fans behind me and they were involved in monkey chanting and laughter and mockery whenever Balotelli was on the ball,” he said.
“The ringleaders were two fans who were in fancy dress as Spanish tennis player Rafa Nadal. But the stewards just seemed to think it was a laugh, and they did nothing. They seemed to think it was a giggle.
“These two were at the centre of it in my view but there were hundreds in the Spanish section joining in. I would say there were around 200-300 who joined in at times. It was especially bad when Balotelli was involved in any kind of trouble or altercation, for example when he was booked.”
Getty Images photographer Michael Steele, 46, from Wells, Somerset, said the shameful abuse was loud and unmistakable.
He added: “I could not see who was involved but it was obvious they were monkey chants.
“It was disgusting. There is no excuse for it. I am pretty sure Balotelli knew what was going on and heard it as he was close to that section of the crowd when he was booked.
“There were also what sounded like derogatory chants in Spanish with his name involved, but I do not know what they meant.”
Greek freelance photographer Yiannis Kourtoglou, 31, who lives in Cyprus, said: “The monkey whoops were from the Spanish end. I could not see how many people were involved but they were clear.
“They were designed to put him off his game and they clearly worked – he had a terrible match.
“It was terrible for him and for me as well. He is a human being not a monkey.”
It had not been confirmed last night if Balotelli, who has fronted anti-racism campaigns, or his Italian team-mates heard the abusive chanting during their first qualifying match in Group C.
Balotelli has already suffered sick racist abuse online, with neo-Nazis from his home country claiming he should not be playing for Italy.
The Italian camp revealed that a US-based website called Stormfront, which is run by white supremacists, had been closed down in Italy in recent days because of messages about the striker. The website rants included: “He is black and Jewish – he should play for Israel not Italy.”
Balotelli was brought up by an Italian family with Jewish ancestry. He was targeted after visiting Auschwitz on June 6 with squad members.
Labour’s Mr Alexander insisted that players should take a stand against racism during the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
He said: “If either host country’s fans misbehave, the teams could be taken off by the referee with the home team forfeiting the points.
“Hopefully something like that might encourage players to challenge their supporters.”
From Daily Mirror