Mario Balotelli, 23, Italian professional soccer player for AC Milan, shed tears on the bench after racist taunts were repeatedly hurled at him, reports Bleacher Report.
Since Balotelli’s reaction was captured on video and spread like wildfire on social media, his coach and teammates have tried to downplay the incident, insisting that racism was not a factor.
“What can I say about Balotelli’s tears? They were the tears of a sportsman,” said Coach Clarence Seedorf in a press conference following the game.
Seedorf insisted that Balotelli’s tears are “human.”
“These are things that happen many times in football and sport in general,” said Seedorf in an interview with Mediaset Premium. “I’d say it was actually beautiful, but I’d prefer to talk about the game.”
“We are players,” he said to Sky Sports Italia, “and there are times when we express ourselves that way. I see nothing wrong or abnormal in that. I experienced it at times too.”
According to Sporting News, Balotelli has been the victim of racist taunts for years:
Last May, Roma fans taunted him, reportedly calling him a “monkey.”
The situation escalated to such a point that the referee had to stop the match and warn fans to shut up over the stadium’s intercom system.
Afterward, The Guardian exposed the on-going and blatant racism that’s often directed at Balotelli, saying it’s deeply-rooted in Italian culture and politics.
It has been going on for years.
But still, Serie A has not yet found a feasible solution to quelling fans’ disturbing treatment of Balotelli, and the fines the league has tried to issue as a penalty have not done enough to deter certain fanbases.
Watch Balotelli allegedly react to the racist taunts below:
Balotelli’s teammates insist that the tears were not due to racism, rather he was just disappointed about being benched.
“Mario really cares about doing well with Milan and making his mark. He is sentimental. It’s a shame that he got so downhearted about it, as he needs to keep his head up,” said Ignazio Abate.
Or could it simply be that several years of being called a “monkey” and a “nig***” have taken their toll on Balotelli?
The soccer player has yet to issue a statement.