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Italian newspaper, La Gazzetta dello Sport, published a photo of Italian soccer player Mario Balotelli depicted as King Kong (pictured), the New York Daily News reports.

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It seems that the message behind the photo was suppose to show Balotelli toppling England (which they did in yesterday’s Euro Cup Semifinals). But obviously, the photo was poorly executed.

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Balotelli, who was born in Italy but is of Ghanian descent, expressed his fears about anticipated racism in Ukraine and Poland before the tournament started.

“Let’s see what happens at the Euro. I hope that there will not be a problem,” he told France Footall. “Because I really can’t handle that.”

“I cannot bear racism, it’s unacceptable for me. If it had happened again I would straight away leave the pitch and go home. We are in 2012. It can’t happen,” the 21-year-old added.

Euro Cup 2012 has been the target of robust media coverage over concerns of racism in the tournament’s host countries, Ukraine and Poland. Here is more on this story by the Daily News:

Despite efforts to stem any racist outbursts, racism has been an issue at the month-long tournament. In Italy’s group-play match against Croatia, Croatian fans directed racist chants at Balotelli and a banana was thrown onto the pitch during the match. The Croatian Football Federation was fined 80,000 euros ($106,000) last week for their fans’ actions.

I lived in Eastern Europe for four years–more than a year in Ukraine–and I am the first person to recognize the ills of racism in both nations. Though I do feel the western media’s reporting on racism in Ukraine and Police is a bit much.
The West has its own issues.
For example, Italy is experiencing rising trends of racism and its ex-Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who upon meeting America’s first Black President, said he was “young, handsome and tanned.” If Berlusconi remarks were said out of ignorance, then he truly defies the stereotype of the “cultured Italian.”
Given that an Italian publication is the guilty party of the racism, I wonder if western media outlets will rationalize this photo as harmless? Or will they go as hard on Italy as they have on Ukraine or Poland?
I doubt it.