‘We heard nothing on the pitch… Verona fans are ironic but not racist’: Club president Maurizio Setti DENIES fans racially abused Brescia striker Mario Balotelli with ‘monkey chants’
- Mario Balotelli was the target of alleged ‘monkey chants’ by Hellas Verona fans
- The Brescia striker picked the ball up mid-game and booted it into the crowd
- He was calmed down by team-mates and was urged to continue with the match
- Hellas Verona president Maurizio Setti was adamant that ‘nothing happened’
- He refuted any allegations that his side’s supporters had been racist to Balotelli
Hellas Verona president Maurizio Setti insists the club’s supporters are ‘ironic but not racist’ as he vehemently dismissed suggestions that fans had racially abused Brescia striker Mario Balotelli.
Balotelli booted the ball into the stands and was only stopped from storming off the pitch by his team-mates after he became angry towards the abuse being made in his direction.
But for Setti, it was all irrelevant as he continued to persist with the narrative that ‘nothing happened on the pitch’ towards the Italian striker.
Mario Balotelli was consoled by team-mates after being the target of racist abuse in Verona
But Hellas Verona president Maurizio Setti wholeheartedly denied his fans abused the striker
‘The Verona fans are special and they have a sympathetic way of joking with people,’ Setti told reporters.
‘But racism doesn’t exist. And if it exists we would be the first to denounce it. If two out of 20k people say something differently then there’s no need to take it to the extreme. We will catch them and remove them from football. This is the solution. We shouldn’t remember the Verona of 30 years ago, today we are a club that has sport in its DNA.
‘We have a lot of players of colour so we denounce racism. Let me repeat: today nothing happened on the pitch.
Balotelli (right) was left emotional but the whole ordeal with offensive noises clearly audible
The Brescia forward attempted to play through it to begin with before deciding to stop play
‘The Verona fans are ironic but not racist. I know Balotelli, he is a sensible person. Maybe today it’s something else because we were playing and you didn’t hear a thing. Obviously a gesture by a player takes on a different relevance.
‘I spoke to Balotelli, I apologised to him if someone said something, but you didn’t hear anything on the pitch. We are making something big out of this. Nothing happened in Verona.’
Setti’s response has been met by criticism with ‘monkey noises’ clearly audible on footage that emerged from the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi.
But Setti’s comments aligned with the thoughts of Hellas Verona boss Ivan Juric as he also denied hearing anything untoward directed at Balotelli.
‘I’m not afraid to say: today there was nothing. Lots of whistling and teasing against a great player, but there was nothing else,’ Juric said at a press conference, reported on the Verona official website.
‘I have also taken so many insults over the years, I know what it means, but today there has been nothing.
‘On the reason of the reaction you have to ask him. When there is racism, I will have no problem saying so because it sucks, even if it comes from my fans.
Verona boss Ivan Juric came out after their 2-1 win to deny his fans racially abused Balotelli
Balotelli spoke with head coach Eugenio Corini (left) as he threatened to walk off the pitch
‘But today I heard nothing. We don’t create a case where there isn’t, it would be a lie.’
The game was temporarily suspended while a message was read out by the stadium announcer warning that the match would be abandoned if racist abuse was to occur.
It was an incident that became a major talking point in Italy over the weekend with national team manager Roberto Mancini lending his support after a powerful statement from the player.
Balotelli got a goal in a 2-1 defeat before he later wrote, as translated from Italian: ‘Thanks to all the colleagues on and off the field for the solidarity expressed toward me and all of the messages received from you fans.
‘A heartfelt thanks. You’ve shown yourself to be real men, not like those who deny the evidence.’
It was the second time such a protocol has been followed in Serie A this weekend after the game between Roma and Napoli was briefly halted when territorial chants were directed at the Napoli supporters.
Balotelli pulled a goal back for his side with five minutes to go but his team eventually lost 2-1
Roma-Napoli was temporarily suspended over ‘territorial chants’ aimed towards away fans