Thu, 14 Nov 2019

Milan - Italian club Verona announced on Tuesday they have banned the leader of their hard-core ultras supporters group until June 2030 for saying that Mario Balotelli would never be "completely Italian".

Verona said that Luca Castellini was barred from their stadium "based on considerations and expressions seriously contrary to those that distinguish the ethical principles and values of our club".

Brescia forward Balotelli threatened to leave the pitch on Sunday after being targeted by monkey chants from a section of Verona's supporters during a Serie A game.

Castellini made racist comments on Monday directed at the 29-year-old Italian forward during a radio interview.

"Balotelli's Italian because he has Italian citizenship, but he can never be completely Italian," said Castellini.

When asked if Verona fans were racist, Castellini added: "We have a negro in our team and he scored yesterday and all of Verona applauded."

Despite denials of abuse from Verona, a video published showed a number of supporters directing abuse at Balotelli before the forward booted the ball at them in the stands.

Balotelli, who was born in Palermo to Ghanaian parents but was raised just outside Brescia, had to be held back by players from both teams to stop him leaving the pitch.

"Balotelli's a clown. He only heard it in his own head," continued Castellini.

Former Manchester City and Inter Milan striker Balotelli, who obtained Italian citizenship at the age of 18, has been capped 36 times for Italy.

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