Luca Castellini, an leader of a fan group for the Italian Serie A team Hellas Verona, has been banned for racist comments he made about soccer player Mario Balotelli.
It happened after Balotelli, who plays for Brescia, threatened to walk off the pitch on Sunday due to people in the crowd making monkey noises at him.
Balotelli decided to stay and finish the game after it was paused for five minutes, which is part of a new Serie A protocol to deal with racism.
But afterward, he posted the incident to his Instagram account, thanked those who supported him and slammed those who said there was no racist treatment involved.
Castellini, who heads the ultras — a type of passionate team fan club — of Hellas Verona, was interviewed on Monday about the incident, and he denied the chants were racially motivated. He also said the professional soccer player isn’t really Italian.
Balotelli’s, whose parents are Ghanaian, was born in Sicily as Mario Barwuah, and he was adopted by an Italian family at the age of 3.
“We have an identity culture of a certain kind, we are irreverent supporters,” said Castellini. “We make fun of bald players, the one with long hair, the southern player and the player of color but not with political or racist instincts. This is folklore, it stops all there. Balotelli’s Italian because he has Italian citizenship, but he can never be completely Italian.”
Afterward, Balotelli responded to those comments on Instagram.
“You’re referring to social and historical situations that are bigger than you small-minded people,” he wrote. “Here you are, going crazy, ignorant… You are the ruin.”
Castellini was banned from attending Verona home games until June 30, 2030 for his comments, and the team released a statement.
“Hellas Verona FC announces that it has adopted a disqualification measure against Mr Luca Castellini, who expressed opinions that are seriously contrary to those that distinguish the ethical principles and values of our club,” the statement read. “A suspension has been handed to the subject until 30 June 2030.”