Police had to intervene after Mario Balotelli was subjected to racist chants at Italy’s World Cup training base on Wednesday. Children outside the Coverciano complex were responsible for the chants, and Balotelli appeared visibly disturbed. The training session was open to media, and Balotelli could be heard saying as he ran by reporters, “Only in Rome and Florence are they that stupid.”While most of the fans cheered for Balotelli, police approached the area where the chants came from and they quickly ended.
Balotelli was born in Sicily to Ghanaian immigrants and brought up by an Italian foster family. He has faced racist chants throughout his professional career. “It’s unbelievable that in 2014 we still have this form of racism,” Balotelli’s fellow forward, Ciro Immobile, said.
“It’s not great for the nation. We represent Italy.”Immobile, from the Naples area, noted how insulting anti-Naples chants have pervaded Serie A stadiums recently.
“When I hear that it saddens me, because I have a lot of pride in my city,” Immobile said.Balotelli was also the focus of much speculation on racist abuse before the 2012 European Championship, and UEFA placed spotters inside stadiums, resulting in fan behavior by Spain and Croatia being sanctioned. FIFA claims it will have zero tolerance for racism at the World Cup but has not announced plans yet on how it will control behavior inside stadiums.
My last World Cup, says Ribery
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France star Franck Ribery declared Wednesday that the 2014 World Cup finals would be his last, but the Bayern Munich forward left the door open to compete at Euro 2016.
Ribery, 31, who burst on to the international scene at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, told broadcaster RTL: “This will be my final World Cup.” Assessing his chances of leaving the World Cup stage on a high in Brazil the European footballer of the Year said: “We have to go there to achieve something, to try to win the World Cup, quite simply.”
French football chief Noel Le Graet said Ribery was jumping the gun announcing his World Cup retirement.
“The next World Cup is in four years. Ribery is someone who can last a long time. Sporting figures can work for ages so this decision is a little hasty. In any event I hope he will be in good form in Brazil.”
In 2006, he helped steer France to the final where they lost in a penalty shoot-out against Italy.
His 2010 World Cup experience proved vastly different, with France knocked out in the first round and Ribery involved in an infamous players’ strike at a training session. He has turned out 81 times for his country. Ribery will join 17 of France’s World Cup squad at Les.
Bleus’ training headquarters at Clairefontaine outside Paris later Wednesday. He travels to Brazil having won the German league and cup double with Bayern, and in January having been cleared of charges of sex with an under-age prostitute.
In Brazil France, under manager Didier Deschamps who skippered the French to the 1998 World Cup title on home turf, are drawn in Group E. They open against Honduras on June 15, before tackling Switzerland on June 20 and Ecuador five days later. AFP