Inter fined for Balotelli slurs
The Lega Serie A have made a bolder statement of intent in the battle against the racist behaviour marring Italian football by fining Inter Milan 50,000 euros (£43,000) after supporters racially abused AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli.
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Balotelli was the victim of "racially discriminatory chants" from a section of the Nerazzurri support on Sunday as he faced his former club for the first time since leaving for Manchester City in 2010, amid the heat of a Milan derby.
The Italy international, who failed to score, held his finger to his lips in response to the consistent abuse which grew stronger in the second half of a 1-1 draw, while several supporters were seen waving inflatable bananas.
Two weeks ago, Inter were fined 15,000 euros (£12,900) when fans were heard singing discriminatory songs against the 22-year-old Italy international in a league victory over Chievo.
Now Lega authorities have more than doubled that punishment in a concerted bid to pressurise Inter and other Italian clubs into taking a firmer stance on racism and discrimination in their stadia.
A statement published on the Lega's official website read: "A fine of 50,000 euros has been issued to Inter Milan because supporters - in the 11th minute of the first half and in the 11th, 15th, 16th and 19th minutes of the second half - directed racially discriminatory chants and shouts at an opposition player."
More fleeting chants were directed at Ghana international Sulley Muntari as he approached the stands populated with Inter fans ahead of two corner kicks.
"In the 30th minute of the first half and the 44th minute of the second half they directed similar chants to a different player of the opposition," the statement continued.
"In the 12th minute of the first half and in the 34th and 37th minutes of the second half, four banners containing insulting messages about a player from the opposite team were unfurled."
The punishment also took into account that a laser pen had been shone onto the San Siro pitch from the crowd during the game.
While Inter convened to discuss how to tackle a problem which could have deeper financial and competitive implications should it continue, or indeed worsen, Balotelli and a section of Milan fans were also found responsible for creating some of the high tension at the stadium.
On Tuesday Milan were fined 10,000 euros (£8,600) after fans unfurled a banner mocking their former striker Antonio Cassano, now with Inter, who had life-saving heart surgery while playing for the Rossoneri.
Balotelli was later praised by the management of both sides for keeping his cool during the match but he was adjudged by the Lega to have directed an undisclosed insulting gesture towards the Inter fans as he walked towards the players' tunnel.
The events of Sunday's match marked the third time Balotelli has been the victim of racism since his return to Italy after spending two and a half years in England.
Inter president Massimo Moratti apologised when a section of his club's fans sang racist songs about Balotelli during a league victory over Chievo, but Milan's own management had already made an embarrassing public blunder.
Milan vice-president Paolo Berlusconi - the younger brother of club owner Silvio - was filmed at a political meeting in Monza near Milan describing Balotelli in derogatory terms.
That came just four weeks after Silvio Berlusconi praised midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng for walking off the pitch after he was racially abused during a friendly.