Nice striker Mario Balotelli believes he “would’ve had less problems and been forgiven earlier” if he had been white, but insists Italy “is not a racist country.”
The 27-year-old former Liverpool and Inter Milan star is the first black player to represent Italy at a major international tournament in 2012, the man now plying his trade in Ligue 1 believes it is the colour of his skin that has kept him out of consideration for selection.
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Balotelli has not featured for the Azzurri since the 2014 World Cup in Brazil despite scoring 22 goals in 31 appearances in all competitions this term and was surprisingly left out by interim coach Luigi Di Biagio in recently friendly matches against Argentina and England last month.
Speaking to the French publication, So Foot, SuperMario "In some stadiums, people chanted ‘There are no black Italians’ at me, yet I am the proof that there are,"
"Even if I am Italian, born and raised in Italy, the law states I only became Italian once I reached the age of 18. The law is wrong and that is perhaps why to this day some people see black as the colour of diversity, of the inferiority of an error in the middle of a team photograph.
"I think that if I had been white, I’d have had fewer problems. Perhaps I did cause some of my own problems and had the wrong attitude at times, but would I have been forgiven quicker? Absolutely yes.”
Yet Balotelli does have hope for the future and insists the issue is not as widespread as some think.
"Italy is not a racist country, but it does have some racists in it. The change is in the hands of the next generation and we must teach our children that everyone is the same, despite apparent differences.”
Balotelli caused controversy on social media when criticising the first black senator to be elected in Italy because he was part of the anti-immigration Lega Nord party.
"That party isn’t exactly beyond reproach when it comes to racism… That man was used and he didn’t realise it, because that way the Lega can say there are black Italians who see things the way they do.
"The main point is to reiterate that there are black Italians. There are Italians and that’s it. Stop. That senator can’t be passed off as an exception, otherwise, we are back to the beginning again. If he’d been elected for any other party, I would’ve had nothing to say.”
Balotelli deals run out in the summer with French outfit as clubs from Premier League and Italy eyeing the rejuvenated striker likes Roma, Inter Milan, West Ham, Juventus, Napoli etc.