Balotelli threatens to kill racists who throw bananas
Manchester City's Italian striker says he will not tolerate racism at Euro 2012
MARIO BALOTELLI has threatened to kill anyone who throws a banana at him during next month's European Championships. The volatile Manchester City striker has been selected in the Italian squad for the tournament amid growing concerns that Europe's top players will be subject to racist abuse in the Ukraine and Poland.
Earlier this week former Arsenal defender Sol Campbell has urged fans not to travel to Eastern Europe unless they wish to return "in a coffin", comments that drew a sharp response from Ukrainian officials and public figures.
But the families of England players Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have said they won't be travelling to the Championships because of racism concerns but Balotelli intends to tackle the problem head on and has issued a stark warning to the host countries. In an interview with France Football, the 21-year-old said: "If someone throws a banana at me in the street, I will go to prison because I will kill him."
And the Sky Blues striker also ramped up the pressure on tournament officials ahead of Italy's opening match against Spain on June 10. "I hope there will not be a problem at the Euros because if it does happen I would straight away leave the pitch and go home. Racism is unacceptable to me, I cannot bear it. We are in 2012, it can't happen."
Uefa's match officials have the authority to abandon matches in the event of a player or players suffering racist abuse but were that to happen it would be a devastating blow to the image of football - and the image of the Ukraine and Poland, both of which are trying to portray themselves as tolerant and cosmopolitan societies.
Balotelli has suffered more than his fair share of racial abuse in the course of his career. Earlier this year he was subjected to racist abuse from a section of Porto fans during a Europa League tie, and during his formative years with Inter Milan he was once pelted with bananas in a Rome bar. "These two or three lads were lucky the police came straight away because, I swear, I would have given them a proper kicking," he told France Football. "I would have destroyed them. I hope that doesn't happen again."
Balotelli's comments come after a BBC Panorama documentary revealed the extent of racism in the Ukrainian game. It included footage showed Asians being racially abused and fans giving Nazi salutes. In response a Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Oleg Voloshyn, claimed: "Nazi symbols can be seen at any match in England, but does it mean that fans should not come to London for the Olympics?" ·