Mario Balotelli King Kong race row after Italian cartoon

Mario Balotelli

Striker said to be outraged as he is depicted as giant ape climbing Big Ben tower

LAST UPDATED AT 11:16 ON Wed 27 Jun 2012

MARIO BALOTELLI is at the centre of a new race row as Italy prepare for their Euro 2012 semi-final against Germany on Thursday, and this one involves his own media after the Gazzetta dello Sport published a cartoon depicting the striker as King Kong.

The drawing showed Balotelli clambering up Big Ben tower and swatting away footballs. It is reminiscent of the scene in the film in which the giant ape fights off areoplanes at the top of the Empire State Building.

The cartoonist, Valerio Marini, said the aim of the cartoon, published on Sunday, was to show Balotelli dominating England in the Euro 2012 quarter-final.

However, his efforts have not been well received. "The Balotelli camp are deeply unhappy by what has been described behind the scenes as a 'horrible' piece of work, particularly given the history of racist abuse the Manchester City player has suffered and the flashpoints that have occurred at Euro 2012," reports The Guardian. The Daily Mail goes even further and says the player was "outraged".

Even the paper has been forced to admit that it made a mistake in publishing the image. "Maybe wasn't the cartoonist's best work," said Gazzetta. It added that it needed to show more "prudence and good taste" as things could be misinterpreted. But the paper insisted that it always fought against racism, and condemned booing against Balotelli at the tournament.

However, not everyone was impressed by Gazzetta's non-apology. Writing in The Independent Simon Martin asked: "Is there anything to misinterpret in the depiction of a black Italian footballer as an oversized gorilla?"

The row has overshadowed the build-up to Thursday's game.

Ahead of the other semi final between Spain and Portugal tonight the spotlight is on Ronaldo, the Portuguese star who plays for Real Madrid in Spain. But he brushed off the pressure, commenting: ""These games are part of my life. I have to be used to them. Responsibility yes, pressure no." · 

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