Balotelli Mafia row gets Italy squad banned from Twitter
Cesare Prandelli acts swiftly after striker is branded an 'imbecile' by anti-mob campaigner
NOT content with being called "bonkers", footballer Mario Balotelli has now been branded an "imbecile" by a leading anti-Mafia campaigner in Italy and managed to get himself and the entire Italian World Cup squad banned from using Twitter in Brazil next summer.
The latest episode of Mad Mario's misadventures began at the weekend when Balotelli, currently serving a three-match ban for abusing a referee, arrived in southern Italy ahead of last night's World Cup qualifier against Armenia.
There was a scuffle at the railway station when the team arrived, but worse was to come for Balotelli, who later apologised for pushing a cameraman.
With the Azzurri safely qualified for Brazil, much of the media focus was on the national team's decision to train with a team that had severed its links to the Camorra, the notorious Naples crime syndicate.
"The story has legs because Balotelli had already come under fire for hanging out with a couple of Naples mobsters," explains The Independent. "As a result, he was accused of glamourising the criminal organisation." In 2011 he was even called as a witness in a police investigation into the crime family.
Italian sports paper La Gazzetta dello Sport suggested that the former Man City striker should see himself as a role model in the fight against organised crime.
Mario, unsurprisingly, decided not to play along. "That's what you say!" he replied. "I'm coming [to Naples] because football is great and everyone should play it where they want to..."
That led to anti-mafia campaigner Rosaria Capacchione calling Balotelli "an imbecile" and a "silly, spoilt child".
Italian coach Cesare Prandelli reacted swiftly to stop any more dramas, introducing "stringent" new rules. "We are looking at banning the use of social networks for players," he announced. "The restriction will definitely be in force for the World Cup training camp."
But there was sympathy from Italian soccer federation president Giancarlo Abete, according to MSN sport. He reflected that Balotelli was always "in the eye of the cyclone". He's not wrong. Guess who scored Italy's late equaliser against Armenia on Tuesday night... ·