In Depth

What can Balotelli learn from the FA about online racism?

Striker's anti-racism message backfires as he is banned, fined and sent on an 'education course'

Quite what the FA hopes Mario Balotelli will learn on his "education" course is unclear, but as Liverpool take on Arsenal this Saturday, the Italian striker will be boning up on social media etiquette as he serves a one match ban for posting an "abusive or insulting" message online.

The post in question took the form of an anti-racist message featuring the Nintendo character Super Mario, from whom Balotelli acquired his nickname.

It celebrated the cartoon character's diverse background, but unfortunately for the Italian the message veered wildly off message as it finished with the words "jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a Jew".

That was enough for the FA to ban Balotelli, fine him £25,000 and order him to attend an education course.

Balotelli did not attend the hearing on Thursday, but as the Daily Telegraph points out a blow-by-blow account of the vitriolic racist abuse he has been subjected to throughout his career was submitted to the FA in mitigation.

"The 24-year-old also apologised for the offence and pointed out that his foster mother is Jewish," notes the paper.

But Balotelli appeared to accept the punishment. Writing on his Facebook page he said: "I am sorry that my team-mates and supporters of Liverpool FC have to be penalised for something I did and now come to regret. It is my intention to comply with the decision of the FA and make sure it never happens again."

There is a measure of irony in the fact that the message appears below his Facebook cover photo - a picture of the striker carrying a 'No to racism' Uefa pennant.

And still more in the fact that Balotelli's rap-sheet now carries a conviction for racism, when that is the one and only issue that the player has never taken lightly. 

He has a laissez-faire attitude towards training, fire safety and people's expectations of him but despite his lack of respect for authority he has consitently made it clear that he despises prejudice.

Perhaps the authorities know what they can teach him about the subject... FA.

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