Mario Balotelli praises English football

Mario Balotelli has praised the way English football has taken on racism, apparently saying that ‘the culture of integration is much more widespread than in Italy’. Where The Guardian gets this quote from is unknown, as they’ve not included it in the main body of quotes you can see below, and have provided no link to it.

Still, it’s clear that living in the UK, and especially a cosmopolitan city like Manchester, is a slightly different experience to most of Italy, where the first generation of black Italians catch dog’s abuse from a wide variety of racist idiots. Be they Lega Nord secessionists, who want to create a new country separate of Italy, or your bog-standard fascists, there’s not a lot of sympathy for dark-skinned people

‘The day I arrived at Manchester City it was three black boys who asked for my first autographs, and I presented them with my white cap,’ said the City striker. ‘I am proud to be black and Italian. I've learned from my family that no one is ‘upside down’ (a Italian phrase meaning ‘different’) simply because he speaks, prays or thinks differently.’

Balotelli also spoke about his first game as a professional footballer for Lumezzane, when he was still only 15 years old. It was was at Padova, a hotbed of Lega Nord and fascist activism, and unsurprisingly he was hammered with racist abuse from the home fans.

‘I was still not 16, the club had to ask for special dispensation from the Italian FA and the authorisation of my parents,’ he said. ‘It was my first professional match and I entered the pitch with an indescribable feeling of joy… but as soon as I came on a choir of boos greeted my appearance. The happiness and excitement of my debut prevented me from hearing those boos, as if they shut my ears off, but with time I've heard very clearly all the insults and boos.

‘They've always prompted me to try to score. I say to myself: ‘You should not get angry when they shout at you; if you let it affect you, next time they'll get even worse’. But pretending that nothing has happened can be dangerous too.’

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