by Ian Ladyman and Michael Walker
Mario Balotelli’s agent accused UEFA president Michel Platini of being weak on racism the day after the Manchester City striker was abused by Spain fans during Italy’s opening game of Euro 2012.
Balotelli himself has not responded after a minority of Spanish supporters were heard making racist chants during the teams’ 1-1 draw on Sunday.
But his representative, Mino Raiola, hit out at Platini for failing to back Balotelli when he claimed he would walk off during a game if he heard racist abuse.
Platini suggested the forward should be booked if he left the field, but Raiola said: ‘I have to say that the reaction of UEFA to what Mario said was very strange and I would have expected a different reaction.
‘Mario has had this problem before and in Italy we have a saying: Racism is ignorance.
‘Mario is the kind of lad where this kind of abuse glides off his back but I was very disappointed with what Michel Platini said and a lot of people are with me on that. I can’t say I’m surprised by the reaction, though.
‘I don’t believe Platini has done anything to improve the game or help the position of players — as his reaction to Mario shows.’
Raiola was impressed with the approach of the English FA to race issues after he met officials. He said: ‘I have had meetings with the FA and they’ve been very proactive. They are ahead of other countries in Europe.’
The Italian Football Federation said that Balotelli had not complained of a problem during or after Sunday’s game. It is believed the chants were heard by photographers stationed at the end of the stadium where the Spanish fans were sitting.
And last night a Spanish supporters’ group confirmed that up to 200 fans had directed monkey chants at Balotelli. Their spokesman Thomas Herzog said: ‘The majority of the Spanish supporters reacted in a very positive way, because many of them tried to intervene and stop the fans from singing. We are clearly angry about this small section of Spanish supporters showing this kind of racist behaviour.’
UEFA responded to heightened awareness of the racism issue by writing to the mayors of Polish and Ukrainian host cities to ask for an increased police presence at training.
Some members of the Holland squad complained of hearing racist abuse during an open session at Wisla Krakow’s stadium last week, when thousands of Poles turned up.
A statement said: ‘UEFA ask that all necessary measures — including an increased police presence — be implemented to prevent any display of racist or discriminatory behaviour at such public sessions.
‘UEFA have also requested that any person found to be engaging in racist behaviour be immediately ejected and that criminal proceedings be launched.’