Wednesday Kickoff: Balotelli racially abused at training; Barcelona introduce Enrique; and more

MarioBalotelliItalyTraining2014-2 (Getty)

By DAN KARELL

Mario Balotelli just endured a difficult season with AC Milan, but that was nothing compared to what he received on Wednesday morning.

During an open training session at the Italian National Team’s headquarters in Coverciano, Florence, a small group of Italian fans shouted racist abuse at Balotelli as he jogged around the pitch with teammates. Police reportedly had to intervene to remove the racist fans, while Balotelli was able to keep his cool.

Reports out of Italy state that Balotelli was overheard telling his teammates in response to the abuse, “Unbelievable. Only in Rome and Florence do these things happen.”

Unfortunately, Balotelli has been the subject of racist abuse not only in Rome and Florence, but in his current home of Milan too. Inter Milan, AS Roma, and Fiorentina have been fined and sanctioned by the Italian sporting authorities in the past year along due to fans racially abusing Balotelli and other players of African descent.

Italian Football Federation chief Giancarlo Abete responded to the incident soon after, saying, “This is unacceptable behavior. This should not happen. We will take this episode into account.”

Here are some more stories to kick off your Wednesday:

ENRIQUE INTRODUCED AS BARCELONA BOSS

Just three days after Gerardo Martino announced his resignation from the position as Barcelona manager, the club have introduced his replacement.

Luis Enrique was introduced to the local press at the Camp Nou on Wednesday morning, and called his return to Barcelona as a manager a “special day.”

“Today is a very exciting, special day for me, on which we begin to build a new Barça that will be exciting and get the results we’re looking for,” Enrique said. “When I left Barça B, they said to me that it wasn’t ‘goodbye’ but ‘see you soon’, and they’ve been as good as their word. Today is the realization of everything a coach aspires to.”

A former Barcelona player and coach for the reserve team, Barcelona B, one of Enrique’s first actions as Barcelona boss was to back Lionel Messi, who suffered through a down year compared to the incredible high’s he’s seen in the past five or six seasons.

“I’m delighted to have the best player in the world in my squad,” Enrique said of Messi. “And the club must feel the same, because they’ve renewed his contract. His performance this season hasn’t been as incredible as other seasons, but it’s still impressive. I hope under me he can find his best form. He’s indispensable, a unique player, like the rest of the stars of the team.”

BRAZIL 2014 TO BE RIBERY’S LAST WORD CUP

The French National Team are facing the realization that come 2016, they’ll have to find a replacement for Franck Ribery.

The Bayern Munich winger told French radio station RTL that the upcoming World Cup in Brazil would be his last World Cup, and that he hopes to accomplish something special after the disappointment of the 2010 campaign.

“First off it will be my last World Cup,” Ribery said. “Then we have to go (to Brazil) to do something, to try to win the World Cup, quite simply.”

Ribery figures to be in France’s plans for Euro 2016, in which France is hosting.

QUICK KICKS

Atletico Madrid forward Diego Costa has traveled to Serbia to receive the infamous horse placenta treatment to help heal his hamstring strain in time to face Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League final. (REPORT)

Didier Drogba, who is out of contract at Galatasaray, is reportedly heading to Juventus for next season. (REPORT)

Chelsea and Cameroon National Team forward Samuel Eto’o has had another dig at Jose Mourinho for the Portuguese manager’s age remarks, and Eto’o believes that he’s just as fit as ever at the age of 33. (REPORT)

Eintracht Frankfurt have appointed Thomas Schaaf as their new manager. (REPORT)

Wolfsburg have reportedly won the race to sign Frankfurt’s 23-year-old defender Sebastian Jung for only €2.5 million. (REPORT)

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What do you think of these reports? Depressed to hear about Balotelli’s racist abuse? Do you see Italy closing all their training sessions from here on out? Do you believe Enrique can lead Barcelona to the promised land?

Share your thoughts below.

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73 Responses to Wednesday Kickoff: Balotelli racially abused at training; Barcelona introduce Enrique; and more

  1. bob says:

    MLS doesn’t think Eto’o is too old!

    • bob2 says:

      Neither does your mom

      • bob3 says:

        bob’s mom manages an MLS team? I knew we were somewhat progressive, but I didn’t hear this news.

        • bob4 says:

          MLS is on level with English League 1. Check wikipedia

          • bob5 says:

            MLS is better than any league in the world. Check SBI

            • bob5B says:

              Apologies, bob5A. I didn’t refresh, so I didn’t see your well-written comment and posted with the same handle. (I concur, BTW.)

          • bob5 says:

            Checked wikipedia. Just saw a globe-puzzle thing and a link for “English” and other funny sounding things. (“Français”? I know wiki standards are low, but why would they misspell the pope’s name and put a link to his entry on the front page? Wiki be trollin’.)

            But what does MLS or League 1 have to do with Eto’o’s age or bob1’s mom? And it might be cool to have a female manager — imagine Abby Wambach on the sidelines giving Bruce Arena a “I WILL END YOU” glare.

        • uhuru says:

          She’s a part owner not a manager, but one who is a but hands on as an owner…no pun intended

  2. Ian says:

    What’s up with these Italians “fans”? It seems that whenever we read about racial abuse in football, nine times out of ten, it’s taking place in Italy.

    • Bach's Thumb says:

      Italy is really, really racist.

    • goodtime says:

      Italy is basically the Mississippi of Europe.

      • cabrito says:

        It’s the Boston of Europe.

        • NC Jeff says:

          Nah, you’re both wrong, it’s neither. Racism here (nowadays), as bad as it often is, is nothing like it is in some parts of Europe … we have state-wide elected minorities all over the country and our President is half-white / half-black and grew up in Indonesia. You don’t see anything like that anywhere in the EU.

          That said, if this were during a game, there would be sanctions on the home team. But, it being a Italian MNT practice in Italy, who do you sanction?

          • iggy says:

            Take those fans and publicly humiliate them, on a global scale. Ruin their lives and they will realize that if they have backward views, they can no longer offend everyone else with them.

      • Benjamin C. says:

        The biggest misconception concerning racism is that only exists in certain places or is somehow much worse somewhere other than where you live. Mississippi has its issues and a horrific history(I live here), but so do many other places; just watch the news every now and again. Any time you get people of different races, ethnicities, etc., together in one place, you will get hate and venom spewed back and forth for any number of reasons.

        • the last dragon says:

          agreed.

          we’re only as tolerant as we need to be. SADLY

          but the only thing worse than that are fake tolerant snobs who parade “oh i have black friends or I love gay people”

          um okay. they’re just People to the rest of us. all the same

  3. Tiny says:

    he shouldve played for Ghana!

    • Ian says:

      I absolutely disagree. Super Mario should represent his country birth (Italy) and keep fighting the good fight. Anytime a couple of assbags make a disparaging comment, Balotelli should tell them to eff off and go about his business. Better yet, his ITALIAN teammates should do the noble thing and defend him.

  4. beto says:

    Wow thats like 1930’s US bad. Get with the times Italy.

    In better Italian news Drogba-Tevez at Juventus! That is going to worth watching

    • Ian says:

      Hell yes. I’d love to have Drogba in MLS, but Juve gives him another shot at Champions League football. And for whatever reason, Serie A tends to extend the life of players’ careers. I wonder if there are more >30 year-olds in Italy than MLS?

      • Rory says:

        It’s called performance enhancing drugs. They are quite popular amongst Italian clubs.

  5. Warren says:

    All this racism overtly (and proudly!) raising its head these days is appalling. Balotelli — whatever you may think of his personality off the field — is a great soccer player and any fan of their national team should be proud to have him on the roster. That players are harassed over something as silly as skin color at games and in training is black spot on the sport.

    • Mark says:

      This, coupled with the HBO Real Sports segment is truly depressing. It’s amazing how matter a fact racism is in some of these countries to be that blatant about it. Truly disgusting.

      • jones says:

        yeah. And this incident kind of surprised me (but shouldn’t have, I suppose) in that it took place not at a match full of revved up screaming spectators but at an open practice for their own World Cup team. Truly despicable – your team generously invites you into their training ground and you spew this garbage? Horrible.

      • Ian says:

        Gotta watch that, asap. Jozy and Henry are good interviews.

    • Four Cents says:

      Yo! Why’s the spot got to be black?

    • Donald Sterling says:

      It’s that way in a lot of places, it’s just easier to get away with it in Italy because they’re too greasy for security to get a firm grip on.

  6. fischy says:

    I can’t read anything on this site. It’s all blue to me. Very dark blue.

  7. HELP ME says:

    how common is this in Italy? I’m planning to visit Verona in November for a few weeks to meet an Italian girl and i don’t wanna encounter this kinda behavior

    I know it’s not right to judge many by actions of a few but everyday u hear more and more insanity coming out of Italy countered toward foreigners

    • wfrw07 says:

      I don’t know about the whole city, but Hellas Verona has the reputation for having an incredibly racists hardcore fanbase.

    • Johnathan says:

      I’m black american, been leaving in europe 5 out of the past 10 years or so… And you’ll maybe hear an off comment but overall, I would say on a day to day basis it’s much less stressful being black in western europe than in America and yes that includes nyc, lived there too. In america, racism hovers like a dark cloud, noone likes to admit that they are or that it is hovering so much so that it’s almost suffocating. In western europe (especially in england where I live now and France where I lived before) inter racial relationships (specifically black white,and both black male to X race and black female to X race) are 10 times more prevelant that they are in the US and I don’t really think I’m exagerrating. Anyway, you’ll be fine. Just you may get an in your face comment that you wouldn’t get in the states but that’s more cultural as opposed to racist. (i go back and forth as to which place is least stressful to be black.. and it kinda depends on who you want to be. If you’re a bad ass who doesn’t give an F and are super talented and motivated, then America… If you’re normal and don’t like confrontation and just want to be left alone and not have to deal with racism everyday but then again not be able to rise all the way to the top, then western europe is better if you’re black)

      • the last dragon says:

        you’re right. Loads of interracial relationships. but is that the measure of diversity or tolerance or progress?

        some people fall in love with whoever. doesn’t matter their skin color or ethnicity. You love who you love. Now for sure in England. white girls love Black guys lol.

        i’m sure there are tons of interracial relationships in the US as well but you know not everyone gets married. remember black guy/white woman and a kid. usually the kid identifies as Black. i think they identify the same as in the UK or just say they’re “mixed” or maybe i’m wrong.

      • jones says:

        Interesting read.
        Have you been to Italy for a significant amount of time, though? The situation there seems different from places like France, Germany and the UK. Of course every country is unique, but I seem to hear a lot more about overt racism coming out of Italy (and Eastern Europe).

    • Bach's Thumb says:

      As someone who has lived in Italy and Spain, it depends entirely on where you go.

      Soccer fans in Europe = NFL fans in America. It’s the blue collar sport. It attracts the wild ones.

      • Rory says:

        What about F1 racing fans? Not exactly blue collar right? And yet in Spain they had that incident where they made fun of Lewis Hamilton a couple years back and then there was the basketball team doing the fingers on the edge of the eyes routine in official advertisments before they went to the Bejing Olympics.

        Simply put, yes, Spain and Italy have a much more visible problem with racism than America. You can say you feel a racist cloud or whatever in America but that’s a heck of a lot different from seeing it far too often in public.

    • Brad C says:

      Your bigger worry might be not getting “catfished”. I hope you know this Italian girl already…

  8. 2st5 says:

    Franck Ribery is an interesting character. Played in the last 3 world cups and 2 Euros yet strangely very underrated and hardly known outside of France or Germany. why is this?

    • Maykol says:

      What? Everbody knows who Ribery is. He almost won a balon dor

      • away goals says:

        I think ives’ comment section has been infiltrated by bots. So many comments only tangentially related to the article that follow the same pattern:

        Ribery 145 games, 83 goals, BUNDESLIGA and champions league winner. Top 5 player in EUROPE?

        HeIl I might even be a bot you’d never know.

        • Nate Dollars says:

          i agree that they seem to be bots, but what would be the point? you think it’s actually ives trying to increase traffic? i haven’t really seen that many people respond to those comments; at least, not enough that it would seem worthwhile.

          • away goals says:

            I assume they’re intended to generate more comments. They’re just so out of left field…

            I doubt ives made the call to unleash them. Probably a party that advertises on the site. More traffic, more eyes, more often.

            But then I know very little about anything, so.

        • 2st5 says:

          i may have wrongly phrased what I needed to say. Ribery is just not well known internationally

        • Mikey K says:

          All the Bobs are bots Bob 1-5.

    • RK says:

      I wouldn’t say hardly known, but he should be mentioned right after Messi and CR.

    • Rory says:

      Maybe it is because everyone’s just a little gunshy to declare Ribery as one of the faces of the game since he’s been up for charges that he hired an underage prostitute. Maybe that’s why we just don’t go on and on about him.

      • Good Jeremy says:

        That, and the horrific attitude of French national teams at every other world cup.

  9. Ross says:

    This is so dumb. Italy will only go as far as Balotwlli can take them. The fans are shooting themselves in the the foot by wishing he wasn’t on the team.

  10. bryan says:

    man, of course this story comes out the day after Real Sports had a segment on racism in soccer. Jozy is interviewed in it, so if you have HBO, check it out (also a segment on the protests in Brazil over the WC and worries about it being a “White Elephant”).

  11. Mikey K says:

    Italy has some ignorant soccer fans. Also Nasri, needs to step it up for the French nats to take Ribery’s place.

  12. Good Jeremy says:

    It must drive racist fans nuts that their top two strikers are a Ghanaian-Italian and an American-Italian.

    I’ll make sure to point this out next time I hear the “America is the most racist country in the world” argument from someone who either has never studied other countries or who time-traveled from 1800.

  13. Derge says:

    i know the media portrays the US as the most racist country ever, but its not. Not even close. As someone who has lived in 3 countries outside of the US, i can tell you that most other countries are much more racist. atleast what we consider racist. Often i find that its not so much racism as it is ignorance and not being as politically correct as us americans are.

  14. Scott e Dio93 says:

    Mario, you’re welcome to come greatest nation (USA) to play.

  15. Scott e Dio93 says:

    I was born Uruguay of Italy/North Africa origin, the United States of America has among lowest racism, in the World. I am proud to serice this country (USA) and I made the choice to become U.S. citizen.

  16. Scott e Dio93 says:

    service*

  17. Ronaldo Messi says:

    I am Portuguese-Argentinian and everybody loves me.