Mario Balotelli booking for calling out racist spectators 'unacceptable and wrong'

Kick It Out releases statement expressing shock to see 27-year-old player receive booking for trying to inform official about chanting he believes was racist

Nice's Italian forward Mario Balotelli (R) talks with French referee Nicolas Rainville (L) during the French L1 football match between Dijon (DFCO)  and Nice (OGCN) on February 10, 2018, at the Gaston Gerard Stadium in Dijon, central France. / AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE DESMAZES
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Mario Balotelli's booking for complaining about alleged racist chanting during Nice's defeat at Dijon on Saturday has been described as "unacceptable and wrong" by anti-discrimination charity Kick It Out.

The former Manchester City, Liverpool and Italy striker was seen gesturing to the crowd while talking to referee Nicolas Rainville during the second half of the Ligue 1 match only to then be cautioned for his actions.

Nice later tweeted a picture of Rainville booking Balotelli with a caption that said he was given the yellow card for "getting annoyed with racist insults from the public".

In a statement, Kick It Out said it was "shocked" to see the 27-year-old player receive a booking for trying to inform an official about chanting he believes was racist.

"It is unacceptable and wrong to see that once again, a match official has failed to apply the Uefa protocol - in place for a number of years - which requires action to be taken to stop the game to deal with the offending abuse.

"Although Kick It Out's remit is within English football, the organisation has contacted anti-discrimination network Football Against Racism in Europe to see what actions they will be taking in raising this with Ligue 1 officials.

"The organisation expects a strong response from the French football authorities in condemning both the alleged racist chanting from Dijon supporters and the failure of the referee to follow protocol to halt the behaviour, as well as the decision to compound Balotelli's experience as a victim by booking him for merely asking the match official to do his job."

Nice were 2-1 ahead at the time of the incident but conceded two late goals, including a controversial penalty, to lose 3-2, dropping them to eighth in the Ligue 1 table.

Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere hit out at the standard of refereeing, telling the club's official website: "I am scandalised. It's been four consecutive games that we have the feeling of playing at 11 against 12."


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