Serie A club Lazio has been fined a mere 20000 euros (£17,000) but avoided a stadium closure – temporarily at least – on Wednesday in punishment for fans targeting Brescia striker Mario Balotelli with racist chants.
Serie A judge Gerardo Mastrandrea requested that the case be further handled by the Italian football federation prosecutor to determine the exact location from the stadium wherein the chants came from, and to what extent Lazio collaborates in terms of identifying those responsible, before possible further punishment.
Sunday’s encounter between Lazio and Brescia was halted for a few minutes shortly after the half-hour mark following which an announcement to stop the chants was made to fans at the stadium in Brescia.
Brescia was leading the match 1-0 at that point of time courtesy of a goal scored by Balotelli who had also been subjected to racial abuse earlier in the match.
The 29-year-old striker was targeted by Lazio fans all match with other offensive chants, that weren’t racist specifically but were personal – against him and his family.
Lazio eventually won the match 2-1, with two goals from Ciro Immobile leading them to a comfortable victory.
After the match, the Italy international posted a video of his goal on Instagram and wrote: ‘Lazio fans that were today at the stadium SHAME ON YOU!’
Afterward, Lazio said in a statement: “As always, Lazio dissociates in the most taxing way from the discriminatory behavior carried out by a very small minority of fans during the match against Brescia.
“The club once again reiterates its condemnation of such unjustified misconduct and confirms its intent to prosecute those who in fact betray their sporting passion, causing serious damage to the image of the club.”
Balotelli was also the target of racial abuse earlier this season when he threatened to walk off the pitch due to racial chants directed at him by Hellas Verona fans during a match in November.
Racism has been a problem in Italy all season with offensive chants also aimed at players such as Romelu Lukaku, Franck Kessie, Dalbert Henrique, Miralem Pjanic, Ronaldo Vieira and Kalidou Koulibaly.
Except for Pjanic who is a Bosnian, all of the other players who were targeted are black and many of these such incidents have gone unpunished.