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.
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)
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.