London - Liverpool and Italy striker Mario Balotelli has received more than
4 000 racist messages via social media this season, according to new
research from British anti-discrimination body Kick It Out.
Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck and Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge have
also been targeted with more than a thousand discriminatory messages.
In total, Kick it Out's research estimates there have been 134 000
discriminatory posts this season, and 39 000 of these directed towards
Premier League players.
English football has long prided itself on its anti-racism policies,
contrasting them with what has often been seen as a less enlightened
approach in other European countries where racist chanting against black
players during matches - something no longer commonplace in England -
still takes place.
However, Kick it Out's evidence suggests the anonymity of social
media is providing a new platform for racist abuse of footballers in
Kick It Out director Roisin Wood told Britain's Press Association:
"It is really shocking. We knew there was an issue but even we were
shocked by how many the players have received. For one player to have
received over 8 000 abusive messages is phenomenally awful.
"We don't see the problem going away. Some of the perpetrators are
young people and they need educating that you cannot sit in your room
and abuse people like this. It is also an issue for the social media
platforms and how they address this."
Balotelli, who has suffered racist abuse throughout a career which
started in Italy, was himself banned for one match and fined £25 000 in December after being found guilty of
breaching Football Association rules by posting a controversial image of
Super Mario on Instagram.He was charged by the FA over an image he reposted on the social
media site that contained the words "jumps like a black man and grabs
coins like a jew" underneath a picture of the Nintendo games console character.