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Italian National Team Coach Cesare Prandelli Apologises for Racist ‘Joke’ Aimed at Mario Balotelli

by The Newshound

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Prandelli also dismissed speculation his side would pull out of Confederations Cup due to violent protests across Brazil.

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Italy national team coach Cesare Prandelli on dismissed speculation that his players have asked to pull out of the Confederations Cup in Brazil due to the massive protests that have swept across the country.

An estimated 1.25 million people took to the streets in scores of cities on Thursday evening to call for better public services and to criticise the cost of organising the Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup.

Many of the protest marches, which began last week, have culminated in violent clashes between demonstrators and riot police, but Prandelli said the Italy squad had no plans to leave the country.

“Our officials have absolutely not proposed going home,” he said during a press conference in Salvador, the day before Italy’s final Group A game against hosts Brazil.

” Saturday is a football match and we don’t want that kind of confrontation outside the stadium. It would be a paradox to play football, to offer joy in the stadium, and to have violence 50 metres away.

“It would be an unacceptable contradiction.”

He added: “Apparently in recent days the situation has changed. In Rio, everything went well, we could visit the city without problems.

“In Recife and here, as a precaution, they’ve asked us not to leave the hotel, but going home? No, we absolutely haven’t thought of that.”

Despite his reservations about the situation outside Arena Fonte Nova for Saturday’s game, when further protests are expected, Prandelli said he supported the demonstrators’ right to protest.

“Every demonstration, if it is peaceful, if it can help the country progress, is welcome,” he said.

“There are so many people that it’s difficult to control those who want to create violence.”

Italy’s players remained inside their hotel on Friday, with the exception of striker Mario Balotelli, who is of Ghanaian origin.

When asked why Balotelli had left the hotel, Prandelli joked that it was “because he is another colour”, before explaining himself more clearly.

“Excuse me, I made a joke earlier,” he said.

“Mario told me: ‘Being black, I’d like to go to see the children for a social project.’ It’s a great thing — it wasn’t just to go for a walk.”

The Salvador region, in the northeastern state of Bahia, is largely populated by people of African descent.

Later, Balotelli wrote on his Twitter account: “Salvador!! i look like a person from Bahia!!!”

Meanwhile, Italy midfielder Riccardo Montolivo said he “condemned the violence”, but expressed “solidarity with those who demonstrate peacefully”.

“If they’re doing it, it’s because they’re suffering,” he said.

Italy striker Stephan El Shaarawy is a doubt for the Brazil game after missing training on Friday with a toe injury.

Team doctor Enrico Castellacci said he had sustained “bruising to the big toe of the left foot during training yesterday (Thursday)”.

The 20-year-old AC Milan striker will undergo a fitness test on Saturday morning.

Both Italy and Brazil have already qualified for the semi-finals, but the Azzurri must win if they are to avoid a likely last-four encounter with world and European champions Spain.


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