Massimo Cellino with Mario Balotelli after the forward joined Brescia.

Brescia president Massimo Cellino’s suggestion that Mario Balotelli’s recent issue at the club was because the player is black was “a joke,” the club have said.

Balotelli was dropped from the matchday squad for the trip to Roma this weekend due to an apparent lack of enthusiasm, Brescia manager Fabio Grosso said on Sunday.

And, when asked what was wrong with Balotelli, Cellino on Monday replied: “He is black. He is trying to clear himself.”

However, soon after, Brescia released a statement which read: “Following the comments from president Massimo Cellino, in regards to our player Mario Balotelli, Brescia clarify it is quite clearly a joke, patently misunderstood, made in an attempt to de-dramatise an excessive media episode with the intention of protecting the player.”

Reached by ESPN FC for comment, anti-discrimination organisation the Fare Network condemned Cellini’s comments, saying in a statement: “Cellini should look at himself and examine his attitude towards Balotelli and people of African heritage, the denials can’t hide the truth.

“If he did not mean what he said, If he did not mean to insult, why did he say it? The reality is that if it looks like racism and it sounds like racism, it usually is.”

The comments come three weeks after Balotelli, 29, threatened to walk off the pitch after he was racially abused during a match away at Verona.

Verona were initially handed a one-match by Serie A, which was later overturned.

ESPN FC has contacted Brescia for further comment.


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