Anti-discrimination organisation Kick It Out has called for a “strong response” after a referee booked Nice striker Mario Balotelli for complaining about racist abuse from spectators in Saturday’s game against Dijon.
Balotelli drew jeers from the crowd in the second half of Nice’s 3-2 loss after seeing an overhead kick attempt fly wide of the goal. The attacker then pointed to the home end and complained to the referee, who then showed the 27-year-old a yellow card.
Kick It Out has criticised the official for disregarding UEFA’s policy for such situations, labelling his decision to punish Balotelli instead of taking action against the offenders “unacceptable and wrong”.
Unbelievable! Mario Balotelli gets booked for complaining about racist abuse… What is the referee playing at? pic.twitter.com/jAnmGEodgO
— Goal (@goal) February 11, 2018
“Kick It Out was shocked to see Mario Balotelli booked for bringing to the attention of the referee alleged racist chanting directed towards him by Dijon supporters,” a statement read.
“It is unacceptable and wrong to see that once again, a match official has failed to apply the UEFA protocol – in place for a number of years – which requires action to be taken to stop the game to deal with the offending abuse.
“Although Kick It Out’s remit is within English football, the organisation has contacted anti-discrimination network Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) to see what actions they will be taking in raising this with Ligue 1 officials.
“The organisation expects a strong response from the French football authorities in condemning both the alleged racist chanting from Dijon supporters and the failure of the referee to follow protocol to halt the behaviour, as well as the decision to compound Balotelli’s experience as a victim by booking him for merely asking the match official to do his job.”
The booking caused controversy with Nice, who tweeted: “Meanwhile, Mario Balotelli has picked up a yellow card, after… getting annoyed with racist insults from the public,” while their president said the officials’ treatment of his side had been “a scandal”.
According to L’Equipe, the French authorities will review the referee’s report and decide on a potential investigation into the incident.