Racism surrounding Italian soccer matches now makes the news with such regularity that the sport and its fans are rapidly becoming a pathetic farce rather than an issue to get truly worked up over. The latest incident to mar Italy -- the second major incident in two months, third if you include AC Milan's VP referring to their latest signing as their household's little n*gger -- involves, you guessed it, Mario Balotelli.
As AC Milan took on rival Inter Milan, Balotelli's former squad, banana flags and inflatables were waved, monkey chants yelled and whistles erupted through the stadium whenever he touched the ball. This isn't a scenario Balotelli is unfamiliar with, as he was racially abused by Inter fans even when he played for their team. He was also abused during last summer's Euro 2012 by fans from Italy and elsewhere.
This incident, specifically, borders more on the side of trying to get Balotelli out of his rhythm for the game rather than genuine hatred of another race, and Balotelli dealt with the situation well by simply putting his finger to his lips, telling the stadium to be quiet. That kind of reaction takes the air out of the chants when they aren't actually affecting athletes on the pitch. If fans see that, many might realize the futility and ignorance behind their actions.
Unfortunately, as soccer keeps proving, that may be wishful thinking -- especially in Italy. Today's Italian newspapers didn't comment much on racial abuse, instead criticizing Balotelli for failing to score against his former team (Tuttosport went with the cringe-inducing headline, "Super Mario's black night").
To really make a change, the game must adopt policies that punish teams for the actions of their fans. If Inter Milan lost three points every time they were found guilty of racial abuse, you can believe their fans would shut the hell up.