Inter striker Mario Balotelli encountered ignorance, not racism, when he was verbally abused by fans at Juventus, according to the Serie A leaders’ coach Jose Mourinho.
Juventus were ordered to play their next home league game behind closed doors on Monday after sections of the crowd in Turin chanted racist abuse at the 18-year-old, who scored in Saturday’s 1-1 draw.
Balotelli, an Italy under-21 international, was born in Palermo but is of Ghanaian descent.
“I don’t think it’s racism,” Mourinho told a news conference. “It’s an ignorant, stupid, infantile way to show that I don’t like this player.
“Why? Not because he’s African, but because he’s good, because he scores against my team, because he dribbles, because he’s difficult to mark.”
The Portuguese said that if Juventus fans were really racist they would also abuse their own black players.
“If it’s racism, it’s racism for all, not just for opposition players,” he said.
He added that Balotelli had experienced this type of abuse before.
“If I can say something in Juventus’ defence it is that it is not the first time Mario has been the victim of these chants,” he said. “It’s happened at many stadiums and even at our home ground.”
Juve apologised but are appealing against the decision to ban fans from the home game with Lecce on May 3.
Meanwhile, Italy coach Marcello Lippi suggested it had been blown out of proportion.
“In my opinion the problem is a lot smaller than how it has been presented,” Lippi, a former Juventus coach, told ANSA news agency.
“If the problem was purely racist, I don’t see why they would not have shouted something at (Inter’s Sulley) Muntari and (Patrick) Vieira, who have exactly the same skin colour as Balotelli. Evidently there are other things.
“Turin has never been racist. There are chants against white footballers that are much worse than other chants.
“I don’t think there was racist intent on the part of those who did the chants, but a desire to offend someone for various reasons created within the context of the game.”