Italian footballer Mario Balotelli has blasted the country’s first black senator for standing in the Italian elections for the far-right, anti-immigrant League party.
Balotelli, who was born in Palermo to Ghanaian parents and has played 33 times for Italy, has long been a target for racist abuse.
He took to Instagram to target Nigerian-born Toni Iwobi, who was elected in the northern industrial city of Brescia – a major immigration hub.
‘Maybe I’m blind or maybe they haven’t told him that he’s black yet. Disgrace!’ Balotelli wrote on Tuesday in a post that was subsequently removed.
Iwobi has long argued along with League leader Matteo Salvini that increased racism in Italy should be blamed on illegal immigration.
Balotelli posted a photo showing Iwobi, 60, and Salvini both wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the campaign slogan ‘Stop invasion’.
The slogan is reference to the more than 690,000 migrants who have landed on Italian shores from North Africa since 2013.
The League blames the arrivals for ‘social conflict’ and making Italian cities less safe.
Born in Gusau in northern Nigeria but living in Italy since the 1970s, Iwobi has been a supporter of the League for more than two decades.
I’m not interested in what Balotelli thinks,’ Iwobi said in response. ‘He’s a great footballer, I hope he sticks to doing what he’s good at.’
Meanwhile, Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement reached out to leftist parties on Wednesday in a bid to end the stalemate from a general election, even as a rightwing alliance lobbied for its right to rule.
The Five Star Movement (M5S) became the country’s largest single party in Sunday’s ballot after picking up nearly 33 per cent of the vote. But it finished second behind a rightwing coalition which obtained 37 per cent.
Both formations would need allies to form a parliamentary majority. Observers say the most likely end to the impasse is an alliance between the M5S and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD).
‘It’s the most accessible road to take, even if the route is uphill, and steep,’ wrote the Corriere Della Sera.
Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio outlined his government programme on Wednesday in a letter to La Repubblica, Italy’s main centre-left newspaper.
‘Ten million poor people can’t be ignored… The security of our cities day and night can’t be ignored. Unemployment, especially among the young, can’t continue to run rampant,’ Di Maio wrote.
‘That is the message that has come loud and clear from the polls.’
The ruling PD’s coalition collapsed to third place with just under 23 percent of the vote, but could play kingmaker for a future government.
Matteo Salvini, head of the far-right League party which picked up the most votes in the rightwing coalition, has made his own overtures to rival parties.