Hellas Verona boss Juric insists Balotelli was not racially abused

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Hellas Verona head coach Ivan Juric insists fans did not racially abuse Brescia striker Mario Balotelli in Sunday's Serie A match.

Balotelli kicked the ball into the stands and threatened to walk off the pitch in the second half of his side's 2-1 defeat at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.

The referee brought play to a halt before following protocol, with a statement read out in an attempt to resolve the issue.

After appeals from his team-mates and Verona players, Balotelli decided to stay on the pitch and see out the game.

The striker, who has had a fractious relationship with Verona fans, went on to score a stunning goal five minutes from time and there were chants of support for the player from large sections of the crowd after the initial incident.

Croatian Juric, a former Genoa player and coach who has been subjected to discriminatory chants in his time in Italy, admits there is a serious problem with racism in the country but is adamant the taunts aimed at Balotelli were not of that nature.

"I'm not afraid to say it: today, there was nothing, no racist booing," Juric said to Sky Sport Italia.

"There was a lot of booing and teasing of a great player, but there was nothing really racist today.

"I am Croatian, and I've often heard 's***** gypsy', so chants like this and racist insults make me sick. The whole of Italy is moving in this direction, but there was nothing at all today."

When asked why Balotelli reacted in such a way if he had not been racially abused, Juric replied: "You'll have to ask him. I only heard teasing, nothing else.

"I have no problem reporting allegations if there are any, even those against our own fans. This is something that can't be accepted in 2019. But, today, there was nothing at all.

"I repeat, I am the first to condemn racism, but today I only heard a lot of jeering of a great player.

"We're not talking about racism, because that's a lie. We're not creating a case where there isn't one."

In his post-match news conference, Juric added: "I think, on a human level, being racist is an absolute low. In this case, I don't think anything has happened. I spoke with the fourth official, too.

"There was only teasing of a great player. I don't want to say anything against Mario. It may have happened to him elsewhere."