Belfast Telegraph

FA charges Reds striker Balotelli

Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli has been charged by the Football Association following allegedly racist and anti-semitic comments on social media.

Italy international Balotelli reposted an image of computer game character Super Mario on Instagram earlier this week, which was accompanied by the words "jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a Jew".

The FA announced in a statement on Friday: "Mario Balotelli has been charged by the FA in relation to a recent posting on social media.

"It is alleged the Liverpool player breached FA rule E3[1] in that his posting was abusive and/or insulting and/or improper.

"It is further alleged that this is an 'aggravated breach' as defined by FA rule E3[2] as it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race and/or nationality and/or religion or belief."

Balotelli has until 6pm on Monday, December 15 to respond to the charge.

A Liverpool club spokesperson commented: "We acknowledge the FA's decision and the player will work through the process to answer the charge.

"While that process is on-going the club will not be making any further comment."

The striker apologised on Monday, writing on Twitter: "I apologize if I've offended anyone. The post was meant to be anti-racist with humour. I now understand that out of context (it) may have the opposite effect."

Balotelli had until 6pm on Friday to submit an explanation for his comments to the FA and he reportedly provided evidence of the discrimination he has faced during in his career.

The 24-year-old, who will miss Liverpool's match against Sunderland on Saturday with a groin injury, has scored only two goals in his 14 appearances for the club this season following a transfer from AC Milan.

Balotelli deleted the offending post as criticism began to mount but FA guidelines state that ''deleting an inappropriate posting, whilst advisable, does not necessarily prevent disciplinary action being taken''.

The minimum ban for a race-related on-pitch offence is five matches, but that would not apply in a case such as Balotelli's, for which no specific punishments are outlined.

Vivian Wineman, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said of the posting: ''Balotelli's sharing of images which use unacceptable language and appeal to classic antisemitic tropes is troubling.

''We were pleased to see his immediate retraction and apology but such language has no place in public discourse.

''We welcome the decision by the FA to investigate this matter.''

Liverpool were embroiled in a race row in 2011 when Reds striker Luis Suarez received an eight-match ban from the FA for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.

The unsavoury incident was the first in a handful of controversies involving Suarez, who was sold to Barcelona last summer.

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