GAZZETTA DELLO SPORT, one of Italy’s leading sports newspapers, has denied that there were any racist tones to a cartoon which it published depicting Mario Balotelli as King Kong.
Valerio Marini’s drawing, in which the mercurial Manchester City striker is pictured atop Big Ben swatting footballs away, appeared in the build-up to the Azzurri’s quarter-final win against England on Sunday.
The cartoon’s publication was condemned by anti-racism groups and, following complaints from a number of readers, Gazzetta issued a statement which stopped short of a full apology to Balotelli.
”We can honestly say it was not among the best products of our talented cartoonist. At this time, a measure of prudence and good taste are necessary because everything, absolutely everything, can be misunderstood.
”The newspaper is for those who read it and if certain readers found the cartoon offensive, we apologise.
“‘But those that accuse Gazzetta (and poor Marini) of racism are going overboard. This newspaper has fought any form of racism in every stadium and has condemned the boos directed at Balotelli as an unacceptable form of disrespect.”
Italy play Germany in the second Euro 2012 semi-final in Warsaw tomorrow evening.