London - Liverpool and Italy striker Mario Balotelli has received more than
4 000 racist messages via social media this season, according to new
research from British anti-discrimination body Kick It Out.
striker Danny Welbeck and Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge have also been
targeted with more than a thousand discriminatory messages.
total, Kick it Out's research estimates there have been 134 000
discriminatory posts this season, and 39 000 of these directed towards
Premier League players.
English football has long prided itself
on its anti-racism policies, contrasting them with what has often been
seen as a less enlightened approach in other European countries where
racist chanting against black players during matches - something no
longer commonplace in England - still takes place.
it Out's evidence suggests the anonymity of social media is providing a
new platform for racist abuse of footballers in England.
manager Brendan Rodgers said he was taken aback by the extent of the
abuse directed Balotelli's way, saying: "I was aware of the findings and
I was surprised and shocked.
"I think one message is one too many
to be honest. We support all the relevant organisations who are working
to stamp all of this out.
"In the modern world and modern
football it is something which is very much there, but we need to
eradicate all of it out of social life and professional sport," the
Northern Irishman added.
"I think it is the responsibility of us all to help all the various organisations stamp it out."
Kick It Out director Roisin Wood told Britain's Press Association: "It
is really shocking. We knew there was an issue but even we were shocked
by how many the players have received. For one player to have received
over 8,000 abusive messages is phenomenally awful.
"We don't see
the problem going away. Some of the perpetrators are young people and
they need educating that you cannot sit in your room and abuse people
Balotelli, who has suffered racist abuse throughout a
career which started in Italy, was himself banned for one match and
fined £25 000 in December after being found
guilty of breaching Football Association rules by posting a
controversial image of Super Mario on Instagram.
He was charged by
the FA over an image he reposted on the social media site that
contained the words "jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a jew"
underneath a picture of the Nintendo games console character.