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Feb 6, 2013

FARE: Racism is a 'disease' in Italy

AC Milan vice president Paolo Berlusconi was filmed making a racist remark alluding to new signing Mario Balotelli

The Italian Football Federation said that unless a formal complaint was received, they would not be investigating reports Tuesday that AC Milan vice president Paolo Berlusconi used a racist term to refer to the team's new star acquisition, striker Mario Balotelli, an Italian of African descent.

FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe) chief executive Piara Powar said Berlusconi's remarks show that racism is a "disease" in Italian society.

Berlusconi, Silvio Berlusconi's younger brother, who also runs the family newspaper, Il Giornale, made the comment Sunday at a campaign rally in Milan. In a much-viewed video clip, he tells supporters as he heads to Milan's stadium: "Now, let's go see the family's little black boy, the hot head," using a pejorative term for black people.

Powar said he doubts there will be any punishment handed out to Paolo Berlusconi.

"There is nothing the club will do," he said. "We shouldn't fool ourselves."

A spokesman for AC Milan told Press Association: "We will not be making any statement on the matter."

Balotelli joined AC Milan from Manchester City on transfer deadline day in January, scoring twice on his debut against Udinese on Sunday.

Ex-premier Berlusconi on Monday denied his recent purchase of Balotelli from Manchester City was designed to boost popularity with voters in national elections later this month.

The incident comes just four weeks after Silvio Berlusconi praised midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng for walking off the pitch after he was racially abused during a friendly against Pro Patria.

Fellow Serie A side Lazio were given a suspended one-game stadium ban by UEFA after anti-semitic chanting by home fans in a Europa League game against Tottenham in November.

Powar, whose group work throughout Europe to combat discrimination, says racism is an issue which Italy must address.

"There is a disease in Italy, and that disease is racism," he said. "For us it reinforces the attitudes we have seen in Italy over the last few years with the Kevin-Prince Boateng incident and the previous attitude of Lazio fans.

"This is the sort of video which highlights the issues that many immigrants have to overcome. It highlights the daily reality in a country in Italy.

"This is the brother of your boss telling you what you are. Many have seen the impact Berlusconi has had as president and some rhetoric on immigration contradicts the support of Boateng. The whole thing is ridden with contradiction.

"He wants to be seen defending his team. The success of Milan, we should be clear, is linked with political success. He was always going to support his players.

"Here we have his brother who is arguably doing worse things than (the Pro Patria fans) because he is in a position of power."

An Italian football federation spokesman referred to the extensive material published in the wake of Boateng's decision to walk off the pitch at Pro Patria for any clarification of the federation's determined stance against racism.

Information from The Associated Press and Press Association was used in this report.

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