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Feb, 7, 2013

Photo shows Berlusconi meeting Balotelli

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

AC Milan has published a photo that appears to show Paolo Berlusconi making peace with Mario Balotelli after footage emerged of the Serie A club's vice president using a racist slur to describe the Italian superstar striker.

The 64-year-old Berlusconi, the younger brother of club president Silvio Berlusconi, was filmed describing the Milan player of African descent as the family's "little n-----" at a political meeting in Monza on Sunday.

When contacted by Press Association, Milan declined to comment on the footage, which was hosted on the website of Italian newspaper La Repubblica, but the club on Wednesday posted a picture of the two men shaking hands and smiling at each other on its official website.

A statement was published to accompany the picture and read: "Today the vice-president of AC Milan, Paolo Berlusconi, had a brief conversation with Mario Balotelli while helping out at Milanello [Milan's training ground]."

Paolo Berlusconi was attending a rally for a candidate of his brother's right-wing People of Freedom party when he made the reported comments.

In a much-viewed video clip, Paolo Berlusconi told a crowd of supporters that he was off to the soccer stadium to see Balotelli -- a prolific striker recently acquired by his brother's AC Milan soccer team -- saying, "Now, let's go see the family's little n-----, the hot head."

It caused outrage in Italy, especially after Milan midfielder Kevin Prince-Boateng won plaudits from Silvio Berlusconi for walking off the pitch after being racially abused during a friendly last month.

The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) told Press Association that unless a formal complaint was received it would not be investigating the matter.

An FIGC 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.

Italy has had blatant episodes of racism in soccer, with monkey chants against black players a relatively common occurrence. Paolo Berlusconi's racist quip in Milan provoked chuckles among the friendly crowd, although scathing comments soon flooded the Internet.

Balotelli joined AC Milan from Manchester City on transfer deadline day last week, and at the game Paolo Berlusconi set out to watch, scored twice in his debut against Udinese.

A member of the Italian national soccer team, Balotelli was born in Sicily to Ghanaian parents. His spectacular skills have won him millions of fans, even as his volatile personality has brought him his own share of controversy.

Balotelli was often the target of racial chants from opposing fans when he played for Inter, AC Milan's crosstown rival. Juventus fans once hung a banner saying, ''Black Italians don't exist."

But there are concrete signs of progress.

Last month, Balotelli's new teammates walked off the field during a friendly after racist chants were directed at Boateng, who is from Ghana.

Balotelli made no immediate public comment about Paolo Berlusconi, but he has been cautiously optimistic about changing attitudes when it comes to racism.

"Racism is very tough to fight," Balotelli said recently. "I really don't know how to defeat it. You need to keep firm and sooner or later we'll win."

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

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