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May 14, 2013

Prandelli backs Balo amid racism claims

Italy boss Cesare Prandelli has commended Mario Balotelli's reaction to alleged racial chants from sections of away supporters during Milan's goalless draw with Roma at San Siro on Sunday.

• Roma fined for racial abuse
• Paul: Dire night
• De Martinis: Terrible

Balotelli, 22, was seen raising his finger to his lips in a bid to silence the travelling fans during the match, before referee Gianluca Rocchi suspended the match for two minutes early in the second half to respond to the complaints.

After the stadium announcer ordered the offenders to desist, play resumed, although Roma were later fined €50,000 by the Lega Calcio amid the allegations.

The suspension of the match, introduced according to new procedures in Italy, prevented a repeat of Milan's friendly against Pro Patria in January when players walked off the pitch in protest of Kevin-Prince Boateng's claims he was targeted by racist chants.

Prandelli believes Balotelli showed maturity in his attempt to diffuse the situation.

"Yesterday a clear signal was given," he told Tuttosport. "I think that in the face of upcoming episodes there will be temporary suspension and the interruption of the competition. It is not Balotelli's problem, but on the credibility of our football.

"We must not just get angry, but there are suitable ways of going to the stadium. A stadium made in a certain way helps a lot, like that of Juventus. If the fan feels at home, they think twice before doing horrible things. We are all responsible. Even the fans should get angry in front of the offensive chants."

Balotelli has scored 11 goals in 12 games since joining Milan from Manchester City in January after a difficult start to the season which left Prandelli criticising the striker's form and attitude.

The Italy boss insists the 22-year-old will be a major boost to the Azzurri's Confederations Cup hopes if he remains focused.

"I am convinced that the leaders of Milan and [Massimiliano] Allegri have talked to him about this," Prandelli added. "Mario must think only of playing. He should not lose the right attention and concentration, often things happen just to try and get a great player to lose patience."

Prandelli also reserved praise for Balotelli's Milan and Italy team-mate Stephan El Shaarawy, claiming he will not have to fix anything in the midfielder's game.

"Do not worry [about El Shaarawy]. El Shaarawy has given so much, his season is extraordinary."

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