Far-right Italian politician sparks race row after posting controversial Mario Balotelli image
Mario Balotelli is at the centre of another fierce football row though this time it is none of the Italian striker's making.
Having hit one of the best goals of Euro 2012 in Italy's 2-1 victory over Ireland on Monday night, taking his country to this weekend's quarter-final against England, you would imagine that the entire nation of Italy would be behind the fiery forward. Apparently not.
Paolo Ciani of the right wing Future and Liberty party has sparked a race row in Italy after posting the above image to his Facebook page, which shows a Photoshopped Balotelli bending down to collect cabbages in a field.
If you're confused by the image, it depicts the player as an immigrant worker. Balotelli's parents Thomas and Rose were both raised in Ghana.
Ciana went further by adding to the post: "He comes commits a foul worthy of a red card, scores then unleashes a verbal onslaught against the bench forcing them to shut him up. This clown should go and work in the fields."
The row comes just days after the Croatian FA were fined €80,000 by UEFA for racist chanting from their fans against Balotelli, while UEFA is also investigating whether the fans threw bananas onto the pitch during the 1-1 group stage draw.
Ciani, however, has been quick to defend his image as non-racist, even adding that he has a friend who is "blacker" than Balotelli. Sigh...
"What I was doing was making a footballing comment, I was highlighting how Balotelli had committed a bad foul which could have got him sent off," insisted Ciani.
"Then his reaction after scoring was so over the top one of his team mates had to put his hand over his mouth. I am friends with [Ghanaian] footballer Kwadwo Asamoah who is blacker than Balotelli but he has never been whistled and jeered at because before being a footballer he is a man."