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The Italy icon feels that supporters attempt to goad the striker due to his prowess on the pitch and claims that "southerner" songs are due to stupidity rather than racism

Former Juventus star Fabio Cannavaro believes that supporters chant at Mario Balotelli because they "fear and respect" the AC Milan striker.

The Italy international has been repeatedly targeted by groups of opposing fans since his return to Serie A in January, with Roma issued a fine last season due to offensive singing within the stands while Inter supporters also singled out the attacker during February's Milan derby.

The former Manchester City man was subjected to further chants by Juventus fans despite not featuring for the Rossoneri in their 3-2 defeat in Turin but Cannavaro feels that the fans' efforts to goad the attacker are simply due to the fact they are afraid of his prowess on the pitch.

"[Balotelli chants are caused by] fear, perhaps respect. He has an attitude they don't like, then he is strong and opponents are scared of him. That's why they goad him," the World Cup winner wrote in La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Milan CEO Adriano Galliani was furious after his side were handed a stadium ban after alleged perjorative chants against southern Italians and Cannavaro agrees that the actions of the minority of fans are motivated by "stupidity" rather than racial discrimination.

"The insults are not racism but stupidity. I've been called a 'southerner' a thousand times and [Lilian] Thuram once told me: 'Calm down Fabio, they're insulting me more than you today' when were playing in Verona," the 40-year-old added.

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