Hellas Verona manager Ivan Juric has denied there was any racist abuse from his side’s fans directed towards Brescia’s Mario Balotelli on Sunday.
Balotelli reacted furiously to abuse from the stands in Brescia’s 2-1 defeat away to Verona. While on the ball near the corner flag, he picked it up and kicked it into the stand before turning to leave the pitch. He was persuaded to carry on by team-mates and opposition players.
Under instruction from the match referee, an announcement calling for fans to stop was made over the stadium’s tannoy system, in line with UEFA protocol for such incidents.
The former Manchester City and Liverpool striker scored a late consolation goal for his side, but couldn’t prevent a defeat which left them in the bottom three in the Serie A table.
Former Croatia international Juric, 44, told Sky Sport Italia he thought Balotelli had made an incident out of nothing.
“Today there was nothing, no racist abuse,” he said.
“There was whistling and some goading against a great player. There was nothing. I am Croatian and people will say ‘sh*tty gypsy’, because unfortunately this is the trend in Italy. There is rampant racism, but today there was nothing.
“I don’t know why he reacted like that. Let’s not put it that way, it’s a lie.
“We don’t talk bullsh*t, if it had happened I would say so, and even if it was our own fans it would make me sick. But not today. When he scored the goal, there was a lot of goading. It was his problem, not ours.”
Juric later added in his post-match press conference: "I think, on a human level, being racist is an absolute low. In this case, I don't think anything has happened. I spoke with the fourth official, too.
"There was only teasing of a great player. I don't want to say anything against Mario. It may have happened to him elsewhere."
Verona chairman Maurizio Setti also spoke to Sky Sport Italia after the game, and backed his manager's point of view.
"I confirm that we have heard nothing," Setti said. "Verona fans are passionate but they're not racists.
"When there are cases of racism we are the first to condemn them but it is wrong to generalise, speaking of racist chants and fans. Maybe two or three people among 20,000 fans might have said something.
"Those two or three people, if there are, we are ready to find them and punish them because I strongly condemn any such incident. I met Balotelli and I apologised if someone said something to him."