LONDON (AFP) - Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli was charged by the Football Association on Friday for re-posting a message on Instagram that contained racist and anti-Semitic references.
Balotelli appeared to endorse an image of computer game character Super Mario on the social media website which included the words “jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a Jew”.
The post was titled “Don’t be a racist” and continued: “Be like Mario. He’s an Italian plumber, created by Japanese people, who speaks English and looks like a Mexican.”
The FA announced in a statement: “Mario Balotelli has been charged by the FA in relation to a recent posting on social media.
“It is alleged the Liverpool player breached FA rule E3 in that his posting was abusive and/or insulting and/or improper.
“It is further alleged that this is an ‘aggravated breach’ as defined by FA rule E3 as it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race and/or nationality and/or religion or belief.”
Balotelli deleted the post following criticism from other social media users, but after the FA confirmed it was looking into the matter, he wrote on Twitter: “I apologise if I’ve offended anyone.
“The post was meant to be anti-racist with humour. I now understand that out of context (it) may have the opposite effect. Not all Mexicans have moustache, not all black people jump high and not all Jewish people love money.
“I used a cartoon done by someone else because it has Super Mario and I thought it was funny and not offensive. Again, I’m sorry.”
Balotelli, who has been a victim of racism throughout his career, initially defended himself against accusations of anti-Semitism, tweeting: “My Mom is jewish so all of u shut up please.”
The 24-year-old, born in Italy to Ghanaian parents and then adopted by an Italian family, also described his decision to repost the image as “my unlucky moment”.
Balotelli has until 1800 GMT on Dec 15 to respond to the charge, which carries a minimum ban for a race-related offence of five matches.
He is reported to have already provided evidence to the FA of the discrimination he has faced during in his career.
But the 24-year-old, who will miss Liverpool’s match against Sunderland on Saturday with a groin injury, has scored only two goals in his 14 appearances for the club following his transfer from AC Milan and a lengthy ban would be another blow in a dismal first season at Anfield.
A Liverpool club spokesman said: “We acknowledge the FA’s decision and the player will work through the process to answer the charge.
“While that process is on-going the club will not be making any further comment.”