Prandelli plays down racist taunt aimed at Balotelli

Florence: Italy coach Cesare Prandelli played down a racist incident aimed at striker Mario Balotelli at a pre-World Cup training camp but striker Ciro Immobile said players have to help stamp out the scourge.

AC Milan striker Balotelli was believed to be the target of a racist insult from a youth as players were put through their paces during the second day of a 10-day training camp at Coverciano in Florence.

When asked about the incident, Prandelli said: "I didn`t hear what was said. All I heard were pleasantries."

Police stationed at the national team centre intervened and although the incident did not appear to faze Balotelli the striker hit out afterwards.

"Only in Rome or in Florence do you here these kinds of things," said Balotelli, who has been subjected to racist taunts sporadically during his Serie A career.

Italian football federation (FIGC) president Giancarlo Abete called the incident "unacceptable".

"It was an isolated incident from someone who should not even have been there, but it`s unacceptable," said Abete, speaking from Milan.

Immobile, one of seven strikers at the 30-strong training camp and hoping to make Prandelli`s final 23-man squad, said the incident was symptomatic of widespread racism and discrimination in the country.

The Torino forward, who with 22 goals finished the season as Serie A`s top striker, is from Napoli, a city which sits in the shadow of the Mount Vesuvius volcano and whose fans are regularly taunted by rival fans.

Asked if he bearing witness to such an incident made him feel ashamed to be Italian, Immobile said: "No I`m not ashamed to be Italian when I hear things like this being said.

"But it saddens me. We`re in 2014 and to be hearing racist insults from people, whether you`re yellow, black or white is just unacceptable.

"I`m from Napoli and to hear fans shouting, `wash them with the lava from Mount Vesuvius` isn`t very pleasant.

"Fortunately, Mario let it pass over him and he got on with his training. But we as players should do more to help stamp this out."

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