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Balotelli misses meeting with minister

09 September 2013, 14:31

Turin -  Italy striker Mario Balotelli was criticised by Italian media on Monday for missing a meeting with the country's minister for integration, Cecile Kyenge.

Balotelli was said to have remained in his hotel room in Turin on Sunday morning as Kyenge, a native of the Republic of the Congo, met national team coach Cesare Prandelli, football federation (FIGC) president Giancarlo Abete, and six players.

Angelo Ogbonna, who was born in Italy to Nigerian parents, and Stephan El Shaarawy, whose father is Egyptian, were two of the players who attended the meeting and gave their Azzurri shirts to the minister.

The Azzurri are in Turin for a World Cup qualifier Tuesday against the Czech Republic. Balotelli is due back from suspension as Italy look to secure qualification to the 2014 World Cup with two games remaining.

Italian media called the AC Milan striker's behaviour "an own goal" and "a gaffe," while FIGC said that the meeting was informal and recalled that Balotelli met Kyenge before an international game in May and donated her his jersey.

Balotelli was said to have apologised to Kyenge later in the day via a telephone message, according to media reports.

The striker, who has been targeted by racist chants during games, expressed his commitment against racism when he said in an interview with Sports Illustrated in August that "you can't stop racism if people don't want to. But I'll do everything I can to help."

He was said to have discussed the topic with Pope Francis during a meeting the Italian and Argentine national squads had with the pontiff ahead of a friendly in August.

- Sapa-DPA

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