Italian paper sorry for Mario Balotelli 'King Kong' cartoon
Published Jun 27 2012, 14:45 BST | By Andrew Laughlin
Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport
has apologised for publishing a cartoon that depicted footballer Mario Balotelli
as King Kong.
Some readers of the paper complained about the image, which portrayed the flamboyant striker, who plays for Italy but is of Ghanaian descent, swatting away footballs while climbing London landmark Big Ben.
It was published in the paper on Sunday ahead of Italy's Euro 2012 clash with England.
In a statement, Gazzetta apologised to readers who found the cartoon offensive.
"We can honestly say it was not among the best products of our talented cartoonist," said the paper.
"The newspaper is for those who read it and hence, if certain readers found the cartoon offensive, we apologise."
The cartoon prompted criticism from anti-discrimination group Kick It Out, particularly as Manchester City striker Balotelli was regularly targeted with racist abuse when he played in Italy.
"Mario's such an important person in Italian football,'' a spokesman for Kick It Out told The Daily Telegraph
"Aspiring players in Italy who want to follow in his footsteps could wonder what support they will have when they get to his level when they see cartoons like that.
"It is not the first time we have seen this sort of depiction of Mario and we think the media have a responsibility. How do they think they can portray him like that?''
However, Gazzetta rejected any suggestion of racism against the paper or Valerio Marini, its cartoonist.
"At this time, a measure of prudence and good taste are necessary because everything, absolutely everything, can be misinterpreted," the paper's statement said.
"But those that accuse Gazzetta, and poor Marini, of racism are going overboard.
"This newspaper has fought any form of racism in every stadium and has condemned the boos directed at Balotelli as an unacceptable form of incivility."
Ahead of Euro 2012, Balotelli said that he would leave the pitch if he was racially abused by people in the stands.