Mario Balotelli told by Italian politician to 'stick to his job' after criticism
A politician elected to the Italian senate has told Mario Balotelli he should "stick to his job" after the Nice striker criticised him for representing a political party known for racial controversy.
Toni Iwobi, who was born in Nigeria but has lived in Italy since the 1970s, became the first black senator to be elected after the Lega party, led by Matteo Salvini, earned the majority of votes in Spirano, a town in the northern province of Bergamo.
Balotelli posted a message on Instagram that said: "Maybe I'm blind or maybe they haven't told him yet that he's black -- what a disgrace!"
When asked about Balotelli's message during a radio appearance, Iwobi hit back, telling Balotelli to focus on what he knows best.
"I'd rather just ignore him," Iwobi told Radio Capital. "I'm not interested in what he writes. I have to deal with enough controversy. I just want to think about my territory and the new role I've been elected to.
"He's a great footballer and he will remain one, but I hope he sticks to his job, considering that's what he is good at."
Iwobi's response comes less than a month after LeBron James was criticised for speaking out on social issues by a television host who told the basketball superstar to "shut up and dribble."
Salvini, whose Lega party took just over 17 percent of the vote, wants to expel half a million migrants and significantly reduce immigration.
He condemned Balotelli on Twitter by writing: "Balotelli, I never liked you much on the field and I like you even less off it."
The right-wing Lega party developed from the Lega Nord movement, which, formed in 1989, embraced federalism and regionalism. It believed that the north of Italy should separate from the south, which it accused of stealing the north's wealth.
Ahead of the recent elections, Salvini placed his party as a nationalist movement, appealing to supporters also in the south of Italy by dropping "Nord" from the party's name.
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) twice condemned the Lega Nord's racial and xenophobic propaganda when they earned seats in the European parliament.
Lega are currently pressing to be given the opportunity to govern in Italy as part of a right-wing coalition, but Balotelli -- who was born in Palermo to Ghanaian parents and was adopted by a family and raised in the same region of northern Italy as Iwobi -- does not approve.
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.