Striker Mario Balotelli and his Italy teammates will be banned from using Twitter and other Social Media at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, says national team coach Cesare Prandelli.
The AC Milan striker has come under the heat of Italian media practitioners’ criticism, after he declined in a tweet to be considered an anti-Mafia symbol.
Italian newspaper La Gazetta dello Sport had made reference to the 23-year-old as a model in the battle against the mafia ahead of Italy’s training session on the pitch of a lower-division club that in 2011 was confiscated from a group of the Camorra- the Naples-based Mafia.
The player then took to twitter to rebuff the report as published, posting a page of the newspaper.
His tweet fueled criticism from the media, and one parliament member cum journalist who lives under escort due to threats over her coverage of the Camorra, Rosaria Capacchione called him an “imbecile.”
Balotelli, who missed Friday’s 2-2 draw in Denmark due to illness, is due back on the pitch on Tuesday in Naples for a World Cup qualifier against Armenia.
His coach Prandeli told RAI Sports that new “stringent” rules will be enforced at the World Cup, preventing the Azzuri from using social networks.
“New rules will come into force, and they will be more stringent,” the coach said. “We are looking at banning the use of social networks for players.
“The restriction will definitely be in force for the World Cup training camp.”
In what has been another week in the eye of the news media for the former Manchester City player, he has also been embroiled in another controversy after he appeared to have jostled a television cameraman as hundreds of fans welcomed he and his teammates at the Naples train station on Sunday.
But the president of the Italian federation defended him by saying he was tired of all the media attention.
“It’s a demanding period for Mario and we have to understand the media pressure on him is excessive,” Giancarlo Abete told RAI radio.
“He can’t take one step, or write one world, without it being interpreted in any number of different ways. He’s a bit tired of always being in the eye of the cyclone. He’s a 23-year-old lad who needs to grow and improve but the pressure on him is too great.”
Italy are already through to the group stage of the 2014 Brazil World Cup.