Originally posted on Fox Soccer  |  Last updated 6/22/13
Italy boss Cesare Prandelli has apologized for saying Mario Balotelli's skin color was the reason he was the only player allowed to leave the team hotel in Salvador. The Azzurri Confederations Cup squad were kept inside on Friday to ensure they avoided the ongoing protests going on in the city and further afield. AC Milan striker Balotelli was the exception, though, because he was doing charity work. Prandelli was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying at a press conference: "He was the only one who had permission because his colour is a little different than ours." But later in the press conference, he clarified his comments saying: "I'm sorry. It was a joke. Of course. "Before I said something about the color of our skin. I am glad we clarified that issue about why he was the only one allowed out. He was surrounded by all these people but he was working with a charity and doing something nice." ''He has huge potential,'' Prandelli said. ''Being on this squad has helped him grow. We've been talking for years about how extraordinarily talented he is, now we just need to create the right environment for him to succeed in.'' Balotelli is the poster boy for Italy's growing waves of immigrants, and even more so for the sons of immigrants, many of whom cannot obtain Italian citizenship until they turn 18, even if they are born in Italy - as was the case with Balotelli. Prandelli has said repeatedly that if racist chants are ever directed at Balotelli again with the national team that the entire squad will rush over and embrace him in a show of solidarity. ''We're very attentive to this issue,'' Prandelli said. ''Mario can be an example.'' However, Prandelli also wants Balotelli to improve his behavior on and off the pitch. It will be interesting to see how long Balotelli plays against Japan with the prospect of a suspension if he gets a yellow card. Earlier this month, Balotelli picked up two yellows in a World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic, and he was banned for two matches with Milan after insulting a match official at the end of a game in April. ''I could make two, three or four lineup changes,'' Prandelli said. ''We spent a lot against Mexico and I need to see this last training session to see who is fresh.''
PLAYERS: Mario Balotelli
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