Italian football's bad boy Mario Balotelli has been called "an imbecile" by a leading anti-mob campaigner.
The AC Milan striker has provoked a storm by appearing to distance himself from an anti-mafia campaign involving a charity match in a ground sequestered from the Camorra, the notorious Naples crime syndicate.
Balotelli had already come under fire for hanging out with a couple of Naples mobsters in the drug-devastated northern district of Scampia.
As a result, he was accused of glamourising the seedy and murderous criminal organisation.
On Sunday, the popular sports daily 'La Gazzetta dello Sport' suggested the 23-year-old was keen to appear at La Nuova Quarto Calcio club, in order to publicly endorse the fight against the mafia.
But on his Twitter account Balotelli rebutted the article. "This is what you say!" he said. "I'm coming because soccer is wonderful and everyone must (be able to) play it".
Aniello Manganiello, a prominent anti-Camorra priest, said it raised doubts about whether the player should be able to represent the national team. (© Independent News Service)