Liverpool forward Mario Balotelli has apologised for any offence caused by a controversial post he made on his Instagram page on Monday, which has been deemed racist and anti-Semitic.
The Italy international put up a picture of Nintendo character Super Mario on his official account, which came along with the text: "Don't be racist! Be like Mario. He's an Italian plumber created by Japanese people, who speaks English and looks like a Mexican."
However, the lines "...jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a jew", which appeared on the bottom of the picture, led to severe criticism, especially from the Jewish community.
The post was eventually deleted but not before it was captured by several social media users.
Balotelli on Instagram. pic.twitter.com/VAcSxgmBWL
— LFC Fans Corner (@LFCFansCorner) December 1, 2014
Balotelli decided to defend his actions initially, stating his mother is a Jew.
( my Mom is jewish so all of u shut up please)
— Mario Balotelli (@FinallyMario) December 1, 2014
However, the 24-year-old, on Tuesday, admitted his mistake and apologised for posting the image.
"I apologise if I've offended anyone. The post was meant to be anti-racist with humour. I now understand that out of context may have the opposite effect," he said.
"Not all Mexicans have moustache, not all black people jump high and not all Jewish people love money. I used a cartoon done by someone else because it has Super Mario and I thought it was funny and not offensive. Again, I'm sorry."
I apologize if I've offended anyone. The post was meant to be anti-racist with humour. I now understand that (...) pic.twitter.com/UlNeNlEz9M
— Mario Balotelli (@FinallyMario) December 2, 2014
The incident is understood to be under investigation by the Football Association. Reports claim that the striker could face a five-match ban if he is charged by the FA.
Balotelli joined Liverpool from AC Milan in a £16m move in the summer, and is yet to open his account in the Premier League, despite making nine appearances.
This is not the first time that the former Manchester City star has found himself in the limelight for his off-the-field antics.