Most worldwide soccer supporters have by now formed their own opinions of Manchester City’s Italian striker Mario Balotelli. The vociferous, tempestuous, irresponsible — yet brilliant and talented — 20 year-old has had his share of forgettable moments over the past few years.
Many of us remember his straight red cards in this season’s Europa League and with the Italian national team, and his temper tantrum during last year’s Champions League semi-final while with Inter, which caused then coach Jose Mourinho to bench him. Before coming to Manchester City, he was scrutinized for wearing an AC Milan shirt at a bar, which many believed was his way of forcing a move away from Inter.
He has shot at youth team players with an air rifle and fought with his own training bib, a stint that teammate Edin Dzeko had fun replicating. He has accidentally driven his Masarati into a prison, where he was subsequently apprehended, and taken a tour of the hardest parts of Napoli, with two well-known mobsters as his tour guides.
Basically, the European media loves nothing more than to find out whatever Balotelli is doing, and make fun of him for it. Their ridicule borders on devious. People have developed a taste for Super Mario’s blood and tell themselves he is what is wrong with footballers today. Young, rich, and disrespectful.
Despite this, some of us have held out hope this whole time. While we have seen Balotelli’s immaturity plenty, some of us have looked past the ridiculous hairstyles and temper tantrums. We see how difficult life has been for the son of Ghanian immigrants in a country known for xenophobia. We see the fouls and hacks other players commit against him. We see that his whole life he has dealt with fans making monkey chants and overbearing media looking for a morsel of a story. And despite this, he still scores some amazing goals,
Whether people like it or not, whether he likes it or not, Balotelli plays a unique role in the modern soccer world. The expectations are overwhelming, people are praying he will fail, and all the while he represents a growing immigrant population within Europe that is desperate for a voice.
The interview at the top of the page is the most in-detail expose of Balotelli I have ever seen. It tells us about his difficult childhood and how he was adopted by Italian parents at age three. It touches on the fact that he is still displaced from his birth parents, but doesn’t go into detail of the agony that must cause him. It shows us the type of kid Balotelli really is — uber talented, shy, timid, with an anger inside of him that he hasn’t figured out how to handle yet.
I know I’m not alone when i say I hope Balotelli grows into his role as international superstar. He has the skills, lets just hope he survives the media onslaught that wants him to fail. So watch the clip, and join the club of Balotelli followers.