Mario Balotelli – The Story Behind ‘Why Always Me?’

Amid some amazing games with berserk scorelines played out last weekend, including AC Milan’s heroic comeback, Norwich City’s brave display at Anfield, QPR winning their first match at home, Real Madrid thrashing Malaga before Malaga could blink, it was someone else who was grabbing the headlines all over the world’s print media.

The name everybody was curious to know more about was Mario Balotelli. Mario didn’t have a usual build-up to the big Manchester Derby. He was once again in the news, and again due to some reasons, which mostly professional footballers around the world are not used to or generally avoid without much dilemma. The fiery Italian let loose some fire crackers in his Manchester top floor penthouse, one day before the derby, which was eventually registered by the visiting fire fighters. This was just five days after his arrogant and ‘in your face’ celebration in front of the Aston Villa fans. The villains were taunting the Italy international after he slipped while controlling the ball and Balotelli opened the scoring by scoring an immaculately timed over head kick. The lad did not smile even after his own team mates congratulated and celebrated with him.

On Sunday, he vented out his feelings via a T-Shirt slogan, which he very calmly displayed in front of a jam packed Old Trafford, stunning almost seventy thousand fans of the Red side. This was after he impeccably passed the ball past diving De Gea, into the right corner of the net. He stood still, emotionless and lifted his shirt to rub salt over wounded fans watching in dismay. The celebration got him booked for the same, and Balotelli stated that he would try to refrain from committing such avoidable offences, which makes him an easy prey for referee’s book. The celebration, which is already cited as one the best T-shirt celebrations ever presented in the modern era, certainly came as a breath of fresh air as Mr. Balotelli asked “Why Always Me?”

T-Shirt worth a thousand words!

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His fans love to call him Super Mario, derived from the Nintendo blockbuster video game. He is just like any other international footballer, enjoying fame and money at a young age, plying his trade at different clubs/countries and of course sparking some controversies. Yes, there are only a handful of footballers around, who have kept a clean sheet in terms of controversies and acts which end up offending/disturbing people. But then what is it which makes a controversy related to Balotelli tread a different and more highlighted path in the media around the world?. Here are some of the well publicized incidents about Balotelli since he arrived in England, before the recent fireworks incident:

  • Trying to pull off an outrageous back heeled goal against LA Galaxy during 2011-12 pre season US tour.
  • His car being confiscated more than 25 times, since he arrived.
  • He had twenty five thousand pounds in cash on his passenger seat when he was pulled over by a police officer in Manchester.
  • The famous bib episode on the Manchester city training ground, where the 21 year old was facing problems wearing a bib.
  • Getting into a bust up against Rio Ferdinand after the FA Cup semi final victory.
  • Swearing on Live TV after the FA Cup final win over Stoke City.

Pundits and players all over the globe, have advised and some criticized the number 45 of Manchester City. Let’s try to divulge the multifaceted and amazing world of Mario Barwuah Balotelli.

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The Early Life:
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Balotelli was born in the suburbs of Palermo to Ghanaian immigrants Thomas and Rose Barwuah. New born Balotelli had life-threatening complications with his intestines which led to a series of operations. At the age of two, the Barwuah’s were forced to look out for foster parents as they were not able to keep up with the demands of Baltotelli’s health problems , and the local social services gifted little Mario a new family. A family of Francesco and Silvia Balotelli, a sister Cristina and two elder brothers Corrado and Giovanni  always stood by little Mario with all the love and family compassion.

Mario was just five years old when he started to ply his trade for the Mompiano parish team and his exceptional technical talent was immediately recognized there as he was grouped with the older boys. A.C. Lumezzane came calling in 2001 and 15 year old Mario made his first team debut on 2nd April 2006 against Padova at Euganeo Stadium. As a professional player had to be 16 to play for a professional Serie C team; Mario became the youngest player ever in the history of this category as the federation bent some rules for the exceptional talent this lad showcased.

Balotelli (R) – love for the game blossomed at a young age

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After an unsuccessful stint at FC Barcelona at the age of 15, Mario soon grabbed the attention of Italian giants Internazionale in 2006. He played a season at San Siro on loan, where he didn’t start any match that season. But impressed with his training and his skills on the field, he was soon offered a permanent contract by the Nerazzurri a year later. Whenever the opportunity beckoned for the tall lanky forward under the guidance of Roberto Mancini, Balotelli took his chances as a substitute and made the most of it.

  • On 16 December 2007, he made his Serie A debut, when he came on as a substitute, replacing David Suazo in a 2–0 win over Cagliari.
  • Balotelli eventfully announced himself in the league when he scored a clinical brace in a Coppa Italia match against Reggina, in a 4–1 win, and was more than infuential in his side’s 3–2 away win over arch rivals Juventus in return leg of the Coppa Italia quarter-finals.
  •  In April 2008, Mario scored his first Serie A goal  in a 2–0 away win against Atlanta, eventually helping Inter to win the 2007–08 Serie A title comfortably.
  • Balotelli again was a substitute in the 2008 Supercoppa Italiana final against AS Roma. Coming off the bench, replacing veteran Luís Figo , he scored in the 83rd minute. After the match ended 2–2, Inter went on to win the final 6–5 on penalties
  • Mario is registered as the youngest player to score in the Champions League for Inter Milan. He was just 18 years and 85 days days old when his shot landed inside the Cypriot side Anorthosis Famagusta’s goal  in a 3–3 draw.
  • Three back to back Skudetto’s with Inter (2007-2010),  an Italian Super Cup an year after that and an Italian Cup plus the coveted Champions League the next year.

Silencing his critics!

Azzurri Call-up and Performance:
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After the Italian team was derailed in the first round in the 2010 World Cup, Cesare Prandelli took the ownership of the national team. The surname on his number 45 jersey was legally denied to him until 2008, when he turned 18. This situation wasnt handled well by the Italian Football Federation as the young and talented Balotelli missed call-ups to the  under-15 and under-17 national squad as the Italian citizenship was denied to him. Balotelli finally joined the Azzurini and in his first match scored a goal against Greece in a 1-1 draw.

Man of the Match Mario Balotelli with the coveted FA Cup trophy

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He gave Mario his first national cap last year against Ivory Coast at Upton Park. It is believed that just after that match in London; Mario flew over to Manchester to sign a new deal with Manchester City, after much publicized fallout with Jose Mourinho. In his first season, Balotelli won the Golden Boy Award and won the FA cup with his new team, showcasing a Man of the Match performance against Stoke City.

Subject to Racist Taunts:

Balotelli’s family life was always a settled one, and he used to spend quality time back home, but he soon realized that his skin color was nothing less than a intransigent problem as soon as he stepped on the football field for various clubs. Balotelli was subjected to many racist chants as a player at Internazionale, and it became quite apparent when Juventus were ordered to play a match behind closed doors. Such was the extent of the racist abuse as a child the feeling was visible itself in Balotelli, the feeling that he was something special. It clearly reflected in one of the few interviews he approved in Italy-

“But it was like I was transparent. I’m no Clooney but I couldn’t explain it why I was ignored. My friends explained. They told me people didn’t like blacks.”

Juventus was fined twice as their fans were observed chanting racist chants, even during matches which didn’t even involve Inter. During Derby d’Italia, Mario faced the fury of Juventus fans as they didn’t leave any stone unturned in disgracing him. Balotelli had a tough time under Jose Mourinho, as he once openly stated as love-hate relationship. He was fined, kept out of the team for disciplinary issues. Mourinho even went a step ahead and rated him Zero after a match against Roma. It was reported that the tension between them reached its climax when the forward was left out of the squad for the second leg against Chelsea FC at Stamford Bridge. Balotelli publicly sported an AC Milan jersey in a talk show in Italy which bought heavy criticism from fans. Mario had to issue a public apology on the club’s site following that incident. Then Balotelli controversially threw his Inter Milan jersey on the ground and ran into the dressing room, after he was booed by the fans during the match. Balotelli was even attacked by a small group of Ultras after this incident.

Charities he supports:

  • Rehabilitation work of Casa Del Sole Onlus, a non-profit organization for children, Curtatone (Mantova).
  • Proactively participated in setting up of a secondary school in Cuey Machar, a small village in south of Sudan, which was incidentally the birthplace of Mario’s friend John Kon Kelei, a former child soldier. As there was no secondary school in the village, Mario took the initiative to build the school to give Sudanese children a better alternative to fighting weapons.
  • Médecins Sans Frontières which means Doctors Without Borders is an international organization which facilitates sending quick reaction team of doctors to crisis areas throughout the world.
  • One bridge for the future” is a project, which is committed to offer help to local associations in Mata Escura favela, which in turn provide education to the children who otherwise indulge in crimes and other unlawful activities, hence running their childhood.

Mario Balotelli has definitely not had the best of the times in Italy. But we know that football has always offered a great source of strength. Despite of the emotional draw towards Italy, because of his family, Mario has now settled quite well in his ninth floor penthouse flat in Manchester. His confidence is certainly buoyed by little congratulatory notes which are stuck on his door and the bottles of wine presented to him on Christmas by his neighbors. Mario makes sure that he visits Knowsley Safari Park as he nurses a huge interest in Wildlife.

Balotelli is agile, quick, and tall, has powerful shot- all the attributes that a top-class striker should have, but at the same time is a bit hot headed and temperamental. Certain set of people may debate his attitude problems, owing it to the problems Mario faced in his days in Italy, which the lanky forward never spoke about. Without a shadow of a doubt, he could be an asset to any football team in the world, a reason why Roberto Mancini shrewdly signed him, wasting no time at all. Sometimes the contradictions within self need to be hidden by bullishness, a strategy which Mr. Balotelli has successfully implemented so far, but the stylish attacker needs to focus his aggression and prove a lot of things to the football world and Azzurri supporters.

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