You can almost hear him, all the way from Brazil. Why always me? You can sense that that was Mario Balotelli’s exact sentiment when confronted with the accusation that it was his fault, that all of this was his problem, his cross to bear.
Why always me?
His own teammates joined in the attack. “We need real men, not Panini stickers or characters. These are of no use to the Nazionale,” said Daniele De Rossi, one of the senior members of Gli Azzurri.
Balotelli is an easy target. He sticks out not only for his antics, but for his skin color as well. You see, Mario Barwuah Balotelli was born in Italy, but not to Italian parents. His parents are from Ghana.
In 1993 and at the age of 3, on the suggestion of Italian authorities, he was placed in foster care to Silvia and Francesco Balotelli in northern Italy.
He visited his biological parents on weekends, but over time became indifferent towards them and drifted further away from them with time. He took his foster parents’ last name.
When he was 18, he gained Italian citizenship. He released a statement afterwards: “I am Italian. I feel Italian. I will forever play with the Italy national team.”
Mario Balotelli, who could be playing for Ghana today alongside Asamoah Gyan
and Kevin Prince Boateng as they attempt to make it to the round of 16, chose to play for Italy. He wanted to be an Italian.
Yet, he never fit in. At least not when the Azzurri were losing. So, when an entire nation messes up, bows out of the World Cup, it’s easy to point your finger at the “other”, the foreigner. Never mind that there are two other foreigners on the Italian national team (Thiago Motta was born in Brazil, and Pablo Osvaldo is Argentinian).
When that “other” is the main reason Italy is in a position to even advance – scoring the winning goal against England and securing three points – maybe it’s best to look at some other factors before looking at him.
Cesare Prandelli had said in the lead up to the tournament that his two star strikers, Balotelli and Torino’s Ciro Immobile, cannot play together. (Although he claims he never did.) But guess who was lined up against Uruguay, when Prandelli knew a draw would suffice? Mario and Ciro, and for the first time in this World Cup too.
It was clear that they didn’t know how to play off each other, which is magnified exponentially when pit against the Uruguayan tandem of Luis Suarez (more on him later, as well as here) and Edinson Cavani.
Another factor that played in the Italians’ demise was the Claudio Marchisio red card, which was in my opinion, unjust – and which also happened after Balotelli was subbed off for Marco Parolo. (Balotelli picked up a yellow in the 22nd minute.)
Italy had to battle Uruguay down a man for more than 30 minutes, and while Óscar Tabárez made the right calls, Prandelli did not react to the situation fast enough.
The incident that marked the game, of course, was Luis Suarez’s biting incident (his third in four years, I might add). In the 79th minute of that game, Luis Suarez appears to bite into Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder. Mexican referee Marco Rodriguez did not spot the incident, however, despite Chiellini’s numerous protests. (FIFA has since launched an investigation, and Suarez could be banned for up to 2 years.)
Two minutes later, defender Diego Godin scored from a corner. Uruguay were through. The knives were being sharpened against Mario Balotelli.
“Balotelli was not the only one to lose but he was certainly disappointing,” said the Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago.
“We veterans have the right spirit and we always accept responsibility. Whoever doesn’t feel like making the same effort and doesn’t have the same passion should say so and stay home,” added Daniele De Rossi.
Someone on Instagram posted a video telling Balotelli, “Mario, you’re really not Italian. Go away.”
This was Balotelli’s response:
“I am Mario Balotelli, I’m 23 years old and I did not choose to be Italian. I really wanted it because I was born in Italy and I have always lived in Italy. I was hoping for a lot from this World Cup and I am sad, angry and disappointed with myself. Yes, maybe I could have scored a goal against Costa Rica, you’re right, but then what? What is the problem after that? Maybe that’s what you all wanted to say? Don’t blame it all on me this time because Mario Balotelli has given everything for the national team and has done nothing wrong on a personal level. So go and look for another excuse because Mario Balotelli has his conscience in place and is ready to move forward stronger than before, with his head high. He is proud to have given everything for his country. Or maybe, as you say, I am not Italian. The Africans wouldn’t have blamed one of their brothers. Never. In this, we black, as you call us, we are light years ahead of you. Disgrace is not one that misses a goal or runs less or more. Disgraceful are these things.”
Why always him?