Mario Barwuah was born in Palermo, Sicily, in 1990. His parents were from Ghana in West Africa. The family moved to Italy, to Brescia when he was two; they could not afford to pay for his health care, so he was given to foster parents Silvia and Francesco Balotelli, and gained Italian citizenship. Mario made his debut in professional football aged 16; by 2007 he had been signed by Inter Milan.
Mario Balotelli made a big impact at Inter. His manager, Roberto Mancini, believed in him. Mario scored goals in big matches and was selected for Italy at Under-21 and senior level. But a new manager, Jose Mourinho, often left him out of the team. Balotelli followed Roberto Mancini to Manchester City and helped them win the league title in 2012. He played for Italy in the 2012 Euros and the 2014 World Cup, and secured a big-money transfer to Liverpool. He was still only 24.
The ‘Problem Child’
In 2014 it seemed Mario Balotelli was bound to be a major star. He had already suffered from racist abuse in Italy; and was dogged by controversy and lack of stability. He moved from Liverpool to Milan, then Nice, Marseille and Brescia. He did well at Nice but there was a major racist incident in 2017 when he was the target for monkey chants by SC Bastia fans. Balotelli was sent off for complaining to the referee!
Mario Balotelli has had high points in his career. He played for Italy, including the 2012 Euros and the 2014 World Cup; he also helped Manchester City win the Premier League in 2012. But Balotelli has had low points, too. Managers, such as Jose Mourinho and Roberto Mancini, have fallen out with him. There have been bizarre off-field incidents. He became a footballing “rolling stone”, playing for ten different clubs by the age of 29.
Educators could look at the life story of Mario Balotelli and work with young people to consider this question:
How much of this instability was due to his own failings; how much has it been due to negative attitudes to a young man of African heritage in a game often scarred by racism?
What does Balotelli’s life tell us about difficulties faced by Black players in Europe?
Find out more
One of the many interesting video shorts made about Mario Balotelli is this CNN interview in which he discussed his experience with racism.
Mario Balotelli was bound to be a major star, but he faced a turbulent career as a young player. Racist abuse and many controversies are etched in his career. His story is one of racism, diversity and a reminder that Football has some way to go still.