Mario Balotelli Forever!

Mario Balotelli

Dear Blog Readers — Any of you who read my post last summer on Balotelli’s Mamma know that I am a fan of Italian soccer star Mario Balotelli, not for his golden feet and the goals he scores with them, but for what he has put up with and accomplished.   Mario Balotelli remains the first and, as of now, only black (Afro-Italian) player to play on Italy’s national team.  Over the years, he has put up with nasty racial slurs and frequent inappropriate jokes about his race.

This week Balotelli was once again the target of a racial broadside.  Surprisingly it came from Paolo Berlusconi, Vice President of the Italian soccer team AC Milan and brother of former Italian Prime Minister, and President of AC Milan, Silvio Berlusconi.

Paolo Berlusconi, Vice President of AC Milan and brother of former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi

On Sunday, February 3, Paolo Berlusconi was speaking at an election rally promoting a candidate.  The rally was prior to AC Milan’s game against Udinese and the first game in which Mario Balotelli would play for AC Milan.  AC Milan won the game 2-1, thanks to Balotelli’s two goals.

Paolo Berlusconi was captured on a local television telling the crowd, “We are now going to see the family’s little negro who is a hot-head, the young ladies are naturally invited, if they want to come with me, you will also have the opportunity to meet the president (Silvio Berlusconi).”

Just a few weeks ago, in January, Berlusconi’s AC Milan bought Mario Balotelli from Manchester City for a reported 20 Million Euro (27 million dollars).  Now, apparently Paolo Berlusconi sees Balotelli as his “family’s little negro.”

Mario Balotelli in his first game as part of AC Milan

This is not the first Berlusconi family member  to insult Balotelli.  On January 8th, Silvio Berlusconi told an local Italian television that he didn’t want Balotelli at AC Milan because he is a “bad apple” adding “if you put a bad apple in the changing room it can infect everyone.”

But it is election season in Italy and Berlusconi is no fool.  Golden-footed Balotelli is adored by fans in Italy and a few weeks later when AC Milan bought Balotelli he was mobbed by wildly enthusiastic fans in Milan and political analysts pondered the possibility that the slight boost Berlusconi was showing in the polls might have something to do with getting Balotelli for AC Milan.

On Friday, February 1st when Balotelli appeared  before the press showing off his new AC Milan shirt, a journalist asked him what he thought about Berlusconi’s “bad apple” comment.  Balotelli diplomatically said, “I did not hear about this comment in England, I heard about it later, when my manager had talked already with Milan and the president (Berlusconi) had already apologized, but I didn’t know anything about it.”

Balotelli was interrupted by Adriano Galliani, the CEO of AC Milan who said Berlusconi never apologized because he never made the bad apple comment.  Sigh.  Too bad for him that AP television ran that video on the day he said it, and we still have it in our office.

Balotelli is not the only player in Italy who has faced racist attacks.  AC Milan teammate, Kevin Prince-Boateng walked off the field during a friendly match on January 4th when fans of a team from a lower division began racist jeers.  He complained to the referee several times but nothing was done.  Eventually he pulled off his jersey and walked off the field followed by his teammates.

A few days later on January 6th the AC Milan teammates all wore shirts that had written on the back “AC Milan against Racism.”

AC Milan fans holding sign "Always Super Mario" during Mario Balotelli's first game with AC Milan

The majority of fans in Italy are not racist, but there are still plenty of hardcore fans who are.  But almost worse than that is a deep-seated intolerance in Italy that comes out in comments like those of Paolo Berlusconi.

Today I spoke to a sports journalist friend Marcel Vulpis who runs a website www.sportseconomy.it  He explained to me that it is a cultural problem and requires education in Italian schools.

Balotelli himself commented recently on the topic noting, “Racism is very tough to fight, I really don’t know how to defeat it. You need to keep firm and sooner or later we’ll win.”

Keep firm Balotelli and you will win.

11 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Adri
    2013/02/07

    Thanks for this update. The taunts on the pitch have begun to make news here too, and have been widely decried. This business with the Berlusconi clan, however has gone unreported. But when, oh when will it all stop? Racism has coursed through centuries of human history. I know it is better than it used to be, but when I hear about it, it takes my breath away and makes my heart hurt. The comment you cite “our family’s little negro,” is particularly offensive becauese of its patronizing nature and stereotypical overtones, with “little” as though the man is incapable of taking care of himself. It is reminiscent of the use of “boy” here in the U.S. And “our family’s” – although he is personal property. But then what should we expect from that family?

    I enjoyed a long career in medicine, and had the great honor to work with a gentleman who was the finest obstetric anesthesiologist in Los Angeles. He was also black. More than once patients refused to be treated by him. And not just patients who had the luxury of pre-planning the birth of their child. No. I am talking about women in active labor refusing to have their pain relieved by this physician. Think about that for a minute. These women and their families were hard core. I always thought the patients terribly foolish to refuse to be treated by the most famous and the finest anesthesiologist in the city. And so it goes.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2013/02/07

      Adri – Thank you for sharing your story about the black anesthesiologist. It is hard to imagine the depth of ignorance sometimes. Having been through three child-births, I know what that pain is and that anyone would let the color of someone’s skin get in the way is, as you say, “hardcore” racist.

      Reply
  2. Avatar
    Arlene Gibbs Décor
    2013/02/07

    I can’t root for AC as a team as they are owned by Berulusconi. But I do root for Mario.

    True, Mario is immature and difficult at times. I defend him not because I’m black but because he’s put up with a lot of crap professionally and personally.

    Mario is very talented, unlike Paolo Berlusconi.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2013/02/07

      I agree with you on everything you say Arlene!

      Reply
  3. Avatar
    Alan
    2013/02/07

    . . football, along with a few other contact sports, are a fetid breeding ground for rabid tribalism. The ‘Beautiful Game’ it is not – covered, as it is, in the machismo slime of racism. Here’s to those who stand out against these attitudes – perhaps Mario and his colleagues should pull their shirts off and leave the field whenever the Burlesconi scum take their seats in the stadium.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2013/02/07

      The problem with football and with so many other sports (I am also thinking of football, basketball and baseball in the US, to name a few), is that there is so much money involved. Mario Balotelli is getting a lot of money from the Berlusconi’s to play for AC Milan, so he is unlikely to walk off the field when the Berlusconi brothers appear at the stadium. However, I think Kevin Prince-Boateng showed a lot of courage to walk off and it certainly got the attention of people in the football business — think how much money is lost when a came is called off.

      Reply
  4. Avatar
    JwT
    2013/02/07

    I am reminded of Jackie Robinson. As someone who was a baseball fan in those days Jackie endured verbal and physical abuse with a grace and poise that are almost unimaginable. That was the early ’50s It is hard to imagine that that prejudice still exists. Here to the people who have the courage to fight it.

    Reply
  5. Avatar
    Nancy Rockwell
    2013/02/08

    Bravo, Trisha! Succinct, truthful, to the point, and making it very clear what is going on here. Labelling him ‘not Italian’ in so very many ways. And who is Silvio Berlusconi to call anyone a bad apple??? I wonder if the Italian press will have the courage to report this issue? Glad you have taken the lead!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2013/02/08

      If you think about it, it is very funny that Berlusconi is calling someone a “bad apple.” The Italian press has definitely covered this story, but I think the real impetus is coming from the British press who are big soccer/football fans and are watching the Balotelli situation closely because he was playing for Manchester City.

      Reply
  6. Avatar
    Kathy
    2013/02/09

    I was horrified when I read your last post on Mario Balotelli, his mother and the ugly racists who claim ‘there are no black Italians’. In Australia we often hear how Italy takes five times the number of asylum seekers and refugees than we do, and we are told they do it with great humanity and without complaint. In Australia, Italy is the template for the way to treat these desperate people, rather than the way we do it (offshore detention centres, razor wire, prison-like conditions….). So, I am very shocked by this attitude towards Mario Balotelli.

    When I was a teenager in the 1970s, my best friend was a first generation Australian of Italian immigrant parents who fled post WW2 Calabria and its poverty and desperation. She was mortified by her Italian heritage and so desperately wanted to be ‘Aussie’ that she changed her name from Maria to Marie. The racism in Australia toward Italian immigrants was the reason. They were called ‘wogs, dagos, greaseballs’ ….you name it….Sadly, here in Australia, over the years we just find a new ‘other’ to demonise and reject. After the Greeks and Italians, it was the Asians. These days its the Muslims.

    It embarasses and mortifies me that Australians are like this. I’m deeply shocked that some Italians are like this too. The walk-off by the AC team a few weeks ago made news here too. It was courageous and I hope it starts a trend that may even make its way off the football field. I always think of that famous quote (paraphrased here) ‘Evil thrives when good men do nothing’

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2013/02/09

      You are absolutely right. People rarely think of Italy as a country with problems with racism– often the United States is the first country that comes to most people’s minds. But yes, it has reared its ugly head here too. It is interesting what you say about Australian racism moving from one group to another and people seek someone new to demonize and that now it is Muslims. It is a bit like that in the US too. Sigh.

      Reply

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