Ghanasoccernet columnist Nii Ayitey Tetteh tries to understand Mario Balotelli's unequivocal NO to play for Ghana and Milovan Rajevac's frustrated attempts to snare the youngster.
Like any other ordinary day on August 12, 1990, while residents in Palermo, Italy went about their business, Mario Barwuah was born to Ghanaian immigrants. At age two, Mario's parents Thomas and Rose Barwuah, for reasons best known to them, gave young Mario up to be fostered by the Balotelli family!
Nineteen odd years on, Mario Balotelli who now stands at 6 ft. 2 inches, is a burgeoning footballer who plays for Inter Milan, one of Italy's elite football teams. He also has his own sports and fashion collection called SMB45 and heads a charity called Mata Atlantica Project. From afar, you might think that Mario Balotelli must be living his childhood dreams. But then an albatross hangs around his neck.
At just 19, he has already suffered more racial abuses than the average black man would suffer in his lifetime. He has been racially abused by Italian football fans in particular and the public in general for his perceived arrogant attitude and for daring to call himself an Italian.
The young man is least flustered and even getting used to all the antagonism. But on February 24, 2010, another attack emanated from a most unlikely source-Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac.
In an interview granted to a football site, football365.co.za, Rajevac expressed his frustration over several attempts to persuade Ballotelli to play for the Black Stars and severely criticized the player for disrespectingGhana.
For Rajevac, though it was within Ballotelli's right to decide not to play for Ghana, his comments have bordered on pure disrespect to the blood that runs through his veins. "I have never felt Ghanaian, my parents come from Ghana but I don't know anything about THAT country. "I have never thought about playing for Ghana neither do I have any inclination towards them. It is Italy or no other country," insisted Balotelli on one occasion. It is even alleged that he once commented that he would rather deliver pizza than wear the colours of Ghana.
Ouch! I can bet that hit a raw Ghanaian nerve. So it remains a paradox indeed, that Balotelli, despised and racially abused by the land of his birth, loved from afar by the land of his biological parents and offered chance to play for the Black Stars at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa in June, would throw the offer right back in the face of Ghanaians though he has little chance of making the Italian squad.
If you are one of many soccer fans struggling to understand the eccentric attitude of Ballotelli, you are not alone. Itís a curious case indeed! A case of confused identity or foolish pride: There is a saying that:"You can't judge a man until you have walked in his shoes." Ballotelli is simply suffering from a confused identity many have argued. When you are given away at age two by your biological parents, not only are you most likely to feel resentment towards your biological parents but even extend it their roots as well-being Ghana.
When you are provided with care and love by your foster parents, are you not likely to feel a duty to reciprocate that love to them and their roots-being Italy. So you see, apart from Balotelli knowing that his market value would definitely go one notch up when he plays for the Azurri of Italy, his resentment towards his parents has probably been extended to Ghana.
The argument is not helped when you consider that he was born and raised in Italy, lived all his life and imbibed the culture of Italy. He is not only emotionally but socially connected to Italy. In fact he might feel more alienated playing for Ghana. He may not want to trade his pasta for "waakye"-a Ghanaian delicacy.
However, Ballotelli himself would be the first to admit a tinge of doubt about his nationality considering that Italians have on more than one occasion reminded him that he is only a citizen by birth and residence and not by blood. He has been jeered several times while playing for Inter Milan. In one of such games against Juventus, opposing fans jeered "A black Italian cannot exist." Roma fans were reported to have thrown bananas at him in a bar while waiting to join up with the Italian U-21 squad.
It was so bad; the owner of the bar had to call in the police. Even at the San Siro Stadium where he plays there's an ugly graffiti on the wall which goes like "non sei vero Italiano, sei un Africano nero" translated as "You are not a true Italian, you are a black African."
Though it looks obvious that he is unwanted by a section of Italians, he simply won't budge on his position to play for Italy. Personality psychologists believe that his conflict with his ancestry remains unresolved while others have argued that he is not confused and that itís just in his nature to be stubborn and arrogant.
Ballotelli has on countless times lost his temper and reacted badly, sometimes even violently. He been rude to fellow players and taunted opposing fans. Playing in a Champions League match against Manchester United in 2009, he tackled and pushed Chritiano Ronaldo down and then aggressively told him to get up.
In another match against Roma in March 2009, Ballotelli scored and then run up to Christian Panucci and gestured him to shut up. He then went up to the Roma fans and started yelling at them. He has even gone to the extent of showing up late for training sessions in protest against his coach Jose Mourinho for not being handed a starting place on the Inter team.
A case for the mirror: Socrates once said the unexamined life is not worth living. Now and again we all need to look into the mirror and reflect over choices we have made.
Maybe when Ballotelli does a little introspection, he would realize that if he continues to speak about Ghana in uncharitable terms, the very Italians he wishes to belong won't respect him. There is no dignity in looking down on your roots. He would realize that there is a grand design for everybody's life. Maybe it was necessary that he was given up to the Balotelli family. Had his parents kept him, he may not have had the opportunities he had to develop his talent. Well, Balotelli is young and maybe with the maturity of age, he would realize his true self and perhaps get on a flight and head south of the Sahara. The question is, would he be accepted or it would be too late?
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