Monday, August 16, 2010

Is Young Mario Balotelli part of the Ghana-Deniers Club?

The victorious Italian national football team (Azzurri) hoisting the World Cup at Germany 2006
Source: 
http://www.i-azzurri.com/ 
Even if you are not a football fan, you may know that a certain Mario Balotelli of Italy has just been scooped up by the millionaire football club, Manchester City. Just in case you did not know, Mario Balotelli is the 20 year old Italian footballing whizz-kid known to have a little attitude on and off the pitch. Mr Balotelli is also known for his smouldering exotic looks. In fact, he is so exotic that if you saw him, you may be inclined to think he looks alot like:

  1.  That trotro* mate who refused to give you the correct change on your way to work last week 
  2.  The guy selling DVDs at Adum Market in Kumasi who tried to get you to buy The Ultimate  Steven Seagal collection 
  3.  A cool young guy hanging out with his buddies at Accra Mall 
Mario Balotelli (nicknamed 'Super Mario') in football action
Source: www.goal.com
So how does a guy that looks so typically Ghanaian end up with such a distinctly Italian name? Is he part of the Ghana-Deniers club that has featured prominent personalities such as pro-wrestler Kofi Kingston formerly of Jamaica now of Ghana


Well, according to the folks over at Wikipedia, Mario Balotelli was born Mario Barwuah in Palermo Italy to Ghanaian immigrants. Due to his childhood health-problems, his struggling immigrant parents eventually turned him over to social services where he was fostered by an Italian family named the Balotellis. He later legally took the Balotelli name and formally became an Italian citizen in 2008. His contact with his real family is apparently minimal.




Super Mario came out blazing to lambast his biological parents in an official statement:

“I have no other recourse than to repeat what I said two years ago: if I hadn’t become the football star Mario Balotelli, they wouldn’t have cared what happened to me."
                     Source: Ghanasoccernet.com via Joy FM online

It appears that young Mario has some deep-seated feelings of abandonment. Interestingly, he was courted persistently by the Ghana Football Association to join the Black Stars, but always stood firm that his dream was to play only for Italy and never for his country of origin. This was despite the fact that some Italians had serious objections to him joining the Azzurri. 


But what about his real parents? Is it a case of giving away a lottery ticket with a winning number or parents' honestly yearning for the child they gave up only thinking about his welfare?? It's quite impossible to know now. In the meantime, I would love to see how Balotelli gets along with his Ghana-loving Togolese team-mate Emmanuel Adebayor. Perhaps Adebayor can teach him a thing or two? 
The always charismatic Emmanuel Adebayor
Source: Daily Telegraph online
**Trotro: A commercial mini-bus that operates in most Ghanaian cities and towns 

27 comments:

Mike said...

Sometimes we have to accept that simply having Ghanaian genes doesn't make one Ghanaian. It's in a similar way I refuse to use the term "African American" for the descendants of slavery. I can also not bring myself to call my nieces Ghanaian, although for some, BOTH their parents are Ghanaian. There are too many facets about Ghanaian culture none in these groups have or would ever experience, and for me a lot of what makes me Ghanaian is in my experiencing and relating to the country.
I recently played a youtube vid of our anthem for my nieces and nephew, and I might as well have been playing old timey music- they couldn't get or appreciate the attempts to connect to a world they don't fully understand. Is Mario denying a heritage he clearly doesn't relate to? No, and I won't hold it against him. Is he denying the lineage he has? Judging from the pics of him at age 10 w/ his mom and brother- which strongly contrasts with the narrative he's always maintained- I would imagine it so, and part of a long-standing and perhaps misinformed issues about abandonment (among other things) he'll need to sort out as he grows older. But, no, he's not Ghanaian.

Sankofa said...

I have to agree with Mike here. I actually think Ghanaians had no claim on from the minute he declared himself an Italian. He clearly considers himself Italian and who am I to insist otherwise? He's never lived in Ghana, probably never even visited and he doesn't identify with Ghanaian culture of any kind. Leave him be to band together with the Italians who will probabaly never consider him as a true Italian either. I actually feel sorry for him. Having a hybrid identity can be terribly lonely at times.

The other Mike said...

He sure earned his spot at the top of the Ghana-Deniers list. Since i'm not big on soccer, I could have easily mistaken him for the guy selling the Segal dvd collection. That was funny Abena. He kinda looks like Castro the hiplife guy too (when he was skinny).

He is free to choose whatever nationality he wants, and that is OK. But he will quickly learn that in the real world, he will always be asked.... "where are you originally from?" Eating tons of pasta, speaking Italian etc wont change his ethnicity.

@ Mike; "sometimes we have to accept..."
Sometimes? Really?
What are the other times?

Gifty said...

i totally agree with "the other mike".. Mario will ALWAYS be asked where are you originally from.... man, it's like he's moving backwards.. nowadays african americans are PAYING to use their DNAs to find out their country of origin in West africa and seeking dual citizenship (eg. Isaiah Washington of Grey's Anatomy has dual citizenship with Sierra Leone).. and he's just going the other direction.. you can change ur name.. eat tons of pasta, speak fluent italian, whatever.. u are still an african.. better start accepting it..

Boatemaa said...

I can't blame the guy for not considering himself Ghanaian. Mario's link to Ghana is through his parents. If they pretty much abandoned him and he was raised by an Italian family he is whatever he considers himself to be and has taken legal steps to be. Yes, people will always ask about where he is from originally but that does not change the fact that legally, he is Italian.

Abena Serwaa said...

@Mike Interesting perspective. I think how one identifies is also very important. I was born and raised in Southern Africa by parents who always emphasized that we were 100% Ghanaian and nothing else. I felt very Ghanaian but interestingly I only discovered exactly what that entailed well into my 20s when I experienced the country not just on holiday but actually living and working the Ghanaian dream.Mario has alot to sort out...but isn't it fascinating how Kevin-Prince Boateng embraced the whole Ghanaian identity and apparently has done so for a while?

Abena Serwaa said...

@Sankofa LOL The sad fact is, as you pointed out, he probably will never be fully accepted as an Italian. I'm also still surprised that the Ghana Football Association still say they have not given up on him playing for the Black Stars since he is yet to play for the Italian National team. Time for us to give up...

Abena Serwaa said...

@The Other Mike You are spot on!! He looks EXACTLY like Castro da destroyer! As long as Mario does not look like Gianluigi Buffon (*yum*), he is bound to be told often that he is not quite Italian.I'm sure he experiences it on a daily basis...

Abena Serwaa said...

@Gifty Totally agree with you! Its very hard to escape the African factor when you look so GHANAIAN

Abena Serwaa said...

@Boatemma LOL When a guy that looks so Ghanaian to me denies he's Ghanaian, it can only make me smile! However, I do agree; his link to Ghana is associated with his parents and he has serious abandonment issues...The good part is that Mario is still quite young. Maybe, as he grows older, he will come to appreciate that Ghanaian identity he is trying to hard to repress.

(im)perfect_black ☥☥☥ said...
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(im)perfect_black ☥☥☥ said...

Yeah, clearly dual nationality (officially or unofficially recognized) is a complicated matter. And "Mario" obviously has beef with his parents. But is also true that folks don't claim this or that nation outside of history. These choices are partially the outcomes of colonialism. That's why you will never see an Italian footballer clamoring for Ghanaian citizenship. GI

Abena Serwaa said...

@(Im)perfect_black...True....If I understand you correctly than I don't entirely agree with the colonialism angle...In high school, two twins in my class were half Italian-half Dutch. They were born in Swaziland and indeed they were clamouring for Swazi citizenship. Just in the same way my brother's former boss was was born in Sunyani in Ghana and is a Ghanaian citizen. Then there is the Kevin-Prince Boateng phenomenon. The first time he actually came to Ghana was after the World Cup yet he yet he chose to play for Ghana. Well, he may not have had any more chances to play for Germany anyway! I guess things are not always so black and white.

(im)perfect_black ☥☥☥ said...
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(im)perfect_black ☥☥☥ said...

Ok, yes, i see your point Abena.But Boateng doesn't fit because he has a Ghanaian parent.

My point is that is that it is extremely rare for white people to reject their european heritage to clamor for citizenship in Africa. Whereas it is very common for Africans to clamor for citizenship in some distant land. And specifically speaking to your post its why so many Ghanaian boys would die for an opportunity to play football in Europe. This is in part an outcome of slavery, colonialism and the resultant global inequalities produced by that history. GI

Abena Serwaa said...

@(im)perfect_black ☥☥☥ interesting that I weakened my own argument with the Boateng example! Indeed, Ghanaian boys would die to play in Europe because the finest football leagues in the world are there. I still don't believe is so black and white. If so, how would you explain a wealthy Nigerian billionaire looking to buy Arsenal Football Club of North London when he could be strengthening the Enugu Rangers? Can this be explained by
slavery and colonialism plus global inequalities?

(im)perfect_black ☥☥☥ said...

Yes, the wealthy African billionaire also clamors to be accepted on Europe terms. I think many Africans on both sides of the Atlantic have been afflicted with this malady. We don't value the wealth that Mama Africa has to offer. I don't think its true for all of us, but i think it is true for many of us. GI

Ghana_Hall_of_Shame said...

Like you said Abena Serwaa, things aren't always black and white. Mario's choice could be solely coming from issues he has with his parents.
(im)perfect black raises a point I agree with - global inequalities driving these choices.
The Nigerian billionaire won't buy the Enugu Rangers because he is probably more interested in making more money right now and not interested in the charity work involved in developing the country & continent's soccer market.

Mike

Abena Serwaa said...

@(im)perfect_black ☥☥☥ Yes I agree that we don't appreciate what we have but its not only Africans trying to get in on the richest football league in the world. Why else would a wealthy Sheikh from the Emirates buy Manchester City. What about previous ManCity owner Thai prime-minister Thaksin Shinawatra? The whole world is aspiring to European standards and yes English Premier league football is superb to watch.

Abena Serwaa said...

@Mike: You couldn't have said it better..To make money he would turn to the EPL but to invest in his own country's football teams would be giving money away i.e. charity.

Interestingly, I was once chatting to a 70+ year old Ghanaian family friend about his love for Manchester United and I asked him what his favorite local team was. He said he did not have any. This was despite the fact that he was once on the board for Asante Kotoko. Over the years, he had become so jaded by the wrangling around the management of Kotoko that he vowed to have nothing to do with local football ever again. Perhaps the Nigerian billionaire is equally jaded.

Ghana_Hall_of_Shame said...

on benevolence, soccer and building its local interest in a developing country:
Pablo Escobar's money and interest in soccer did Colombian soccer some significant amount of good.
Granted that he was limited in options as far as foreign investments were concerned :-)
If we take pride in our own and not sell each other out, we can be way up there in soccer, engineering prowess and many other fields.

Anonymous said...

Why should Mario Balotelli have any affiniy for Ghana, because his parents are Ghanaian and/or he looks Ghananian? C'mon people how lame and shallow.

Identity is what you emotionally, intellectually and spiritually connect with. It has absolutely nothing to do with skin pigmentation or worse, parental lineage or ancestry.
It is clear that he has a justifiable right to have only an emotional and intellectual connection to Italy, why should Ghanaians expect him to share an affinity when his life experiences have afforded little interaction, sadly for him this was involuntary as his parents gave him up?

The Ghetto Intellectual™ said...

@ anon- Whether Mario should have an affinity to Ghana is for me a question of race and heritage. Social affinity and distinction based on skin pigmentation ("race") is thousands of years old. It is no more or less valid or "shallow" than any other notion of identity. Moreover, African footballers face gross discrimination based on their race, so it is not surprising that these attacks make some African footballers more race conscious. kzs

Abena Serwaa said...

@Anonymous I agree with that identity does include what "you emotionally, intellectually and spiritually connect with." But I disagree that it has absolutely nothing to do with skin colour or ethnic origin. Identity is multifaceted and is also shaped by your interactions with others in the world around you. Whether you like it or not, skin colour defines you and may influence how others see or label you even before they get to know you.
How you are perceived and received by the outside world will influence what you emotionally, spiritually and intellectually connect with and thus shape your identity. To sum it up, I don't think race and ethnic origin can be neatly excluded from the equation.

Abena Serwaa said...

@The Ghetto Intellectual I totally agree. Well said.

Think-About-It said...

http://sports.yahoo.com/soccer/blog/dirty-tackle/post/Angry-Mancini-subs-Balotelli-for-failed-backheel?urn=sow-wp3624

I wonder what Akwesi Mario said to his team mate next to him after he blew that trickshot.
What did he say to the coach when he walked to the bench? "I will score when I want to!"?

Abena Serwaa said...

@Think-about-it The longer Mario Balotelli keeps up with this attitude the more brutal his eventual downfall will be. Sadly, he will only embrace his Ghanaian side as soon as his career starts to hit rock-bottom