Mario Balotelli Blossoming Into Soccer Star As One of Game’s Most Polarizing Players


Nov 30, 2011

November has been the month of Mario Balotelli, one of international soccer’s blossoming stars.

Unpredictable both on and off the field,  Balotelli has brought new spark to world soccer, a spark that the pent-up Ronaldo and the shy Lionel Messi seem reluctant to embrace.

He is a lot of different things, for a lot of different people. In this month alone, he has become a symbol of unity and harmony, while also being viewed as a volatile and divisive force.

How does one person manage to exemplify all of this at once?

The Italian striker had his first goal with the international team earlier this month, becoming the first black athlete to score for the Italian national team. The media pounced on the moment, with Balotelli headlining a moment of unity within the country, calling the Azzurri the “United Colors of Italy.”

This weekend, however, it was another color bringing attention for the young striker in the form of a red card in a tight match against Liverpool in only just his 17th minute of play after coming on late.The fact that he wasn’t starting was telling in itself, but being sent off in 17 minutes exemplified everything wrong with a me-first attitude that has plagued Balotelli throughout his career.

Roberto Mancini was quick to defend his player, and replay does seem to show the ejection was unjustified. The two Italians seem to have a love-hate relationship as they try and adapt to gray Manchester. Yet, the questions once again came up: Is the Balotelli’s benefit worth the risk?

The striker scores superb goals but he also gets ejected and shows off. He has entered a stage where he is no longer being judged for his actions, but for his persona.

“Why Always Me?” read Balotelli’s shirt during the Manchester Derby. Thing is, the Italian striker, used to always being different, seems quite content with making himself a target so that he is no longer judged by his merits.

He was not praised perhaps as much for his superb goal with the Italian national team, but rather for what it meant. The same could be said for the red card, as he was not judged as the victim of a bad call (which he clearly was), but for the petulant child that once again made a mess of things.

The Manchester City star is content to become a caricature of himself. What he may not realize, though, is that others are painting that caricature for him.

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