April 25th 2017

Sports / In-Depth

Africans captivated by Balotelli’s super start at Nice

His footballing talent was discovered early and he embarked on his football odyssey by playing in Italy’s Serie C at 15. His first and most distressing challenge were the racist chants from the stands. But credit to him he has weathered all these storms.

By John Moyijmoyi@kenyafreepress.comMonday, 26 Sep 2016 13:46 EAT

Balotelli has revived the confidence that African fans always had in him.

Mario Balotelli, Italian international and football bad boy has been lately in the news for every good reasons. He joined Nice, in the French Ligue 1 a few weeks ago on a free transfer from Liverpool. His stint at Liverpool and later on loan to AC Milan had been disastrous. For a top striker, two goals in two years is terrible output.

Nevertheless, since joining Nice, he has proved that he is far from a spent force. In his last two games he has scored a total of four goals. A brace in each of these games, beginning in the 3-2 win versus Marseille and 4-0 against Monaco. In the process taking the team to the top of Ligue 1.

Nice coach, Lucien Favre is full of praise for the mercurial striker: “Four goals in the first two Ligue 1 matches? No, I wasn’t expecting that”. He goes on to add: “He‘s a great player who also works hard and he has the right mentality.”

Balotelli is 26 years old and ever since he started playing football, he has had many detractors. Unfortunately, a good portion of these have been racists, not happy, nay, bitter seeing a cocky black man succeeding. He joined Manchester City when he was barely 20, enduring a frustrating time and on to Liverpool, where he could not hold a first team place despite his undoubted talent.

His off-the-field antics adversely affected his football. His life and temperament have been severely scrutinized, harshly and oftentimes unfairly criticized. For example even after he had sealed the move from Liverpool to Nice on free transfer, Jamie Carragher, retired Liverpool defender, tweeted; “Balotelli on a free is still paying over the odds by Nice.”

Balotelli responded; “Jamie Carragher, bad player, wonderful hater, who cares?” Carragher was not done yet, he continued his wholly uncalled for vitriolic attack by musing, rather disingenuously; “People tell me he’s got talent but I can`t remember him having a good game.”

Balotelli has even been called “a lazy bastard.” On the internet there is a trending video that explodes the myth of his laziness with the headline of “Mario Balotelli actually works very hard.”

In 290 top level games, he has scored 90 goal. Balotelli has shown that he has all the important ingredients for success at the top of the football world: abundant skill, speed and cool under pressure. The fans at Nice have already fallen in love with him, chants of “Go Super Mario Go” rent the air each time he touches the ball.

The player has had a difficult life having being adopted at age 3. His footballing talent was discovered early and he embarked on his football odyssey by playing in Italy’s Serie C at 15. His first and most distressing challenge were the racist chants from the stands. But credit to him he has weathered all these storms.

He is of African, more specifically Ghanaian extraction, hence, many on this continent empathize with him. A young man thrown into the unpredictable and turbulent world of European professional football.

It is hoped that through all these storms he has now matured and is ready to let his immense talent speak for itself. We wish him God speed and are rooting for him: Go Super Mario Go!!!

John is an editorial quality advisor at the Kenya Free Press.





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