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My Love Affair with Mario Balotelli


This is a confessional. Maybe not the kind you were hoping for, but I’m sure you can find plenty of that kind elsewhere on the interwebs. This one is about my love for someone who is part mythical, part icon, part football, and yet 100% human. He changed my heart 180° when he came to Milan, and I will never forget him. I honestly don’t think there is another player on the planet like him, and his loss for me is being felt on so many levels. I have to face the facts, I am in love with Mario Balotelli. And now he’s walking out of my life.

Beast.

A few years back, I was blogging for an Italian national team site, and Balotelli was always coming up for discussion. I always maintained the position that he was amazingly talented, but that he needed psychological help and was thus too much of a risk for any team, perhaps even the national team. I definitely didn’t want him at Milan. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

First of all, at least half of the things written by the media about him are actually untrue. You can thank the British media specifically for that. But the proof is in the fact that while at Milan, he was relatively quiet and well-behaved, compared to the monstrous psychopath they painted him out to be there. In fact, his worst moment was probably earning a 3 match ban last year for talking to the refs after once again being manhandled and not getting any fouls called (and probably having been racially abused, too.) He was the most fouled player in Serie A, the most racially abused, facing abuse when he wasn’t even present, even at a youth match. In contrast, our captain, Montolivo, earned a two match Champions League ban last season for a bad tackle that impacted the team far worse than anything Balotelli did during his time at the club. But Balotelli gets all of the hate.

Most ironic photo ever.

Balotelli is probably the most over-criticized player, too. Everyone had something negative to say about him no matter how well he played. If I had a nickel for every time I saw Milan fans screaming on Twitter that he was underperforming or wasn’t putting in enough effort or “going to ground easy” when he had 2-3 defenders constantly attached to him like leeches, then I could afford to write the check to Milan to keep him and buy as many world class players as we liked, too. Balotelli was always doing something positive for us. He was defending, often going all the way back (and then criticized for not staying in the box,) he was passing and looking to help his teammates, he was drawing the defenders and drawing the fouls (well those just happened no matter what he did, but he often didn’t get the calls.) His free kicks were the stuff fantasy was made from, and his penalty record simply amazing.

According to the haters, Balotelli is a terrible teammate, never smiles, and never celebrates.

Balotelli had the most shots in Serie A during his time at Milan, but never gave enough “effort”, according to the haters. As the most fouled player, he really did keep it together very well. Still not enough for the shortsighted fans, but they will miss him on the pitch this year when opponents just walk right through our defense/midfield/attack to score goal after goal, with no one like him to stop them anymore. And the constant racial abuse he took on the pitch was bad enough, but he also kept it together to play for a club whose management also racially abused him, even from the beginning, and whose CEO supported a racist for FIGC president instead of supporting a former Milan player, let alone everyone else at the club. No one could possibly know how Balotelli felt, playing at “home” for the club of his dreams with “support” like that.

A fan there told me he trained the longest, then hung out to sign autographs

But he became more than just a hero to me for withstanding so much abuse, both physical and emotional, and still scoring 30 goals in 18 short months in Serie A, Coppa Italia, and the Champions League. I saw in him such strength. Not just physically, he is obvously amazingly strong, virtually unstoppable. He was also so strong mentally, despite what people think. He smiled so much since he came to Milan, even if haters still criticize him for not smiling (seriously, name one other player who gets criticized for his facial expressions?) He had to shut out a world of overblown hate and criticism just for being so awesome, and was still able to be a world class striker. At a time when Milan’s commitment to football and winning was at an all-time low. If that’s not emotional fortitude I really don’t know what is.

The man is clever and creative... and freaking awesome.

I don’t know what exactly it was that changed me from someone who questioned his purchase to one of his biggest fans who is now devastated at his loss. Maybe it was when he wanted to drive a go kart, but his contract stipulated that he couldn’t, so he drove his Ferrari on the track instead. Brilliant. It wasn’t any one thing, actually. I think that by both seeing his fun personality come out through Twitter and Instagram, and watching him fight for Milan week in and week out amidst the most harsh odds, I began to realize that there was so much more to him than meets the eye. And I think that more than any other player who has come to Milan in recent years that was a Milanista, I saw more red and black, more courage, and more fight in him than any other player.

What more can I say? He walks on water. 'Nuff said.

While I’m glad that I fell in love with Super Mario, I’m crushed that he is moving on. Not just because I became so attached to him, but for what this move represents from management. I have yet to hear why he left, maybe it was his choice. And I can’t say that I’d blame him if it was. But the fact is that he is leaving, my heart is broken, and there isn’t another player in the world that can fill his pink and blue shoes. Milan are losing their most talented player, but they are also losing a true lion. Someone who fought for Milan and gave us everything he had, only to receive hate and abuse in return. He dispelled the myths, became a Milan icon, played brilliant football, and showed us that he is 100% human. And now he is walking out the door. Neither Milan nor I will ever be the same.


This post inspired by the music of the Foo Fighters’ “My Hero”


Our next match is the
Trofeo TIM
Saturday, August 23
20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT) Milan vs. Juventus
21:45 CEST (3:45pm EDT) loser of 1st game vs. Sassuolo
22:45 CEST (4:45pm EDT) winner of 1st game vs. Sassuolo