Speaking after a post-game contention during a Euro 2012 soccer tournament, Mario Balotelli said, “I’m not a Super Mario or a Stupid Mario. I’m usually Mario.” But being usually Mario isn’t always simple. Only 22 and already a striker for Italy’s inhabitant group and for English Premier League champions Manchester City, a actor is concurred as one of a world’s good sporting talents. Yet a immature Italian is mostly as discussed for his flighty spirit as for his personification bravery and goal-scoring flair. And, as a initial actor of African skirmish to paint Italy during vital tournaments, he has turn both a aim of injustice and a representation of Italy’s transition to a some-more diverse, internationalized country.
TIME’s Europe editor Catherine Mayer and Rome-based match Stephan Faris trafficked to Manchester for a singular talk with a fickle star (read it here). They found a clever, engaging, courteous adult, yet one in whom a impact of childhood turmoil still seems clearly visible. TIME spoke with Mayer to get a story behind a story.
(MORE: Why Always Mario? )
Why did we select to form Balotelli?
Stephan and we have been deliberating for a prolonged time a problems encountered by black Italians in convincing their white counterparts that they are in fact Italian. Italy is a nation we revisit frequently and we are unequivocally aware, generally in contrariety to a nation like Britain where there is a estimable black core class, of how black Italians can be marginalized.
Balotelli was creatively one of a names that came adult in this discussion. He is somebody whom we have found forever fascinating not usually as a sportsman, yet also as a character: he’s not usually a naught for these issues of competition yet unequivocally multilayered. So a thought afterwards emerged because not form Balotelli and get to some of these issues?
How did we remonstrate him to do this interview?
I had prolonged conversations with people during Manchester City and also contacted his agent, in sequence to plead what it was we wanted to do. The final and many critical assembly was with Balotelli himself. Manchester is mythological for a rainfall, yet it was one of a wettest days ever. They authorised me to watch him train, that is singular for reporters to be authorised to do. we was sitting inside looking like a drowned rat, and he came in looking unusually glamorous with these pleasing solid earrings he wears.
For somebody so decorated he is startlingly shy, so when we initial met him his feeling to do this was unequivocally marked. we would contend that we didn’t trust 100% until we was indeed sitting down with him on a day that a talk was going to happen.
Did he pronounce many about his bent to concede his talents?
He did. During a talk he switched behind and onward between English and Italian. His English is good yet there were certain moments where he wanted to demonstrate something with a turn of refinement he couldn’t conduct in English so he would afterwards go into Italian. He talked a lot about his life. He does have an picture of himself as someone who knows what he needs to do to attain and to play well—but he competence not always acknowledge a border to that he does get in a approach of himself.
But he is unequivocally many some-more keen and crafty than we competence assume from a unequivocally ardent open image. He is also—and this is something that unequivocally tugs a heartstrings about him—incredibly critical and wants to explain things and wants to know things. He breaks into this laugh that is one of a many extraordinary phenomena – we know where his draw comes from!
What did he tell we about his knowledge of injustice in Italy?
He gave unequivocally utterly a formidable set of answers that we wish we had another set of several thousand difference for. One of his engaging views on it was a eminence between racism, by that he meant hostility, and a kind of ignorance. Much of a knowledge he described was unequivocally about people not quite being antagonistic towards him, yet usually creation a array of fake assumptions about him and other black people. Since apropos famous he has now encountered some unequivocally active feeling too.
And he talks about experiencing that feeling in Italy, rather than in a U.K.?
There are many things he does not like about a U.K., however tactful he was about that side of things, yet he clearly thinks that Britain is a bliss compared to Italy in terms of attitudes to race.
Did he seem disturbed by his open image?
He is wakeful of it. He wants his mom to be unapproachable of him, he wants a feedback from other people she talks to in Brescia, he wants that to be positive, and we consider he would unequivocally many like to be a Mario he sees in his head–the one who behaves on a representation and is shining during scoring goals and all of that. But he did also contend he doesn’t like carrying a expectancy of being a purpose indication installed onto him. we would contend he has churned feelings about it.
What are your possess links to this story and to Manchester?
I’m American-born yet we spent a cube of teenage years during high propagandize in Manchester. People tangible themselves during propagandize by either they were City or United supporters. As it happens we am married to a Man U supporter. we did acknowledge that to City so that they didn’t consider we was a view in a camp.
In terms of a story of football in Manchester, a lot of this we know in my bones, it is not something we had to investigate particularly. It is also another reason because a story appealed to me so much. The transition of a bar in a ennui to a group that kick United to a League pretension final season, yet deeply unpleasant to my husband, was positively one of a good dramas in sport. It was spectacular. The fact that City unequivocally has come from such a squalid status, and a fact that their closest rivals were United unequivocally did make it fabulous.
How many of an impact has City’s investment had on Manchester?
It’s unequivocally apparent how new a investment is to City itself. For instance their media core is this waggish small building that has a toilet that stinks to hell. The usually trickery we had for doing a photoshoot and a video was in this small hovel that stank of toilet.
There is already a lot of change in a area around a stadium. Manchester is positively feeling a mercantile turmoil of a final few years. But that partial of Manchester that has historically been so bad is indeed doing improved as a approach outcome of City’s money. The impact of now carrying these dual outrageous teams in one city creates a city itself a fascinating study.