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Sunday February 9 2014
Behind Balotelli's tears

The sight of Mario Balotelli crying on the Milan bench sparked a false media frenzy that Susy Campanale found incomprehensible.

Italian football – and Italian society in general – still has a very long way to go when it comes to eradicating racism. However, spreading lies and leaping to conclusions will definitely not help the situation. Mario Balotelli burst into tears during a game and non-Italian media assumed it was because of racist abuse without knowing any of the facts. How quickly this falsehood spread was disconcerting.

We all know stories spread like wildfire on the Internet and in the age of Twitter completely made-up or twisted tales can reach television news programmes with very little filter. I was just finishing up working on the Napoli-Milan match when I saw ‘Balotelli’ was trending on Twitter in the UK. I clicked on the topic, expecting to see something about the game or people commiserating with the much-loved maverick over his tearful reaction to the substitution. Instead I found myself reading page upon page of comments asking for UEFA to ban Italian clubs and even for all black players around the world to go on strike because racist abuse had been so bad that it pushed SuperMario to break down in tears. I was speechless, which is more than can be said for those thousands who declared Serie A should be shut down on the basis of a completely false story.

I don’t know where the rumour started, perhaps from a Vine account or a misguided journalist who wasn’t at the game, but it seemed incredibly difficult to stop. I tried via my Twitter account, as did our official Football Italia feed, but everyone was painfully eager to believe the worst. Evidence and context were apparently irrelevant, for Balotelli broke down and therefore it HAD to be racist abuse. The fact Clarence Seedorf didn't mention racism in several interviews afterwards was insufficient to change their minds. Abuse has only ever fired him up to do better and shut the critics up, not to emotionally collapse. 

This has been a tough week for Mario. A bitter legal battle with his ex-girlfriend finally came to the DNA tests proving he is the father of a little girl, Pia, who was born in December 2012. He has avoided meeting her until this point as he wanted to be sure he was her Dad before making an emotional connection, as much for her own good as his. “I know what it’s like to be a child and suddenly people leave,” said the man who was adopted by the Balotelli family in Brescia and was estranged from his biological family until relatively recently. Pia and her mother Raffaella Fico live in Naples. Milan were playing at the San Paolo. It’s very likely he had something prepared as a dedication to his newly-discovered daughter if he was to score a goal that night, in her home city. When he was substituted just moments after missing an open goal and with his team losing, the disappointment flooded over him. It’s entirely understandable and I wanted to climb into the television to give him a much-needed cuddle.

This isn’t the first time Balotelli has wept during a football event. He cried when embraced by his mother after scoring a brace against Germany in the Euro 2012 semi-final. He then shed tears at the final whistle of that heavy Final defeat to Spain. Perhaps the more repressed nations are unaccustomed to seeing football players cry at emotional moments, but that is the sheer passion this sport invokes in people, both on and off the pitch. It’s not even unheard of in England, where Paul Gascoigne couldn’t hold back the emotion when learning he’d be suspended for the 1990 World Cup Final (if his team would’ve got there).

How often do supporters phone in to radio stations to complain their highly-paid players are mercenaries who don’t care about the team? Balotelli proved how much he truly cares for Milan and was angry at himself for not being able to help the team. It is to be embraced, not vilified.

Another video of tears went viral last week, as Hernanes wept in his car while saluting Lazio fans for the last time. He knew it was the final occasion before his move to Inter, but the supporters did not. The Brazilian was consoled in tender fashion by the ultras – the same ultras we so often see depicted as vicious brutes who want to beat up their own players. The video usually cut out before one telling moment, which saw the fan who embraced him break away because he too was crying.

Don’t underestimate the power of sport to move the emotions in fans or players. And don’t leap to conclusions.

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Have your say...
Why so much talk about Ballo? He'll never deliver in a team like this. Let's talk about See. Have u seen all the Milan matches under him? I have. A team really played better under Allegri. See knows that 4-2-3-1 is trendy nowadays but he has no clue how it works. Moreover that formation doesn't suit current Milan's squad at all. Having Taarabt and Honda or even Abate as wingers. What a joke, a coach isn't a professional, that's clear. Play a formation suitable for players!
on the 9th February, 2014 at 8:50pm
How had this turned into another slagging off balo session? It seems that people who say the media hype him spend more time talking about him than anyone else. He's a young striker who offers more to milan and Italy than some other players around him. This is a fact. He scored 4 goals to get Italy to the euros and his goals got milan into the CL in the sons half of last season. This story like most others about balo is made up. Yes he shed a tear and then people made stuff up.
on the 9th February, 2014 at 8:08pm
Super Mario is one of those "talents" who will never grow up. I have the feeling that he (and many others) care more about their hair and their bank account than their team. I think Silvio was right, when he said just before he joined AC Milan, that "he is like a bad apple and can destroy all good ones". Personally, I wouldn't have bought him. El Shaarawy is much better player and a much better person who fits very well with Milans principles than Super Mario. Get rid of him please!
on the 9th February, 2014 at 7:51pm
The current Milan Team is the worst I have ever seen. Full of rejects and second rate players. Kaka, Robinho, Essien, Mexes players that shouldn't be at Milan, their best days are behind them. Then there is Honda, Taarabt and Muntari never players I would think to see in a Milan top. Lucky for them they have Mario, although he has been on and off at times he is the only man for them that makes things happen. Montolivo this season has also been poor. I hope the Milan board sell the club....
on the 9th February, 2014 at 6:56pm
@ Viktor you can see I'm trying to be constructive but the last 2 transfer windows in particular have left me fuming. I cannot believe bonera, Mexes and robinho are still at the club. As far as I'm concerned with players like niang once they're loaned out they're finished. You'll see niang is gone now. We've got too many players in attack so it's hard to know where everyone fits. I've a bad feeling about SES. I just hope Galliani s gone by the summer
on the 9th February, 2014 at 6:56pm
For me that means making 1 or a maximum 2 good signings this summer. I don't expect milan to win the league next year. Let us build slowly. A GK and CB are absolutely key. If seedorf and whoever else decides these things don t see it then it's pure incompetence. Alex is ok but really if we focus on a few signs we should be able to afford 2 decent players: perin and astori. We need a squad of less than 25. If we can't get through a season with 25 players then milan lab needs an overhaul.
on the 9th February, 2014 at 6:51pm
The Independent reported that Seedorf was the first black manager in Serie A for 20 years. Curiously ignoring Fabio Liverani a few months prior.

There seems to be a very negative view of Serie A in the English press. They're always keen to point out bad things.
on the 9th February, 2014 at 6:50pm
@ dazziano I agree with you to a certain degree. The problem is definitely the club hierarchy. Balo is showing his frustration. Between now and the end of the season we'll see how seedorf does. I think he's done ok. I agree with moving abate to right wing. I've been saying it for years. The problem is that every time the transfer window opens more chaos ensues. The squad is a total mess because we've got so many of the wrong players for a small number of positions. What we need is some stability
on the 9th February, 2014 at 6:46pm
I think people are missing the point with the current situation at are beloved milan. Balo crying for whatever reason is not the issue here the ineptitude of our current team and hierachy is the problem. Anyone with half a brain can see balo is suffering away from the pitch and the constant under performing is not helping. I have been a milan fan all my life and have never been more unhappy with our current crop of players with maybe the exception of de sciglio montolivo de jong and balo.
on the 9th February, 2014 at 6:05pm
Do pogba, seedorf, asamoah and ogbonna get the racist abuse so many of you speak of? I admit racism is present in serie A but not to the extent that some would describe. We have got to the point where we are no longer able to criticise a player without being accused of racism! Toni, gilardino, and many other players are booed and shouted at, is that classed as racism? Bottom line is balo is crap and ppl boo and jeer the player, all players are the same- praise where due and criticise where due!
on the 9th February, 2014 at 5:43pm
@maldinis heir

Niang is on loan. He's still ours. Ses is injured (suppose to be fit begining of march last I heard) once again it takes time to rebuild a team. Montilivo is our captain and if someone else is it every now and then I don't care. Tarabat was a random signing but could end up bein a good one? Main concern is center def. our current squad could be better I agree on that but it's not as bad you make it sound.
on the 9th February, 2014 at 4:49pm
Im milan fan through and through and true milan fan that truely understands football can see the state of this milan team, we have lost every piece of dignity we had. Viktor comes on here week in week out blowing a trumpet for balo and the rest of these half wits we are left with- he understands nothing about football and week in and out he proves it with more and more ridiculous comments.
Berlusconi has the puppet he needed on the bench in seedorf, he tells him to jump and seedorf asks howhigh
on the 9th February, 2014 at 4:21pm
@setters10- I agree 100%.
on the 9th February, 2014 at 4:12pm
Nice to see the tears. Happy to a players shed tears for my red and black colours. This is true love. FORZA MILAN
on the 9th February, 2014 at 4:12pm
@ viktor there's a difference between supporting a team and sitting back and watch it be destroyed. There's been so many changes since last summer it's hard to know who to identify with the players. Are we now to get behind tarabat and give up on niang? I don't know maybe both or neither player will be there in 6 months. What's the future for SES? Is Mexes now are captain? I'll always support them but I don't have to put up with this.
on the 9th February, 2014 at 3:42pm
Italian soccer is a target because they always have scandals so people believe any negative story written. The fact is that La Liga has just as much racism if not more and they hardly get a mention. Just last week it was reported that a player was racially abused. Where was the English media outcry? They won't get negative attention because they have Barca and Real. The crown jewels of soccer.
on the 9th February, 2014 at 3:30pm
In addition, anyone who says that they would not dive, or show a slight touch of unsportmanship is not a true supporter of their club, and should remain in denial.

@ Don Vincenzo, I disagree with your assessment of Spain - the disgusting abuse suffered by Marcelo recently is proof that racism is alive and kicking in Spain, with the Spanish FA having petty token fines, which have no impact.
on the 9th February, 2014 at 2:47pm
In addition, anyone who says that they would not dive, or show a slight touch of unsportmanship is not a true supporter of their club, and should remain in denial.

@ Don Vincenzo, I disagree with your assessment of Spain - the disgusting abuse suffered by Daniel Alves' recently is proof that racism is alive and kicking in Spain, and I would say that the Spanish are a long way behind the Italians in accepting people of a different colour. Making gestures like idiots - who are the primates now?
on the 9th February, 2014 at 2:29pm
Susy, you're funny. You say people are jumping to conclusions, but you have done the same. Until Balotelli comes out explains his tears, then you are no different. Brian's comment is 100% spot on. What really annoys me is how easily Balotelli is made a scapegoat.

@Setters10 - please explain, how many "fights" has he got into season so far? As a Milan fan, to see him sulking is a sign that he wants the team to play better. Unusually, I accept his diving is a way to help the team to win a foul.
on the 9th February, 2014 at 2:18pm
@maldini heir

Stand by your team.
on the 9th February, 2014 at 1:57pm
The FIGC considers opposition fans booing a black player on the ball as racism. They've lowered the bar too far. When everything is racist, racism loses its meaning. We're at that point now in Italian football.
on the 9th February, 2014 at 1:54pm
Modern media is responsible for controlled public opinion. Whatever happened to unbiased reporting!? Generally, you are all guilty of gross manipulation and irresponsible statement of facts...all carried out with the sole objective to sell news and win a media award of recognition. You speak of finding and reporting the truth, as if that were truly your finality...absurd!
on the 9th February, 2014 at 1:40pm
What a story made up about balotelli? Never. I've said it a number of times balo really does care. Nobody can fault his commitment. His decision making and his diving maybe but not his commitment.

@ Brian you do make a good point. It needs to be said that serie a is now with of the few leagues ATM with a black coach

@ viktor please stop the denial

@ setters10 at this stage things are such a mess it's difficult to know where to begin. I'm not sure you can blame the players for the chaos
on the 9th February, 2014 at 12:33pm
Viktor, did you watch the same game as me? Milan were outplayed and were powder-puff in attack. Granted, there were mitigating circumstances-with players not available, not fully fit & others playing out of position. 3-1 was actually a flattering result for Milan. I agree with mm: it's horrible seeing a great club like Milan in this state. Conversely, it's great seeing the southern sides like Napoli & Roma gaining strength-this is great for Serie A.
on the 9th February, 2014 at 11:38am
I was surprised to see the Napoli banner, that were aimed at De Laurentis. He has done a fantastic job: Napoli have made amazing progress over the last decade. Napoli have also been very impressive in their last two games. It's a real pity that Jorginho didn't make their EL squad. Jorginho, along with Verratti & Florenzi should be given a chance for Italy; ahead of Montolivo, Marchisio, & Aquillani (who rarely play well for the National team).
on the 9th February, 2014 at 11:29am
Balotelli just doesn't deserve all the hype. He is not clinical enough and is light years behind the likes of Ibra, Falcao, Higuain, Aguero, Negredo, Lewandowski, Cavani etc. He may have talent (& I would love him to prove me wrong) but I cannot see him leading his club & country to success with his finishing ability.
on the 9th February, 2014 at 11:22am
U are absolutely right Brian
on the 9th February, 2014 at 11:03am
A strident win for Napoli - could have 5 or 6. Avanti Napoli!
on the 9th February, 2014 at 11:02am
I agree with the fact that it wasn't a racial issue cos Milan is like a sinking ship without a captain 2 guide it. But 4 pple outside Italy 2 think it was a racial issue then it goes further 2 show the magnitude of racism in Italy because if it was somehere like Spain or Germany people wouldn't think it was a racial issue. The fact reamains I love italy nd italians but 4 Gods sake this is d 21st century they need 2 stop racism
on the 9th February, 2014 at 10:40am
Im a hugely biased Milan fan, so I should be sympathetic about Mario's tears. But im not. For me its another attention seeking act from the biggest primadonna in football. A guy looking for an excuse for another 2/10 dreadful performance.
For the amount everyone says "he's an unbelievable talent"...what is this based on!! I cant remember the last time he was effective for an entire 90 mins.

Constant sulking, picking fights, diving. Its not the Milan way, we should cut our losses and sell asap.
on the 9th February, 2014 at 10:37am

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