Ghana: Is Mario Balotelli Italian or Ghanaian?

Is Mario Balotelli Ghanaian or Italian? That's the question that has created a heated debate online. Mario Barwuah Balotelli is a football striker playing for Manchester City. He was born to Ghanaian immigrants in Italy. However, Mario's life-threatening health condition made his family turn him over to social services and later he was fostered by an Italian family. He became an Italian citizen in 2008.

He has refused to join the Ghanaian national team arguing that he has always dream of playing for Italy. His first call-up for Ghana national team was in August 2007.

Let's see opinions of bloggers and their readers about the issue. We will start with Abena Serwaa who asks, “Is Young Mario Balotelli part of the Ghana-Deniers Club?” She starts he post by describing Mario's “smouldering exotic looks”:

Mr Balotelli is also known for his smouldering exotic looks. In fact, he is so exotic that if you saw him, you may be inclined to think he looks alot like:

1. That trotro* mate who refused to give you the correct change on your way to work last week
2. The guy selling DVDs at Adum Market in Kumasi who tried to get you to buy The Ultimate Steven Seagal collection
3. A cool young guy hanging out with his buddies at Accra Mall

Then she asks:

So how does a guy that looks so typically Ghanaian end up with such a distinctly Italian name? Is he part of the Ghana-Deniers club that has featured prominent personalities such as pro-wrestler Kofi Kingston formerly of Jamaica now of Ghana?

Interestingly, he was courted persistently by the Ghana Football Association to join the Black Stars, but always stood firm that his dream was to play only for Italy and never for his country of origin. This was despite the fact that some Italians had serious objections to him joining the Azzurri.

Commenting on Abena's post, Mike says that Mario is not Ghanaian. Having Ghanaian genes does not make one Ghanaian :

Sometimes we have to accept that simply having Ghanaian genes doesn't make one Ghanaian. It's in a similar way I refuse to use the term “African American” for the descendants of slavery. I can also not bring myself to call my nieces Ghanaian, although for some, BOTH their parents are Ghanaian. There are too many facets about Ghanaian culture none in these groups have or would ever experience, and for me a lot of what makes me Ghanaian is in my experiencing and relating to the country.
I recently played a youtube vid of our anthem for my nieces and nephew, and I might as well have been playing old timey music- they couldn't get or appreciate the attempts to connect to a world they don't fully understand. Is Mario denying a heritage he clearly doesn't relate to? No, and I won't hold it against him. Is he denying the lineage he has? Judging from the pics of him at age 10 w/ his mom and brother- which strongly contrasts with the narrative he's always maintained- I would imagine it so, and part of a long-standing and perhaps misinformed issues about abandonment (among other things) he'll need to sort out as he grows older. But, no, he's not Ghanaian.

Sankofa agrees with Mike. He says, “I actually think Ghanaians had no claim on from the minute he declared himself an Italian”:

I have to agree with Mike here. I actually think Ghanaians had no claim on from the minute he declared himself an Italian. He clearly considers himself Italian and who am I to insist otherwise? He's never lived in Ghana, probably never even visited and he doesn't identify with Ghanaian culture of any kind. Leave him be to band together with the Italians who will probabaly never consider him as a true Italian either. I actually feel sorry for him. Having a hybrid identity can be terribly lonely at times.

Another reader calling himself The other Mike disagrees. No matter what nationality he chooses, The Other Mike notes, he will always be asked, “Where are you originally from?”:

He sure earned his spot at the top of the Ghana-Deniers list. Since i'm not big on soccer, I could have easily mistaken him for the guy selling the Segal dvd collection. That was funny Abena. He kinda looks like Castro the hiplife guy too (when he was skinny).

He is free to choose whatever nationality he wants, and that is OK. But he will quickly learn that in the real world, he will always be asked…. “where are you originally from?” Eating tons of pasta, speaking Italian etc wont change his ethnicity.

@ Mike; “sometimes we have to accept…”
Sometimes? Really?
What are the other times?

Gifty supports The Other Mike's position:

i totally agree with “the other mike”.. Mario will ALWAYS be asked where are you originally from…. man, it's like he's moving backwards.. nowadays african americans are PAYING to use their DNAs to find out their country of origin in West africa and seeking dual citizenship (eg. Isaiah Washington of Grey's Anatomy has dual citizenship with Sierra Leone).. and he's just going the other direction.. you can change ur name.. eat tons of pasta, speak fluent italian, whatever.. u are still an african.. better start accepting it..

Responding to comments, Abena Serwaa concludes by saying, “…but isn't it fascinating how Kevin-Prince Boateng embraced the whole Ghanaian identity and apparently has done so for a while?” Kevin-Prince Boateng is a German-born Ghanaian international footballer. He played for the Ghana national team during 2010 FIFA World Cup while his half-brother Jérôme Agyenim Boateng played for Germany.

Ghanaian blogger Nana Sarpong has also written a post about Mario Balotelli: The Boy Barwuah who Became the Man Balotelli. He sees Mario as a troubled child struggling to understand himself:

When I look at this footballer, I see a troubled child struggling to understand himself.

Mario with the Balotellis
What makes it worse, I think, is that he thinks the best way out of his psychological turmoil is to distance himself of his parents and run away from his ‘Blackness.’ Obviously he needs help. A kind of help his white Italian parents cannot provide. If they could–and if they were really in their right senses–they would have invited the Barwuahs to the ceremony that saw Mario gain his Italian citizenship or informed them of the change of name. At least, from Mr. Barwuah's viewpoint, the Balotelli's made a conscious effort to not give mario back as they kept on extending the foster period (the poor Barwuahs could not match the legal strength of the Balotellis).

According to Nana, Mario told the Ghana Football Association that he never heard of the country!:

The Ghana Football Association (GFA), at some point, asked Mario to play for Ghana. The boy slammed the GFA by sarcastically puking he never heard of the country although he was at the same club with Ghana's midfielder, Sulley Muntari. My take at the time was that Mario was a talented player, but Ghana does not need such a twerp. He obviously must have his side of the story–just like he said his parents abondoned him a hospital–but Mario needs to grow out of that weak mind of his.

He concludes his post by saying that Mario's story is simply “…a sad tale of many poor African family living in Europe, America or even in Ghana”:

But it is a sad tale of many poor African family living in Europe, America or even in Ghana. It is a huge mistake the Barwuahs did, and it is obvious their son (who has practically disowned them) intends to make them live with it, forever!


  • It is interesting to note that there is no discussion on why Mario Balotelli does not want to play for Ghana, As Nana Sarpong Mario may be a troubled person. One may venture that perhaps he feels abandonment, given his family history, and that he doesn’t want to accept himself as a Ghanaian because of this abandonment issue, that he would be letting himself down if he went to play for a country who let him down, so too speak. I do not feel that the country itself could have let Mario down, but this idea of his family being Ghanaian and having to give him up because of health issues, may play into it.

    It seems Mario Balotelli is lost between this idea of identity, Who he thinks he is and who he might actually be? If he doesn’t feel like a Ghanaian should he be criticized for not wanting to play for Ghana, if he has a stronger connection with Italy, does he not have the right to play for Italy if they so choose him.

  • Ylenia Gostoli

    I understand how some Ghanaians might feel betrayed by Mario’s claims. But the other side of the coin is that by judging Balotelli that way we are essentially saying: a black Italian? You’ve got to be kidding me. Not only this kind of rhetoric doesn’t help Balotelli come to grips with his heritage, but it also encourages racism towards the many non-white Italians out there. I believe that we should be free to choose our own identity, and that choice should be respected.

  • harry

    Would you look for him if he wasn’t a star??? If’Barwuah’as a ghanain linkage is what u are looking for, am sure you can start by looking for his parents or causins with that name.leave the young man alone.

  • […] In Ghana vinden ze het maar niks dat Mario voor de Azzurri uitkomt. Ze zien veel van oorsprong Ghanese voetballers een keuze maken voor Europese nationale elftallen. Met als bekendste voorbeeld de gebroeders Boateng. Jérôme speelt voor Die Mannschaft, halfbroer Kevin-Prince koos voor de Black Stars maar is inmiddels internationaal met “pensioen”. Toch was een kansje dat Mario voor Ghana zou kiezen. Toen hij 18 jaar werd, was de grote vraag: is hij nu Ghanees of Italiaans? […]

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