Archive for the 'Immigration' Category

Nov 17 2013

Profile Image of Matthew Schorr

Deux Perceptions en concurrence de l’immigration en France

J’ai bien apprécié l’autobiographie de Lilian Thuram que les étudiants francophones ont lu la semaine dernière, et je veux ici élaborer sur mon commentaire du 7 novembre. L’autobiographie est un texte d’espoir, un texte qui démontre la possibilité illimitée qui existe en France. Sans doute, Thuram reconnaît qu’il existe certains problèmes et tensions qui tourmentent la banlieue. Toutefois, Thuram conclut que la banlieue est surtout un endroit positif qui est caractérisé par une richesse culturelle, linguistique, et ethnique. C’est très intéressant de contraster cette expérience de Thuram avec celle de Salie, la protagoniste de Le Ventre de l’Atlantique, un livre de Fatou Diome que la section francophone a lu il y a quelques semaines.

8 juillet 1998, l'autobiographie de Lilian Thuram.

8 juillet 1998, l’autobiographie de Lilian Thuram.

Lilian Thuram immigre en France avec sa mère et sa fratrie. Il identifie un manque de compréhension entre des groupes ethniques dans la banlieue qui résulte d’un manque d’espaces communs. Il lamente aussi le fait que les résidents perçoivent souvent une « frontière invisible » (37) entre leurs quartiers et les autres quartiers de la société, qui contribue à une division artificielle qui crée de la suspicion mutuelle. Thuram remarque que les tensions sont accentuées parce que beaucoup de Français qui habitent hors de la banlieue ont des préjugés contre les banlieusards ; ils supposent que les banlieusards sont obligatoirement pauvres et violents. Les tensions déstabilisent la société en créant une méfiance mutuelle alimentée par le racisme et la xénophobie.

Toutefois, malgré tout ces problèmes de la banlieue, Thuram suggère que la vie dans la banlieue est surtout un expérience riche. Comme enfant, Thuram appréciait beaucoup la diversité de son quartier à Fougères, qu’il appel un “kaléidoscope ethnique” (35). Thuram se souvient le multiculturalisme de ses amis enfantins, et son intérêt pour leurs cultures, leurs langues, et leurs patries. Les matches de foot permettaient aux amis de Thuram de développer des relations respectueuses, sans égard pour la race, le statut socio-économique, ou le pays d’origine.

Diome peint une image opposée de la banlieue. Le personnage principal de sa livre, Salie, immigre en France du Sénégal pour essayer de gagner de l’argent pour améliorer sa vie et celle de sa famille. Nombreux Sénégalais croient que « Chaque miette de vie doit server à conquérir la dignité » (30), et ils pensent souvent que la vie en France est glamoureuse et que c’est assez facile d’y gagner une fortune. Les garçons sénégalais sont particulièrement éblouis par la France, et ils perçoivent le football d’être un raccourci à la richesse. Toutefois, la vie de Salie n’est pas la vie de star, et la France n’est pas un paradis pour des immigrés. A cause de sa pauvreté, son statut comme immigré, et son ethnicité, Salie trouve que sa vie en France est dure. Elle regrette que « En Europe…vous êtes d’abords noirs, accessoirement citoyens, définitivement étrangers, et ça, ce n’est pas écrit dans la Constitution, mais certains le lisent sur votre peau » (176). Par conséquent, Salie cherche à dissuader son frère de venir en France. Diome suggère que c’est possible d’avoir une vie épanouissante au Sénégal et que ce chemin est préférable à l’émigration.

Le Ventre de l'Atlantique, un roman de Fatou Diome.

Le Ventre de l’Atlantique, un roman de Fatou Diome.

L’incompatibilité des deux perceptions de l’immigration est frappante. C’est évident que Thuram et Diome ont des rapports très différents avec la France et que la France la signification de la France n’est pas le même pour tout le monde. L’immigration et la banlieue, la destination de beaucoup d’immigrés, sont complexes. Thuram identifie des vrais avantages de la vie dans la banlieue malgré tous les problèmes qui y existent. En même temps, il faut reconnaître que Thuram a atteindre plus de richesse et célébrité que la grande majorité d’immigrés. Par conséquent, sa perception de la possibilité qui existe dans la banlieue n’est pas nécessairement comparable à celle de beaucoup d’autres immigrés, come Salie. Malgré des rêves des garçons sénégalais d’être comme Thuram, son niveau de réussite est extrêmement difficile à atteindre.

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Oct 29 2013

Profile Image of Ale Barel Di Sant'Albano

The Racialisation of Football in Italy

The conversation in today’s class has spurned me to look into the racialization and politization of football in Italy. Both Italy and France share many similarities in that, football creates a huge platform for media attention. Football players in European countries often receive more media attention than politicians and for that reason they are often a representation of there countries. Like France, Italy is in an awkward position politically as there seems to be a power vacuum that has allowed a strong nationalistic right wing party to emerge. In Italy this is the Lega Nord.

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The Lega Nord, is a political party that believes in clamping down on immigration by closing the Italian borders to Muslim immigrants and limiting the amount of African immigrants in Italy. Most recently, the leader of the party, Roberto Calidroli said ”I love animals, but when I see her, I can’t help but think of an orangutan” in reference to Cécile Kyenge, Italy’s minister of integration, at a recent festival organised by the Lega.  Kyenge is black, was appointed to the Cabinet in April, and Calderoli added that “maybe Kyenge should be a minister in her own country [sic] … she is only encouraging illegal immigrants to dream of success”.

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The article below demonstrates the recurring problem of racism in Italian football, it illustrates the racial history of Italy, where it began and how it has emerged into such a problem. But overall, it illustrates that the future of Italy revolves around figures such as Mario Balotelli and Cecile Kyenge. Balotelli with his exposure to the media could transform how the youth look at race in Italy, especially if he is to lead Italy far into the World Cup much like he did in Euro 2012.

Mario-Balotelli-scores-against-Germany

 

Must Read:  http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/9338962/when-beautiful-game-turns-ugly

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Sep 12 2013

Profile Image of Ian Bruckner

America’s Team

The USA Men’s Soccer starting lineup for its World Cup qualifier vs. Mexico on Sep. 10, 2013. The USA won 2-0, clinching a World Cup berth.

America’s Team. Fans across the country lay claim to this label for their favorite sports team. As a result of this dilution, this moniker largely has lost its meaning. So if you’re still searching for the real America’s Team, look no further than the USA Men’s Soccer team. As you no doubt know by now, Tuesday night it clinched a World Cup Birth by beating arch-rival Mexico 2-0. This is America’s Team.

We like to celebrate the U.S. as a melting pot, a place where people of myriad races, ethnicities, cultures, religions etc. identify as one nationality: American. Nowhere is this more apparent than the lineup for USA Men’s Soccer games (see image above). Eddie Johnson, who is black, headed home the game’s first goal from the corner of Landon Donovan, a white player who is perhaps the team’s most famous. Donovan also tapped in the USA’s second goal, thanks to a low cross from Mix Diskerud, who was born in Norway. The USA’s defense alone is a microcosm of the melting pot. In defense, the USA fielded Jermaine Jones, who is black and grew up in Frankfurt, Germany, as well as the Texan Omar Gonzalez, DaMarcus Beasely, an African-American from Indiana and Fabian Johnson, who also grew up in Germany.

Blacks, whites, Hispanics, immigrants — the USA Men’s Soccer lineup reads like a Census report. This team paints a more accurate picture of this country than any other of its national teams. The USA Men’s Olympic basketball squad, the Dream Team, is probably the nation’s most well known national team. Led by Duke’s own Coach K, featured thirteen blacks and one white players. Blacks might be racial minorities but that lineup is not diverse.

Unsurprisingly, given the demographics of the national team, the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport gave Major League Soccer an A+ for its players’ racial diversity in its 2012 Annual Racial and Gender Report Card. Professor Orin Starn often used to say during his Anthropology of Sports lectures, “What you play is who you are.” When it comes to America’s Team, USA Men’s Soccer is the real deal.

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Mar 20 2013

Profile Image of Laurent Dubois

The Blood of the Impure

This Post was originally published at Football is a Country. My thanks to them for permission to cross-post.

The French national anthem, La Marseillaise, is, if you think about it, a pretty nasty song. It dreams, in one of its more memorable verses, that the “blood of the impure” will “irrigate our fields.” It’s a rousing anthem, to be sure, and I myself can frequently be heard humming it to myself in advance of a match being played by Les Bleus, or as I ride my bike or do the dishes. I’ve found that it’s sometimes hard to find a French person (at least if you hang out, as I do, with too many intellectuals), who can actually sing it without irony. And yet, over the past 26 years, the question of whether a particular subset of French men – those who play on the national football team – sing the Marseillaise under certain conditions has been a rather unhealthy obsession in France (we’ve blogged about it before, when Kinshasa-born flanker Yannick Nyanga sobbed uncontrollably during the anthem ahead of a rugby match vs Australia last year).

We are now being treated to what feels to me like Act 467 of this drama. Karim Benzema, as anyone who attentively watches French football matches knows, doesn’t sing the anthem before matches. In a recent interview, asked why, he answered in a pleasingly flippant way: “It’s not because I sing that I’m going to score three goals. If I don’t sing the Marseillaise, but then the game starts and I score three goals, I don’t think at the end of the game anyone is going to say that I didn’t sing the Marseillaise.” Pushed further on the question, he invoked none other than Zinedine Zidane who, like Benzema, was the child of Algerian immigrants to France – and who also happens to be the greatest French footballer of all time, and the one to whom the team owes its one little star on its jersey: “No one is going to force me to sing the Marseillaise. Zidane, for instance, didn’t necessarily sing it. And there are others. I don’t see that it’s a problem.”

Ah, Karim, but it is a problem, don’t you see? In fact, your decision about whether to vocalize or not, as you stand in line under the careful scrutiny of cameras, about to enter into a hyper-stressful and aggressive sporting match during which your every action will be dissected and discussed, is an unmistakable sign about whether or not the true France will survive or alternatively be submerged in a tide of unruly immigrants and their descendants.

Notwithstanding the fact that, as Michel Platini has noted, in his generation no footballers ever sang the Marseillaise, and that “white” footballers – even the Muslim Franck Ribéry, who at best mutters a bit during the anthem but is much more enthusiastic in his pre-game prayers to Allah – are rarely if ever asked this particular question, even so some will continue to insist that your choice not to sing is a window onto your disloyal soul. As the Front National explained: “This football mercenary, paid 1484 Euros per hour, shows an inconceivable and inacceptable disdain for the jersey that he is lucky to be able to wear. Karim Benzema does not “see the problem” with not singing the Marseillaise. Well, French people wouldn’t see any problem with having him no longer play for the French team.”

Some genealogy is in order here. In 1996, Jean-Marie Le Pen first levied this accusation against the French team. France was playing in the European Cup, and playing well. But he was a bit disturbed by something he saw: an awful lot of them seemed, well, not really to be French. “It’s a little bit artificial to bring in foreign players and baptize them ‘Equipe de France,’” he opined. The team, he went on – with blithe disregard for the bald falsity of what he was saying, since no one can play on the French team who is not a French citizen, and nearly all of the players had in any case been born in France – was full of “fake Frenchmen who don’t sing the Marseillaise or visibly don’t know it.” When pressed on these comments a few days later, he lamented that while players from other countries in the tournament sang their anthems, “our players don’t because they don’t want to. Sometimes they even pout in a way that makes it clear that it’s a choice on their part. Or else they don’t know it. It’s understandable since no one teaches it to them.”  [For more on this, see Laurent's excellent book, Soccer Empire -- Ed]

The response to Le Pen’s 1996 comments was immediate and resounding: everyone, or almost everyone, called him an idiot. Politicians, pundits, and journalists all piled on, falling over themselves to denounce his comments and declare their love for the French team. In fact he managed to do something rather extraordinary with his comments, pushing a group of athletes – most of whom would likely have never made public political statements about the questions of race, immigration, and identity in France – to become activists of a kind.

Christian Karembeu – from the Pacific territory of New Caledonia – made a decision. “From that on, I didn’t sign the Marseillaise. To raise people’s consciousness, so that everyone will know who we are.” He knew the words perfectly, he explained. “In the colonies, everyone has to learn the Marseillaise by heart at school. That means that I, from zero to twenty-five years old, knew the Marseillaise perfectly.” But when he heard the song, Karembeu explained, he thought “about his ancestors” – indigenous Kanaks who had been drafted in New Caledonia and died on the battlefields of World War I for France. “The history of France is that of its colonies and its wealth. Above all, I am a Kanak. I can’t sign the French national anthem because I know the history of my people.”

CUP-FR98-BRA-FRA-KAREMBEU-RONALDO-RIVALDO

One of Karembeu’s teammates, the Guadeloupe-born Lilian Thuram, also experienced the event as a kind of political awakening. He made a different choice when it came to the song: he always sang it loudly, and famously off tune, often with tears in his eyes. But doing so was part of a political stance that overlapped with Karembeu’s: in the next years, Thuram became a powerful and potent voice criticizing Le Pen, and later Nicholas Sarkozy, and advocating for acknowledgment, study, and confrontation with the past of slavery and colonialism. In his retirement, he has – in a move that, to say the least, is not the usual path taken by post-career athletes – devoted himself to anti-racist education, and recently curated an exhibit at the Quai Branly outlining the history of colonial and racial representations of “the Other.”

Le Pen’s comments were also a case of spectacularly bad timing. Though France didn’t win the European Cup, a team made up of most of the same players did the unthinkable in 1998 and won the World Cup in Paris. This victory would, in any situation, have been greeted with an outpouring of joy. But thanks largely to Le Pen’s comments – and to the fact that it was Thuram and Zidane – who scored the pivotal goals in the semi-final and final, the event was greeted by many in France as a powerful celebration of a new multi-cultural and multi-ethnic nation. There was an outpouring of comments from all sides that saw, in the team, precisely the opposite of what Le Pen had suggested: a France which, thanks to the contributions of all its different peoples, of all backgrounds, had won a critical victory.

Zinedine Zidane, for instance, reflected on the World Cup victory as a moment of consolidation and reconciliation for him and his family, and more broadly for Algerians and their descendants in France, many of whom waved Algerian flags to celebrate. “There was something very moving about seeing all those Algerian flags mixed in with the French ones in the streets on the night of our victory. This alchemy of victory proved suddenly that my father and mother had not made the journey for nothing: it was the son of a Kabyle that offered up the victory, but it was France that became champion of the world. In one goal by one person, two cultures became one.” The victory was “the most beautiful response to intolerance.” He described the victory as an explicit response to Le Pen: “Frankly, what does it matter if you belt out the Marseillaise or if you live it inside yourself? … Do we have to belt out this warrior’s song to be patriotic?”

It is, perhaps, this Zidane that Benzema was trying to channel in his comments. Of course, they come at a very different time. Zidane could speak from the pinnacle of victory. Benzema speaks in the midst of a long period of relative failure on the part of the French team – the debacle of 2010, the ultimate disappointment of the European Cup last summer, and now an ongoing struggle to qualify for 2014 in Brazil. The current debate about the Marseillaise, too, is haunted by the many controversies surrounding the booing of the anthem during matches pitting France against Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco over the past years. In September 2001, after pro-Algeria fans invaded the pitch during a game against France, Le Pen once again used football as a touchstone for his political campaign, this time with more success. He announced his candidacy for president in front of the Stade de France a few weeks later, explaining he had chosen the site because it was where “our national anthem was booed.” The next year, he made it into the second round of the presidential election, forcing the French to choose between him and Jacques Chirac. The French team mobilized again, with even Zidane urging people to vote against Le Pen.

We might imagine that there is, somewhere in the Front National office, presumably some kind of little file, or perhaps a handbook, on how to take advantage of various incidents on the football pitch for political gain. And one can predict that, like Benzema, future footballers who – because of the accident of their ancestry – are be suspected of disloyalty by French xenophobes will be asked this same question again and again: “Why don’t you sing the Marseillaise?” They’ll be able to look back to find various ways to answer the question, and indeed will have quite the menu: do you politely offer a “Va te faire foutre!” with sauce Karembeu, Thuram, Zidane, or Benzema? Eventually, one might be able to offer an entire seminar on the meaning and performance of nationalism using nothing but examples from the debate about football and the Marseillaise. The field of French Cultural Studies will eventually acknowledge that Jean-Marie Le Pen has been our greatest friend over the years, a generative thinker without whom we might have little to write about.

In the meantime, on the pitch France will need all the help it can get as they are about to take on reigning World and double European champions Spain. Many fans will probably be open to the players using any form of inspiration they might need in order to score some goals and win this critical game, so that they won’t put us all through the usual torture of dragging out qualification until the last minute. (Remember the hand of Henry?)

Do they want to pray to Allah, Jesus, Zarathustra? Be our guest. Invoke their Ancestors the Gauls, channel the spirit of the founder of the World Cup, the Frenchman Jules Rimet, or call down the West African warrior god Ogun? Fine with us. At the end of the game, as Benzema has pointed out, if they’ve scored three goals and pull off a win, no one will remember what they were singing when the game began.

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Jun 26 2012

Profile Image of Laurent Dubois

Mario Balotelli and the New Europe

During international football competitions like the European Cup, eleven players briefly become their country, for a time, on the pitch. A nation is a difficult thing to grasp: unpalpable, mythic, flighty. Historians might labor away to define the precise contours of a country’s culture and institutions, and even sometimes attempt to delineate its soul, while political leaders try mightily (and persistently fail) to stand as representatives of its ideals. But in a way there is nothing quite so tactile, so real, as the way a team represents a nation: during their time on the pitch, they have in their hands a small sliver of the country’s destiny. And in those miraculous and memorable moments when individual trajectories intersect with a national sporting victory, sometimes biographies and histories seem briefly to meld. At such moments, the players who inhabit the crossroads of sporting and national history –Maradona in 1986, Zidane in 1998 — become icons, even saints.

This charged atmosphere can also mean that the collective of a given country’s team can also become a symbol. This was perhaps most forcefully the case in France in 1998, when the fact that the country had won it’s first World Cup with a team bewildering in it’s jovial diversity (Armenian! Algerian! Guadeloupean! Kanak!) was taken by many as signifying and symbolizing the arrival of a new France. The feeling was short-lived but powerful, indeed energizing. And it suggested one particularly powerful way through which international football competitions can speak to questions about national identity and belonging, and more specifically the place of immigration and immigrants in the nation.

Watching the 2012 European Cup competition, you can increasingly see how histories of immigration have reshaped the world of European football. For a long time, France was relatively unique in the extent to which players with roots outside of Europe played central roles on the national football squad. It’s a tradition that goes back to the early 20th century in France — in the 1930s the Senegalese player Raoul Diagne and the Moroccan Larbi Ben Barek both played on the French national team, for instance, and a string of Algerian players did as early as the 1920s and through the 1950s. Portugal, meanwhile, had the great Mozambican-born Eusebio in the 1960s. The great French generation of Michel Platini, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, included a number of players with African and Caribbean roots. By then, other countries — particularly the Netherlands, which famously included several players of Surinamese background, and England which in the late 1970s incorporated a series of black players largely of Caribbean ancestry — began fielding more diverse teams. But in other countries the process was much slower. Germany, Italy, and Spain in particular continued to field teams with few if any players of non-European background. Perhaps the most startling contrast in this regard came in 2006, when a French team in which 19 of 23 players on the squad had roots in Africa, North Africa, the Caribbean, or the Indian Ocean, in contrast to an Italian team which, with the exception of some Argentine-Italians, had no players with non-European roots.

In the past years this all begun to shift in important ways. The German team in the 2010 World Cup was heralded for it’s multi-ethnic composition — with Ghana (via Boateng), Brazil (via Cacau), Tunisia (via Khedira) and Turkey (via Ozil) all represented. If the numbers were small compared to the French team, it still represented a shift, one brought about through a conscious longer-term policy that sought to expand and diversify training and recruitment in German soccer. Similar changes are visible on other national teams. Switzerland’s team (absent from this Euro) benefited strikingly in South Africa from the contribution of Gelson Fernandes, son of Cape Verde immigrants who scored their goal in their stunning victory over Spain. At the Euros this year The Czech team showcased the talented Thedor Gebre Selassie, son of an Ethiopian doctor. And the player who truly defined Sweden’s exalting performance against France in the final group game in this year’s Euro, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, is the child of Croatian and Bosnian parents.

There is obviously no simple explanation for how and why certain international teams include players of immigrant background. At some level, each player’s trajectory is an individual story, one that combines talent, discipline, and luck to bring them to the highest levels of the sport. But there are also larger social and historical forces at work. These involve three inter-related processes. At the broadest level, there is of course the history of migration in each European country. While these histories are — especially in an increasingly integrated Europe — tightly connected, they are also quite diverse. Migration to some countries — most notably France and the U.K. — is shaped by their colonial histories, though both countries also have large migrant populations that are not from former colonies. In places like Belgium and Italy, migration from former colonies (particularly the Congo in the former case and Ethiopia and Somalia in the latter) is a small part of a broader tapestry of migration. And intra-European migration, particularly from Eastern to Western Europe, is also part of the story as it has long been.

But patterns of migration don’t necessary become patterns of sporting participation. For that to happen, there have to be mechanisms for the inclusion of migrants into the networks of training that professionalize young players. To understand how that happens in different countries, you need to understand the different types of professionalization — most importantly the structuring of academies or sport-training tracks in schools. That is something Lindsay Marie Krasnoff explores well in a recent piece contrasting Spanish and French academy systems. Interestingly, though, the Spanish national team remains an outlier in some ways, for there is a striking absence of players of non-European background on the team. Why is this the case? Will it change in the coming years?

In this European Cup, the most important and fascinating player of immigrant background is clearly Mario Balotelli. For the past decades, Italy’s national team has had very few black players, and none ever so prominent as Balotelli. He’s earned a place as the team’s key striker, and his presence has been at the center of polemics and debates around racism at the Euro competition. His story is as fascinating as it is complex. Born in Sicily to Ghanaian parents, he had health problems as a child and ultimately was fostered with a wealthier Italian couple. Although the fostering was initially meant to be for a year, Mario ended up staying, leaving behind his Ghanaian name of Barwuah and taking on that of his foster parents, the Balotellis. At 18, he took on Italian citizenship. As the Daily Mail reported in 2010, his relationship with his biological parents became strained and distant. A brilliant player, Balotelli has found vertiginous success on the pitch, coupled with regular appearances in the newspaper for various teenage stunts, and has been recruited to play as one of his national team’s key strikers during this tournament.

Though a number of players intervened into the discussion about how to respond to racist fans during the European Cup, none was more forceful than Balotelli, who announced that he might walk off the pitch if confronted with monkey noises or other forms of racist abuse. As it happened, he was — during the Italy vs. Croatia match — as several hundred fans made monkey noises at him and one threw a rapidly-retrieved (and photographed) banana onto the pitch to taunt him.

He didn’t carry out his threat of leaving the pitch, though the fact that he had emphasized the issue probably helped pressure UEFA to take action after the match. They fined the Croatian Federation 80,000 Euros for the behavior of his fans. Of course that fine can seem rather small, especially when compared to other fines levied by the same body. As The Star reported: “The fine is €20,000 ($25,000) less than the UEFA disciplinary panel ordered Denmark forward Nicklas Bendtner to pay one day earlier for revealing a sponsor’s name on his underpants.”

During the next game, against Ireland, Balotelli scored his first goal of the competition. What happened next generated perhaps one of the most potent and fascinating moments in the tournament: as he turned to celebrate, he began to say something. But his teammates rapidly put their hands over his mouth, muffling and silencing him. The image was unsettling: a goal celebration that was also a bit of a mugging, as if the job of Balotelli’s teammates was to make sure that he scored but didn’t speak afterwards. Most commentators — like those I heard on Belgian television — commended the action, taking the line that given Balotelli’s penchant for controversial statements and behavior, they were doing the young man a favor. But what, precisely, was Balotelli trying to say? The Independent has suggested that — like Samir Nasri who, after scoring against England, had shouted “Ferme ta gueule!” at the camera, presumably responding to a recent criticism in L’Equipe about his lack of scoring — he was going to taunt the Italian journalists who had been critical of his performance in previous games. Then again, maybe he was just going to say something about how awesome he is, which he clearly enjoys doing as well. But there’s another possibility, which is that Balotelli had some words for the racist fans from the previous game who had taunted him. His teammates stifled whatever it was that was about to come out of his mouth.

Balotelli faces seeping racism at home too: in anticipation of the Italy-England match, Italy’s leading sports newspaper, La Gazetta Dello Sporto, published this cartoon, whose racial vocabulary is not that far from that of the Croatian fans.

As Elizabeth Cotignola has recently noted in a provocative piece about the specter of decline threatening Italian football, migration — and a more open approach to migrants in Italian society — may be the key to assuring the future of the sport in the country. If that is true, Balotelli may represent the beginning of a new era in Italian football.

What is striking in the lead-up to the Germany-Italy game is that, no matter which team wins the victory will be the result of a collective effort by a group that brings together diverse histories. If the Italian teams wins, there is a good chance it will be thanks to the alliance of the veteran Andrea Pirlo with Mario Balotelli. Though Balotelli failed to score in open play, he threatened England on several occasions. Pirlo, meanwhile, directed the team effectively, and topped the evening off with a cheeky and brilliant panenka during the penalty kick shoot-out. The experience of the French team in this tournament is testament, once again, to what can happen when a team of very talented players lacks a figure who centers and directs the action of the team — the way Zidane did in 2006, for instance. But with Pirlo and other experienced players behind him, Balotelli has the opportunity on Thursday to earn a place in the pantheon of Italian football.

Balotelli has now scored twice, once against Ireland and once scoring the first penalty against England. Will he do so again against Germany? And if so, what will that mean for him, and for Italy?

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