Mario Balotelli and a question of citizenship

By | December 9, 2009

I stumbled upon this article that describes Ghana national team coach Milovan Rajevac’s new pursuit of Italian striker Mario Balotelli. Balotelli, an Inter Milan forward, is widely regarded as one of the top young talents in the world. Having been born in Italy to Ghanaian nationals, Mario is eligible to play for both national teams. He has already represented Italy at the U21 level, and appears to have no intention of switching his allegiance. In a September 2008 article Balotelli reiterated his desire to play for Italy, saying “I’m Italian, I feel Italian, I will always play for Italy…I’ve never considered playing for Ghana, even two years ago when they called me up”.

However, it appears that Ghana’s national team feels it has a shot at the young striker’s services. Balotelli has fallen out of favor with some Italians due to his aggressive personality, and he has recently been subjected to racist taunting inside of of Italian stadiums.

From a tactical perspective, procuring Mario Balotelli would greatly strengthen an already powerful Ghana side for the World Cup, while Italy (who could surely benefit from his services but appear unlikely to do so) probably isn’t as desperate for a top striker by next June. Ghana’s actions open up the debate for what exactly constitutes a national team player. Even though they are acting within the rules, should Ghana’s actions be accepted in world football? The United States has been involved in similar cases in recent years, most notably with Freddy Adu, Jose Francisco Torres, and Giuseppe Rossi.

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