The sweetest moment of Euro 2012 was a photograph of Balotelli celebrating his two semifinal goals against Germany in the stands with his mother, Silvia. At a tournament where the Croatian and Spanish federations were fined for their fans’ racist chants at Balotelli, the image of a tiny white woman from Brescia proudly embracing her black son was a stirring rejoinder, the embodiment of a New Italy.
Balotelli is shown the photo, which went viral globally, and asked what he thinks about it. He pauses for a moment, studying the image. “With all the sacrifice my parents made in the past for me, maybe I gave them a good emotion. They deserve it,” he says. “I tell them evvvverything. Without them I don’t know if I’d ever be a football player. Even if I do something special in football and I make a mistake as a person, they’re not happy. Because they want their son to be a man first, and then the best football player.”
Mama Silvia clearly has no problem saying no to Mario. When asked about arranging an interview with his mother, Balotelli smiles. “My mom? You want to call her? She speaks English!” he says, pulling out his cellphone and dialing home to Brescia. Mama, listen … I’m good, I’m good … I’m doing an interview with Sports Illustrated, an American magazine. It’s important. Could you speak to him in English? A voice like Charlie Brown’s teacher’s squawks from his phone. Mario nods. O.K., ciao, Mama! Say hello to Papa! Ciao, Mama!
"She said, ‘No, you know I don’t like interviews,’" Balotelli says. “‘I just want you to do well.’" He dissolves into giggles. (x)