Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Race, Globalization and Soccer

By Bagga Wilks.

Mario Balotelli, an Italian of Ghanaian descent, was taunted by Italian fans in last week’s FIFA friendly match against Romania which ended in 1-1 draw. It was not the first time that the black Italian footballer encountered racism. While playing at Inter Milan, the teenager was frequently bombarded with racist chants.
Balotelli is a mercurial fellow. Roberto Mancini brought him to Manchester City because he is aware of his enormous potential. Balotelli grew up in Italy but his childhood was quite difficult as growing up black in Italy was a steep mountain to climb.
The Italian racists in the stands held up a sign that stated, “No multi-ethnic team for the National Team”. The Italian Serie A has players from all over the world. The top teams, A.C. Milan, Inter-Milan, Roma, Juventus, etc. reflect the globalized nature of the game.
This reversion to ultra-nationalism is not just a peculiarity of Italian football. In the 2006 World Cup, the Mexicans were upset that someone born outside of Mexico was a member of the Mexican World Cup Squad. Those barriers will inevitably break down and many countries of the world have readily accepted the heterogeneity of the national team. Blacks representing England is no longer a rarity. Black players for years represent Holland, Denmark, Sweden, etc. The French national team that won the World Cup in 1998 had more black French men than white French men.
Sports have played a big role in breaking down racial barriers. Those barriers have been shattered in some countries than in others. Italy has a fascist past and is struggling with the influx of Africans flocking to Europe in search of a better life. Mario Balotelli is the first Italian of African descent to represent Italy. The decrepit way in which the Italians performed in South Africa in 2010, they will be searching for more Balotellis to improve their showing in Brazil in 2014.

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