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Mario Balotelli's double life... - Marion & Father Thomas Barwuah

Mr Barwuah turns to those family snaps again, much-loved pictures that have been perused thousands of times.

‘Like any father, I wish him well. I was so proud when he joined Inter and I am still proud of him,’ he said.

‘I don’t want anything from him. I just want us to be how we were.

‘We did not leave Mario. Why would we have these pictures of us together?’

The boy born with a ball at his feet

HIS team pose in V-necked yellow football shirts on an Astroturf pitch. A proud supporter behind the camera captures the moment for the family album.

Some of the boys are smiling, or casually draping their arms around their team-mates. But it is the boy with the ball at his feet who draws the eye.

Mario Balotelli’s is the only black face in shot, yet something else sets the future Inter Milan striker apart from his peers. Attitude. The young footballer scowls into the lens, resting an elbow nonchalantly on his knee.

Sure start: Balotelli at nine (front row, second left)

He is a player who has always stood out — in demeanour and ability — both at nine and 19.

Walter Salvioni spotted Balotelli when he was 15 in the junior ranks of third division Italian side AC Lumezzane. Within minutes, the coach was convinced the teenager had the talent to make his senior squad.

The 47-year-old said: ‘I was watching the juniors train and saw Mario on the pitch — after just five minutes I knew I had to have him in the first squad. He was incredible. His touch was fantastic.

‘I went to the junior coach and said, “I’m taking that lad for the first team”. I didn’t know he was only 15 until the coach said, “You can’t, he’s too young”.’

The club’s chairman and the league decided Balotelli could play if Lumezzane got a doctor’s certificate to say he was fit. ‘Within 24 hours he was with us,’ said Salvioni.

‘He spent a day training with the first team and then he was on the coach with us for the match in Genoa.

‘They were up near the top and we were third from bottom, but we ended up winning 1-0. Mario came on for the last 30 minutes and won the corner from which we scored the winner.’

That was in 2005. Balotelli soon outgrew the club, earning an ultimately unsuccessful trial with Barcelona before joining Inter Milan in 2006.

Making the grade: Balotelli makes his debut for Lumezzane at the age of 15

Salvioni said: ‘Mario is an all-round talented player. He can beat his opponents for pace and skill and he is very physical. The few months he was with me, I was very impressed with him.’

But the prodigiously talented youngster could sometimes irritate Salvioni. ‘He was always rushing away after training and wouldn’t stay for any tactics,’ said the coach.

‘I confronted him. He smiled and said, “I have to go home to study”. In the end, he confessed he was going to play five-a-side with his friends.’

But the boy Salvioni knew was not the trouble-maker who is talked about today. He was arrogant, but just wanted to play football.

‘He was always very polite,’ said Salvioni. ‘When he isn’t picked he gets angry because he knows he is good enough to play. I think that’s what has made him go to Manchester City. He told me a few times he got on really well with (Roberto) Mancini, and he will play him.

‘What Mario really wants is to be picked for the Italian national team. That is his dream.’

Laura Williamson and Nick Pisa in Brescia

Source: Dailymail/UK



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