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Mario Balotelli’s Italian Homecoming

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Mario Balotelli’s Italian Homecoming

Brescia, as a city, seemed to feel the connection as well. She returned Balotelli's affection. In the time that she was away, Brescia changed. He remembers countless instances of his youth of feeling as if he stood out: the only black player not just on a team but across the field. He once told a teacher that he was trying to "wash the color" of the skin; he asked if "his heart was black too".

Now, according to Stefano Brasetti, personal trainer at Balotelli, the city is "proudly multicultural." According to him, about 19% of its inhabitants are extracommunitarian – people who came from outside the European Union, attracted by the wealth and work available in the country. Lombardy, one of the richest regions of Italy. The province is now home to 156,000 immigrants, and Brescia itself has large communities from Pakistan, India, Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria.

Balotelli returned, then, not only to a city that had always been happy to call him "one of ours," as one member of the Oratory staff said, but who had felt comfortable in his polychrome skin. Now every team, every field, has black players. He could finally feel like he belonged.

During the summer, while waiting to see what his future holds, Balotelli worked at Brasetti's gym. Occasionally, to improve his fitness, he jogged in the city parks with his brother, Enock Barwuah. He has been stopped countless times and invited to participate in local games. He never refused.

"For children especially he is a star," said Brasetti. "Whenever they look for him, he devotes himself completely to them."

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