Mario Balotelli went to prison yesterday, but just for a visit and because he asked to go. As part of a delegation led by the mayor of Florence, Balotelli, goalkeeper Gigi Buffon and manager Cesare Prandelli met with inmates at the Sollicciano prison outside of Florence. Not that those other guys mattered. Mario was the star of the show.
The prisoners mobbed Balotelli, who certainly appeared to enjoy the uninhibited adulation. It’s not likely Mario experiences crowds as non-judgmental as the Sollicciano prisoners very often. The loved, him, they really loved him.
After all of the hugging and cheering was done, the Italian football luminaries held a Q&A for the inmates. Among the questions Balotelli addressed pertained to his recent iPad gaff while on the bench for Italy.
“My iPad? I wasn’t listening to it when I was on the bench… I listened to it before that.”
And here I was hoping that Mario was playing Super Mario on his iPad.
With that question settled, Mario had a simple message for the men and women (Sollicciano has a women’s wing) of the prison.
“When I was asked to come here I accepted without a second thought. Guys, don’t give up, everyone has an opportunity in this life.”
If anyone knows about second chances and opportunity, it’s Mario.
Perhaps the uplifting experience at Solliciano will do Mario some good. In fact, despite the above quote about accepting the invitation, Mario actually invited himself on the trip to the prison with Buffon and Prandelli, according to the manager. Maybe Mario knew he’d get unquestioning support from the prisoners (who may or may not identify with him for one reason or another) and needed to fill up his ego cup just a little.
Hold on while I come to grips with what I just wrote.
“I was supposed to go with Buffon and when he found out about it, Mario asked to join us,” said Prandelli.
And Prandelli added that the inmates made a beeline for the troubled star, who has often found himself in hot water despite his tender years.
“It was as if they were giving him a message, we’ve made mistakes but you don’t need to,” said Prandelli.
Mario Balotelli asked to go to prison, was the most popular man there, gave some salient advice that might come from his own experiences, and smiled like madman the entire time. In other words, it was perfectly Mario.