Super Mario is born-Balotelli (right) aged three years old
In the old precarious council flat of Thomas and Rose in Bagnolo Mella, in the suburbs of Brescia in northern Italy, we can see photographs of the family on the walls.
There are pictures of their four kids— Abigail, 22, Mario, 19, Enoch, 17, and Angel, 11. But Mario is always in the centre. We can see him as a baby, as an infant and as a kid, kicking the ball and wrestling with his brother Enoch.
But Mario no longer bears the name of Barwuah. He is a Balotelli now, surname he has taken from his foster parents, the Balotellis.
The player we all know as ‘Super Mario’ says his biological parents abandoned him when he was two years old.
Mr Barwuah, a Ghanaian man, Mario’s real dad says with emotion as he picks up a picture of his long lost son:
‘Mario had spent hours playing football in the rain,’ said Mr Barwuah. ‘When the boys came in they were soaked but they were laughing and joking despite being wet. My friend said to Mario, “You really are Super Mario”. It’s the name we gave him.’
Mr Barwuah is proud of his son, but very sad. Indeed, Balotelli has only invited him to one game when he was still playing for Inter Milan, a game where he only played the last 32 minutes.
‘He turned up one day with four tickets and he gave them to his brother, Enoch,’ said Mr Barwuah. ‘I asked if I could come and watch and he said that Enoch had the tickets and he could do what he wanted with them.
‘He has never remembered us. Not a birthday or Christmas, nothing. He is not the same boy I knew when he was younger — always laughing and smiling. He was trouble but in a good way.’
The Balotellis, his adoptive parents, were a white Italian family who could offer baby Mario a future which Mr Barwuah and his wife could not give him, because of poverty.
Mr Barwuah said: ‘At first we were not sure but we decided it was probably best for Mario. We saw him every week and we all got on really well.
‘We thought that at some point, once things had sorted out, Mario would come back to us. But instead, every time we tried to get him back, the Balotellis kept extending the foster time.’
At first the Balotellis were meant to keep Mario for an extra year, but they were rich and had lawyers on their side. Each year they extended the adoption period and Mario gradually became a stranger to his own parents.
‘We couldn’t afford lawyers to fight for us, so Mario grew more and more distant,’ he said. ‘He would come and visit and play with his brothers and sisters but he just didn’t seem to have any time for us, his mother and father.
‘We wanted him back for more than 10 years but, every time we tried, the courts blocked it and as the years passed he became colder towards us. The Balotellis know people and are influential and we could do nothing.’
Turning his back to the country of origin
Balotelli with mother Rose and brother Enoch
Balotelli decided to turn his back on his Ghanaian origin. He took the surname of his adopted parents and played for Italy’s Under 21 side.
His foster mother, Mrs Balotelli said once: ‘He was born and raised in Italy but had to suffer the humiliation and hardships of being considered a foreigner.’
In 2008, on his 18th birthday, Balotelli became an Italian citizen, but his real parents, the Barwuahs were not invited to the ceremony.
‘We didn’t know anything about that until we saw it on the news,’ said Mr Barwuah. ‘I didn’t even know he had taken the surname Balotelli. I thought he would still have our surname.’
In 2008 Balotelli claimed during a television interview that his birth parents had abandoned him in a hospital. He added that they were now only interested in his money.
‘If I didn’t become Mario Balotelli then Mr and Mrs Barwuah would not have cared about me for anything,’ he said.
Mr Barwuah said: ‘Mario was convinced we had abandoned him in a hospital but that’s just not true. That is the Balotelli family putting something into his head and it really hurts.
‘We have always loved Mario but he has changed. It’s the Balotellis — they have made him turn against us.
‘How can he say we just want to know him for his money? It’s not true. We don’t want any money. We are Christians.
‘Do you know what he has started saying now? That we beat him as a child. It’s a lie. We never touched him. We would never beat him. We gave him all the love we could.
‘We have done nothing wrong. We want more than anything to have our son back but now I think it’s too late.’Mr Barwuah said.
‘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?’