Controversial soccer star Mario Balotelli is on this week’s Sports Illustrated cover, marking just the third time a non-American soccer player has appeared on the cover of the prestigious magazine. International icons Pele and Maradonna are the only others who have experienced the honor.
The cover photo itself is phenomenal. Shot by Jeffery A. Salter for SI, it shows the Ghana-born Italian player walking on water. Really, the photo was taken at a Miami hotel with a pane of plexiglass over the pool.
In Grant Wahl’s cover story on Balotelli, the AC Milan striker addresses many of the wild rumors about him. Most of them, he says, are not true. From showboating and getting benched to being muzzled by his teammates, Balotelli has been featured at LBS for all sorts of reasons. One of the more controversial stories in which he was involved was when an Italian newspaper published a cartoon that depicted Balotelli as King Kong. Balotelli says he did not face racism growing up, but he has multiple times since.
“You can’t delete racism,” Balotelli told Wahl. “It’s like a cigarette. You can’t stop smoking if you don’t want to, and you can’t stop racism if people don’t want to. But I’ll do everything I can to help.”
The SI story is a good read on a controversial, colorful athlete, who seemed to recognize how big of a deal it was for him to be on the cover as a foreign athlete. You can check out the whole thing here.
H/T Dirty Tackle via Arsen D