(JTA) – Mario Balotelli, who grew up as the foster son of a Jewish mother, led Italy to the Euro 12 soccer championship game.
Italy lost, however, to Spain, 4-0, in Sunday’s tournament final in Kiev, Ukraine. The tournament was held this year in Ukraine and Poland.
Balotelli dedicated the two goals he scored in Italy’s 2-1 semifinals victory over Germany on June 28 to his foster mother, Silvia, who raised him in northern Italy. Newspapers and websites ran a dramatic photo of Balotelli tearfully embracing his mother after the match.
An article on Moked, the website of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, called the embrace "an emotion for all Italians and a special emotion for Italian Jews."
Balotelli revealed the fact that his adoptive mother was Jewish in early June, when like other teams, the Italian national squad visited Auschwitz ahead of the start of the games. The white supremacist website Stormfront attacked Balotell, who is black, with vicious racist and anti-Semitic insults.
“He’s black and Jewish he should play for Israel not Italy,” wrote one commenter on Stormfront.
Balotelli, who also plays for Britain’s Manchester City, was born Mario Barwuah to Ghanaian immigrant parents in Palermo. He suffered from health problems as a small child and eventually his financially strapped parents placed him in the care of Francesco and Silvia Balotelli.
A writer in the Italian Jewish monthly Pagine Ebraiche called Balotelli "the symbol of the commitment that brings together the experience of immigration, of acceptance and of success. But [he is] also a tribute to his adoptive mother, the Italian Jew who welcomed the child and whose family suffered during the dark years of the Shoah."