Mario Balotelli graces the rather sensational cover of the latest Sports Illustrated issue, walking on the water of a Miami pool with his arms outstretched. The cover, which labels Mario "The Most Interesting Man in the World" reads: "He is Italian, the face of AC Milan, friend to popes and prime minsters [he met his first pope last week and knows former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi because he owns Milan], subject of racist hate and wild adulation, he is African, the face of the new Europe, a red card waiting to happen, the best young striker in futbol."
Strange use of the word "futbol" (instead of the more appropriate "calcio," "football" or even "soccer") aside, it's rare for a non-American footballer to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated (Pele and Maradona have both done it). The Grant Wahl story that goes with the Balotelli cover serves as an introduction to Mario for the poor souls who are unfamiliar with him — summarizing his complex history in the spotlight and playing an abbreviated version of fact or fiction game with him that Noel Gallagher did last year. Which brought out the best quote of the piece as Balotelli explained the famous Manchester fireworks incident.
"I got unlucky. It wasn't like my house was on fire. It was just the bathroom, because one firework went the wrong way. It took the curtain, and the curtain got on fire and the smoke went around the house. But we weren't inside. We were outside with the fireworks."
This is a slightly different version from his previous explanation that, "I didn't set any fireworks off, it was a friend of mine. I didn't know anything about it until I heard shouting coming from the bathroom." Like everyone else, even Mario Balotelli has a hard time distinguishing the truth when it comes to Mario Balotelli.