Mario Balotelli has spent the last two years as the whipping boy of every fan in footballdom. His antics landed in him in the doghouse of pretty much every manager he’s ever played for. There is one manager out there who thinks highly of Balotelli, he just is the manager of the Catholic Church.

Ahead of Italy’s friendly with Argentina — which is being held in Pope Francis’ honor — both teams got to meet the pontiff. However, only Balotelli got a private audience with the Pope. The AP reports:

One of Italy’s national team members, Mario Balotelli, who is black and has been the target of fans’ racism, was the only player to get private time with the pope. Francis and the striker spoke together in a small room off the sumptuous Clementine Hall where the audience was held.

A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, said Balotelli looked ”emotional” after their talk but that the player declined to say what he discussed with Francis. On Monday, Balotelli remarked that perhaps the pope might offer him special greetings because of his birthday this week.

Pope Francis is an avid soccer fan, supporting the Saints (of course) of San Lorenzo in Buenos Aires.


[Dirty Tackle]