He has never been to Africa, let alone Ghana- the abode of his biological parents. But his name has reached more places than his frame. Call it the story of Mario Balotelli!
And, in a typical case of sharp, clear instincts that have twirled them fast and blind after all things Mario Balotelli, Malawian entrepreneurs have adopted the name Balotelli and are using it en mass to advertise their businesses with a little more than twenty entities using the name in Malawi's cities and districts.
Spanning from hand-me-down merchandise sellers to restaurant owners, the name Balotelli has become the in-thing all over Malawi- which is strange because, far from the tradition of attaching names that speak more about the proprietors' past, Malawian entrepreneurs are breaking from their traditional upbringing to add a sporting touch to their daily endeavours, thanks to the volatility and predictability of Mario Balotelli, a.k.a. Super Mario.
Super Mario- that soft-spoken and media-shy Italian international with a frequent high chuckle; yes, that man who is so quick to anger that many a soccer player have been hoodwinked into believing him an easy mark for provocation- has become the in-name in the Southern African Development Community member state because of Malawians' love for everything English Premier League.
Indeed, some have joked that the majority of Malawians love English first-tier sides more than their own national team and top league sides- in this case, TNM Super League sides such as Southern Region giants Mighty Wanderers, a.k.a. Nyerere (whose supporters call the team 'Chelsea ya ku Malawi- Malawi's Chelsea; Big Bullets, a.k.a. Ma Palestina; Central Region giants Silver Strikers, a.k.a. Ma Bankers; Civil United, and; Northern Region Giants Moyale Barracks.
This explains why Balotelli is loved by many, though he is equally loathed by Manchester United fans, who hate to be reminded about the two goals Super Mario scored against the Red Devils in the 6-1 drubbing at the Etihad Stadium. So, Manchester United fans such as Michael Kaligo and Samule Mumba do not hide their disdain for Super Mario, who they accuse of harbouring a huge ego than the sides of the Titanic.
And, more likely, the business entrepreneurs who have named their businesses after Balotelli are, more likely than not, non-Manchester United fans.
So popular has Balotelli become that, in Blantyre- Malawi's commercial city- alone, there are nine places answering to the name Balotelli- at least those Zachimalawi has visited. Undoubtedly, there are many more business institutions that might have got the Mario Balotelli bug, making his (Super Mario's name) the most sought-after name in Malawi.
In Blantyre City South Constituency alone, there is Balotelli Lodge, Balotelli Take Away, Balotelli Restaurant, Balotelli Car Rentals, and Balotelli Car Wash.
However, other business persons have got the name wrong on spelling, with the owner of a lodge in Blantyre Central Constituency calling his lodge 'Barotelli Lodge'. Probably, he might have written the name on his bill board while drunk! Why, if the question may be asked, would someone wrongly spell out the name of someone they like?
Or, may be, he is one of the disgruntled Manchester United supporters!
While the impact of Mario Balotelli on the local (Malawi) scene is yet to be ascertained, it is clear that the name Mario Balotelli has reached destinations far and wide- even when Balotelli himself has never been.
Balotelli, it must be noted, has never been to Africa, let alone Ghana- where his biological parents trace their roots. But this has not stopped his name becoming part of the African topics.
And it is not just his on-the-pitch antics that have stimulated debate. His adoption, by the Balotelli's, has also been one of the issues, with opinion being equally divided on whether Balotelli is right to, some how, give his parents a cold shoulder. There are those who say he is right, and those who say he could do better.
But both sides are grateful to the Balotellis for their love and commitment. Their love has brought forth a great footballer; one who would "kill" those people who are fast to judge others based on the colour of their skin.
In six days' time, Zachimalawi will post pictures of all the business places and institutions named 'Balotelli', and you will see, for yourself, the variations in spellings!