Monday, 25 July 2011

What’s up with Manchester City's Mario Balotelli

Those who know me will be uber surprised that I’m writing a piece about football full stop… and even more so because it doesn’t involve the Black Stars of Ghana or England. But I felt compelled to discuss Mario Balotelli -an incredible football player and one that seems to be constantly in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. What’s going on with this, in my opinion, gorgeous brother? And why is he out to make himself the bad boy of football? Or is that the case? From the little that I’ve read about this controversial footballer -his hearts in the right place ..anyway the following is an insightful piece entitled: In defence of Balotelli from Euro Sport …


Mario Balotelli: the gift that just keeps on giving. Once again the Italian has displayed his propensity to make headlines after his piece of showboating against LA Galaxy on Sunday night. Judging by the subsequent reaction, Early Doors is currently trying to ascertain how best to obtain tickets for the public flogging.
But what crime against football has provoked this latest controversy, this outpouring of moralising? If you haven't seen it yet, Super Mario chose to try and spin and score with a backheel when through on goal, resulting in his immediate substitution and a hissy fit of epic proportions.

After racking up thousands of pounds in parking fines, throwing darts at youth team players, spontaneously visiting a women's prison, dishing out £1,000 to a tramp, personally driving a young City fan to his school to confront a bully, grappling unsuccessfully with a bib and declaring himself allergic to grass, the City star has found another way to get himself on the back pages.

But as fury spilled forth and keyboards were tapped in anger following Balotelli's indulgent and ultimately self-defeating trick on Sunday night, ED couldn't let go of one thought: we are all Danny Mills.
Remember the anger and hurt etched across his face when Robert Pires and Thierry Henry tried to pass from a penalty against his Manchester City side in 2005? It was the fury of a man disgusted that his opponents would try something so unconventional and unimaginable. Something that, had it actually worked, would have become an iconic moment, just as Johan Cruyff's successful attempt with Jesper Olsen did in 1982.

But just like the two Arsenal men, Balotelli's fault lay in his failed execution. Disrespectful, perhaps, but would he have been substituted if he had actually scored?

It is also important to note that this was a friendly. A meaningless encounter. Though City, and David Brent-esque chief executive Garry Cook, will no doubt feel that Balotelli's antics were hardly conducive to increasing the penetration of their brand in a key market, to ED that makes it all the more laudable. Modern football is already far too devoted to the bottom line.

In any case, they aren't going to become the most loved club in North America thanks to James Milner's shuttling runs mesmerising a nation and creating a whole generation of avid consumers of everything Manchester City.

Free thinking might be dangerous to the brand, but it is football's lifeblood. And, ultimately, don't fans want to be entertained?

What if Antonin Panenka hadn't audaciously chipped his penalty down the middle at the European Championship in 1976? What if Cruyff hadn't executed his turn? What if Pele hadn't tried that magnificent dummy at the 1970 World Cup?

Of course Balotelli's little trick was not in the same class - if anything it was more of a lackadaisical take on the Zidane spin - but it is borne of the same motivation. Roberto Mancini, of course, was highly unimpressed and promptly substituted the striker, before exchanging heated words with his fellow Italian.

He said in his post-match press conference: "I hope this is a lesson for him. In football you always need to be professional, always serious and in this moment he wasn't professional. If you are serious, you can play 90 minutes. If not, you can come and sit by me on the bench.

"He needs to understand his behaviour has to be good in every game - not just in a final or a semi-final but every game. He knows he made a mistake. Football should always be serious and if you have a chance to score, you should score."

Football should always be serious. Really? In a pre-season friendly?

In fairness to Mancini, at least his decision to whip Balotelli off and give him a stern talking to was entirely consistent with the largely joyless way his team play. it's not as if Manchester City have set the Premier League alight with some scintillating performances under their Italian boss.

Such pragmatism was perfectly legitimate when attempting to secure a top-four finish, and achieving it last season, but surely City should have aspirations of playing with a touch more panache. It is strange, too, that it is Mancini who is waging a war against creativity, as he himself is responsible for one of the great audacious goals. ED won't apologise for linking to it twice in the space of two weeks.

Balotelli has his faults and his behaviour can be very detrimental to his side - just witness his ridiculous red card against Dynamo Kiev last season - but it is also telling that when critics assess Wayne Rooney's combustible nature they usually conclude if you dulled that side of him then he wouldn't be the same player. When Balotelli displays a similar rebellious streak - albeit expressed in a very different, and in fact much more palatable way - we are told it must be stamped out, as if it were not a vital part of his makeup as well.

Ultimately, what do we want from our footballers? Eleven Michael Owen droids, playing expressionless football and delivering anodyne press conferences after a functional 1-0 win?

Football is already over sanitised as it is, and the way the media treats players is a symptom of the same problem.

When any minor dissent is presented as a 'blast' at a manager, or when a cheeky comment from Joey Barton on Twitter can be blown into 500 words of self-righteous indignation in the Daily Star, is it any wonder that a young, media-trained player resorts to a string of meaningless clichés in a post match interview.

Plenty of players are far more expressive than they are given credit for, but are cowed into claiming that "at the end of the day, I'm over the moon" for fear that any unconventionality will be seized upon.

Sadly it appears that suppression of expression is spreading to the pitch as well. Credit:

More Info
Balotelli was born in Palermo, Italy, to Ghanaian immigrants Thomas and Rose Barwuah. The family moved to Bagnolo Mella in the province of Brescia, Lombardy, shortly after Balotelli was born. As an infant Balotelli had life-threatening complications with his intestines which led to a series of operations, although his condition had improved by 1992. Mario's health problems and the family's cramped living conditions meant the Barwuahs decided to ask for the help of social services who recommended that Mario be fostered. In 1993 Mario was three years old when the Barwuah family agreed to entrust him to Francesco and Silvia Balotelli, with the legal move formalized by the Court of Brescia. When Mario Balotelli became famous his biological parents asked for his return. He later accused his biological parents of "glory hunting", stating that they only wanted him back because of the prominence he had gained. According to Law 91 of 5 February 1992, Balotelli had to wait until his 18th birthday in order to request Italian citizenship, as the Balotellis had not adopted him, and he officially gained citizenship on 13 August 2008. Credit:

Manchester City's Mario Balotelli hauled off in friendly -

FA Cup: Rio Ferdinand hits out at Mario Balotelli -

Roberto Mancini disappointed with Mario Balotelli -

Roberto Mancini defends Mario Balotelli's reputation-

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