Assuming it wasn’t all part of some reality TV stunt, which can never be ruled out these days, we must take at face
Some of us must, at any rate.
Not so a number of mainstream media outlets, who slipped quietly into apologist mode when reporting how the Manchester City striker walked into a room at his old club, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the Italians were formally unveiling their new coach to the media.
In the eyes of the UK press, it was merely the latest manifestation of eccentricity by the 21-year-old, whose colourful resume is in danger of making the young Paul Gascoigne seem almost grounded in comparison. ‘Madcap’, ‘erratic but inspired’, ‘unpredictable antics’, ‘bizarre’, ‘bonkers’ – journalists everywhere reached for their euphemism of choice.
Maybe without realising it, however, it was The Week that nailed it – “He seemed unconcerned by the furore he had created.”
There you have it. The money quote. A grown man so wrapped up in himself and oblivious to others that all that matters in that moment is what he wants, as amiable as that might be. Mario wants to say ‘hi’ so everything else must be put on hold.
This wasn’t eccentricity; this was rudeness bordering on ignorance and Andrea Stramaccioni’s visible irritation was fully justified. This was the kind of boorishness, what’s more, that fuels the sneers that arise in polite conversation whenever professional footballers are mentioned and I happen to think those low-maintenance, hard-working pros who never let anyone down deserve rather better.
I want to like Mario Balotelli. Goodness knows, the clinical world of professional sport is crying out for mavericks more than ever. The Italian has to learn, however, that the difference between the maverick and the pain in the rear is self-awareness. The loveable maverick never loses sight of the fact that it’s not all about him. The generosity of which Balotelli is reportedly capable needs to be extended from his wallet to his manners and I’m sure Manchester traffic wardens stand shoulder to shoulder with me on this.
But then every cloud has a silver lining and it would be churlish of me not to mention it here. This time last week I thought Britain had a glum monopoly where graceless footballers were concerned. This week, I know differently.