18 December 2014

Mario Balotelli, the gift that keeps on giving, banned for Sunday's clash

For those still sitting on the fence over the wisdom of not trying harder to sign Mario Balotelli over the summer, settling as it were for Danny Welbeck, it may tilt the scales a bit further to learn that Balotelli has been suspended for one game—that would be Sunday when we visit Anfield—and fined £25,000 for posting to Instagram a photo of Super Mario with the words "jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a jew [sic]".  Whether this was meant as tongue-in-cheek depends on how self-aware Balotelli is and how good he is at assessing the outcomes of his own decisions. Based on the body of evidence he's produced, it doesn't seem as if he gave it much thought. In any case, Balotelli remains a goal-less manchild more likely to self-destruct than fulfill his potential.

To be honest, his availability for Sunday was dicey to begin with as he nurses a nagging groin injury. Adding to that, he would carry into the match four cautions, meaning just one more would see him serve a one-match suspension anyway. For a player as temperamental and mercurial as Balotelli is, another booking for him is almost as inevitable as they so often seem for Flamini. Adding to Rodgers's selection woes, then, Balotelli will join the walking wounded, such as Sturridge, Lovren, Johnson, and Flanagan, while Skrtel and Gerrard carry four cautions into the match as well. At the end of the day, to be honest, Balotelli's ban might actually be a boon to Liverpool; he's been more of a distraction than a difference-maker. While this might be the first serious infraction Balotelli is guilty of, it's difficult to imagine him suddenly finding the maturity and self-possession he lacks while Liverpool is mired in the midst of its worst season in fifty years.

Now, to his credit, Balotelli has apologised, but as is so often the case, the apology offers just as much head-scratching as it does wound-healing. He posted the following:
I apologize if I've offended anyone. The post was meant to be anti-racist with humour. I now understand that out of context may have the opposite effect. Not all Mexicans have moustache [sic], not all black people jump high and not all Jewish people love money. I used a cartoon done by someone else because it has Super Mario and I thought it was funny and not offensive. Again, I'm sorry.
Tiny, quibbling point: there's no "if" as in "if I've offended anyone. He's apologising because he knows (or should know) that he's already offended people. Set that aside; he adds in a baffling reference to Mexicans and moustaches where none was necessary and seems to think that the issue is the use of Super Mario's image, as if we're criticising him for creating the character. Separately, he pointed out that his foster-mother is Jewish. The lack of humour, attempted or achieve, in the original post do suggest that Balotelli is guilty of little more than being a ham-handed hack with a tin ear, but his ignorance or oblivion concerning context only adds to the furore. For a man who has threatened to kill people who toss bananas on the pitch and who, in his defense, has suffered some humiliating racist abuse, it seems odd for him to be so buffoonishly unaware of how his own words will come across as racist.

As with most things Balotelli, this is likely more than a case of immaturity and impulsivity rather than something more inappropriate. Hey, at least he's not biting people.