Love them or hate them, football’s bad boys are here to stay

2011-12-14 00:00

IF somebody had turned on the telly late on Monday night to catch the dying seconds of the Chelsea versus Manchester City game, they could have been forgiven for thinking that super Frank Lampard had the game of his life.

Lampard came off the bench to score the winner for the Blues and deal City their first league defeat of the season, and the English commentators became as emotional as Neil Johnson was the day that Shaun Pollock bowled his last over at Kingsmead.

Easy guys, Lampard scored a penalty.

He has scored many of them before and the spot kick in no way proved that he is now worthy of walking back into Chelsea’s starting line-up.

It proved that he can still take a spot kick. Heck, we can all take spot kicks.

But English heroes in big Premier League teams are somewhat of a rarity these days, so perhaps we should be a little more receptive to the broadcasters’ over-the-top celebrations.

What I can never be receptive to, though, is the behaviour of Mario Balotelli.

You’ve never seen such a combination of natural ability and arrogance in all your life.

And before you think you’ve found the guy, Shane Warne doesn’t even compare.

Balotelli scores goals with his shoulders, sets his house on fire, drives around with millions in cash on his passenger seat, swears at managers and referees and shows no respect for opposition players or team-mates.

Why? Because he can.

There is a reason that City boss Roberto Mancini has looked past all this and made Balotelli a regular feature in the City line-up — he’s that good.

During one of his temper tantrums on Monday night, I found myself wondering what kind of a child Balotelli must have been, and then it hit me — he still is a child!

At 21 Balotelli won’t be able to keep up this portrayal of hoodlumism forever, will he?

It’s scary thinking of all the young, aspiring footballers who are exposed to his MTV-like gangster attitude on a weekly basis.

It’s just a matter of time before the kid brings out his first single.

There will be rap, vulgar language, guns, inappropriately dressed woman, drugs, expensive cars and everything but a football in the music video.

And they’ll love it in Manchester, too, if they don’t have their backs to the television, that is.

Balotelli has completely won over City fans with his unquestionable talent and confidence in his own ability.

His one saving grace is that he is young. Perhaps he’ll look back some day and cringe at what a disrespectful and destructive youth he was … perhaps he won’t.

Our very own Benni McCarthy has been in the business for long enough to know what he can and can’t say publicly.

Threatening to slap a former team-mate? Boasting about how much money he makes?

Way to go, Benni. Our young footballers are blessed to have the country’s most successful footballer back on our shores to be their role model.

Balotelli and Benni aren’t the only ones. Football is littered with superstars who do nothing to promote the credibility of the sport.

Ensuring respect for the referee’s decision is certainly the area that needs the most attention.

Maybe we should just ignore them, pretend that their behaviour doesn’t bother us and use the “high school bully” strategy.

But nothing we do will make them go away, because they don’t need our approval.

All we can do is sit at home and hope that by the end of the next City game our television sets are still in one piece.

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