Mario Balotelli will face no Football Association action after the Italian striker taunted Manchester United players and supporters on Saturday. Running towards the United section at Wembley, the Manchester City player kissed his badge, gesturing towards United supporters. The Italian’s behaviour provoked an on-pitch mêlée, involving Rio Ferdinand, Anderson, Patrice Evra and City coach David Platt.
If Balotelli’s provocation was not severe enough, the 20-year-old then winked sarcastically at Ferdinand as the players left the field. Unsurprisingly, the striker’s behaviour infuriated United’s frustrated players, with Ferdinand and Anderson confronted the player on the Wembley pitch, while winger Nani later criticised the former Inter star for his lack of respect.
“He was showing his badge to our fans. Anderson just took him out from in front of our fans,” said Nani. “Rio was very angry because it is not fair, it was very disrespectful to do that in front of the fans. We were not happy.”
Meanwhile, 32-year-old Ferdinand used social networking site Twitter to voice his post-match criticism of the City player: “If you score a goal and give a bit to opposing fans I kind of accept that, but at the final whistle [you should] go to your own fans and enjoy it, not opposing fans”.
Ferdinand lectured Platt on-the-field, telling the former United youth to “control his players” before pulling the 44-year-old aside to continue the debate post match.
Despite the provocative behaviour the FA will not seek to sanction the £30 million player, even though there is recent precedent involving United. Indeed, former Reds defender Gary Neville twice found the FA’s ire for provoking opposition fans – once fined £5,000 for celebrating a goal in front of Liverpool’s supporters.
And with the FA taking a hard-line on its ‘Respect’ campaign where it suits the organisation, United supporters will ponder the governing body’s inconsistent implementation of its own policy. Sir Alex Ferguson has recently served a five-match ban for criticising referee Martin Atkinson, while Wayne Rooney has missed two games for swearing. The FA’s lack of action over Balotelli only serves to underline United’s sense of frustration with the governing body in recent times.
Not that idiocy involving Balotelli can surprise supporters of any persuasion. The 20-year-old has received more yellow and red cards this season than he has scored goals, while earning a rebuke for throwing darts at a team-mate. The striker was also involved in a training ground fight with Jerome Boateng.
At Inter the striker was dubbed “unmanageable” by former coach José Mourinho, while incurring the wrath of team-mates including Javier Zanetti and Marco Materazzi.
Balotelli also has a history of winding up opposition – and his own – supporters, having been fined by the Italian FA for offering sarcastic appluase towards racially abusive Chievo fans. He earned a rebuke for wearing an AC Milan shirt on television, and for gesturing at Inter fans after victory over Barcelona at San Siro.
But the most recent Balotelli incident was not the only to highlight the FA’s Respect campaign over the weekend. Much like Balotelli, Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish in unlikely to face FA charges after twice swearing at Arséne Wenger on Sunday. As the curtain came down on a dramatic match, Wenger reacted angrily to Dalglish’s attempted handshake, with the Scot first telling the Arsenal manager to “p*ss off” and then to “f*ck off” in quick succession, all for the aural pleasure of watching Sky Sports subscribers.
In fact Rant has recorded more than a dozen similar cases of audible swearing in the fortnight since Rooney’s FA sanction. In reality there are probably hundreds of acts of disrespect towards players, officials and fans each week, with the Soho Square-based body choosing only to enforce its own rules when the media spotlight demands.
In that there is a serious conflict between the FA’s demand for Respect – something clearly lacking in Balotelli’s actions – and the organisation’s ability to manage its campaign. There is even specific provision under section E of the body’s own rulebook to stamp out offensive and disrespectful behaviour.
“A Participant shall at all times act in the best interests of the game,” states the FA’s own rule book.
“[Players] shall not act in any manner which is improper or brings the game into disrepute or use any one, or a combination of, violent conduct, serious foul play, threatening, abusive, indecent or insulting words or behaviour.”
It is a provision that the FA only enforces intermittently. Something for which Balotelli is surely grateful.