You see it all the time in soccer. A player continues running long after the offside flag is raised and blasts a shot after the whistle, occasionally earning a yellow card for delay of game.
But you rarely see something quite like what happened to Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli during Sunday’s friendly in Los Angeles.
Balotelli broke into the box with a one-on-one opportunity on goal, but rather than shoot, he spun around an daintily back-heeled the ball out across the goal line, drawing a thoroughly disgusted reaction from teammates — and more importantly, his coach.
Manager Roberto Mancini didn’t hesitate to pull his Italian striker — despite it being only the 28th minute, and despite the fact that Balotelli gave City a 1-0 lead with a penalty earlier in the half. But the quick hook didn’t sit well with the temperamental forward.
Balotelli appeared to believe the offside flag was up when he virtually abandoned a prime scoring opportunity with his show-boating. After he was subbed out, Balotelli chirped at his manager and then proceeded to throw a water bottle to the turf in frustration.
Mancini said post-match he was disappointed in Balotelli’s actions:
“In football you always need to be professional, always serious and in this moment, he wasn’t professional.”
Man City teammate James Milner was a bit more understanding in the aftermath, as he told The Guardian:
“Obviously we’d like him to put that in the back of the net, but Mario is Mario and he does some strange things sometimes.”
In all likelihood the post-incident sideline spat was a result of the 20-year-old Balotelli being miffed about the decision to remove him as a direct result of the play. But there’s an outside chance that the prospect of battling with a substitute’s penny again was too much to bear. Or maybe, it was just Mario being Mario.
Next time Mario, watch how the pros do it before you make a fool of yourself on... whatever network was televising Sunday’s friendly.