One of the biggest matches in the Premier League this season — bigger than United's visit to Arsenal was later that same day — lived up to its billing in the second half, but all anyone is able to focus on now are the negatives.
When the incident happened in real-time it was difficult to ascertain how serious it was. The lack of reaction from the Spurs players and the close proximity of referee Howard Webb seemed to show it was not that serious.
However, after repeated viewings in slow-motion it seems clear to me that Balotelli was in control of his actions. The first contact with his right leg may have meant him stumbling over the England midfielder, but his second action of stamping down with his left boot was his decision. Only he knows whether he truly meant to stamp on an opponent's head, but in my opinion he meant to bring his leg down in that sharp manner while fully aware that Parker was underneath him. In my book, that makes him guilty.
It was no surprise to me that Roberto Mancini did not come out to face the press after the match. Instead he sent out assistant David Platt (or, as we used to call him in the England squad, George Formby...). After his touchline histrionics last week in waving imaginary cards, for him not to face up when one of his players has serious questions over his conduct to answer only makes the situation worse in my eyes.
Parker is very fortunate that Balotelli did not catch him in the eye or sustain any serious damage. Any professional athlete is bound to have significant strength in the legs, and Balotelli is a particularly powerful player. Sustaining a blow like that would be far more severe than someone landing a punch.
In all my years of playing and watching football, that is one of the worst things I've seen one professional do to another on the pitch. Quite frankly, it was a disgrace.
The issue of tackles which are two-footed and lunging has come up recently — ironically following a harsh red card for a City player, Vincent Kompany. However, that furore over a few tackles which you would have been applauded for a decade ago or less pales into comparison to the dangers present if players exhibit the sort of behaviour that Balotelli did. I hope he gets punished severely, for the sake of football.
The FA has to be serious in their actions. A ban for a few matches or even an eight-game suspension, which we have already seen this season, will not send a strong enough message.
Back in 1998, Paolo di Canio was banned for 11 games for pushing a referee over. If Balotelli gets less than that then it would be a miscarriage of justice. Eric Cantona was taken out of the game for nine months for leaping into the crowd and attacking a thug that was abusing him. I think Balotelli should be dealt with just as severely.
The worst thing is that people have all known Balotelli was capable of something like this. While this cult has built up around him for his supposed crazy antics, it has not exactly been the behaviour of a well-adjusted individual. By not addressing the little things, something big like this was always likely to happen.
- Sports & Recreation
- Sports & Recreation/Soccer