Assessing penalties or suspensions is an unfortunate, but necessary part of running a sports league. The competitive nature of sport, as well as the physical and intense nature of such activities inevitably leads to poor behavior from time to time. It is the responsibility of the participants to assess how their actions may be perceived, as well as the responsibility of the governing bodies to assess fines and punishments based on the severity of the offence, the precedence it sets, and the history of the person involved. But what happens when a player who is known for immaturity off the field causes an issue with his or her play on the field?
This is the very situation going on in the English Premier League currently with Mario Balotelli. Balotelli plays for Manchester City, currently the best team in the league. He is by far one of their best players, and is known for his creativity on the field as much as his impulsivity off of it. He has broken into a women’s prison with his younger brother, set his bathroom on fire with fireworks, and given away thousands of dollars to struggling or needy people. He is, by all accounts, a bit wild, but not overly violent or aggressive. He plays with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, but generally that is due to people commenting on his shenanigans away from the pitch. When he plays, people could not be more excited, and it seems that for every crazy things he does, he does some sore of charity work to go along with his standout performances.
However, his latest incident is the line at which people stop making excuses for eccentricity, and start seeing him as a dirty, reckless player. Balotelli recently kicked a player that he had been tangled up with in the face during his team’s weekend match. The player was still on the ground as Balotelli kicked out at him, and was left with a fairly serious head wound. After the game Balotelli attempted to claim innocence by saying he was stumbling and accidently struck the opposing player. Video replay seemed to contradict this story, and he was eventually banned for four matches. This ban has led Balotelli’s manager to claim that he has been persecuted throughout his time in England, and that the assessment of the situation was unfairly biased. As a neutral party with a fair amount of soccer experience, it seems safe to say that the Premier League’s assessment of such a punishment is right on. As much as Balotelli, or his manager, want to claim that his of the field recklessness has influenced the decision, it seems that the only thing the review board took into consideration was the violent nature of the the action, and nothing more.