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Mario Balotelli gives Britain a new buffoon

The Premier League footballer's antics make those of Wayne Rooney and the rest seem parochial by comparison
Mario Balotelli
Mario Balotelli

Can this be right? That the week's most heartwarming piece of showbiz news comes from the terrifying grotesquery of perversion and horridness that is the Premier League's footballing community? Yes, it can. The Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli swaggered out of a casino last week and casually handed £1,000 to a homeless person. Where's the twist? Did he then demand sex from him? Or make him entertain his entourage by dancing like one of those miserable, enslaved Russian bears from the adverts? No. He just gave him the money and went off home. And suddenly, in some minuscule way, the footballing world's karmic scales were momentarily rebalanced.
From a PR point of view, it has been a particularly bad year for footballers, what with Ashley Cole accidentally shooting someone and Nani building a statue of himself and everything. Someone needed to act to show they weren't all bastards all of the time. It was fitting that Balotelli was that man. Since he arrived in the UK from his homeland of Italy in September last year, he has fast become a new figurehead for footballing buffoons. He is a real idiot's idiot: a man-child who makes the antics of Wayne Rooney and the rest seem so parochial and narrow-minded by comparison. Swearing on telly? Shagging your best mate's girlfriend? Pah! Crude, childish horseplay to Balotelli.
This season he has been sent off, caught fighting, professed to have an allergy to football pitches and already been fined repeatedly for misbehaviour. After all this we might have expected him to push the boundaries of unpleasantness further by, say, killing a dog, filling it with massive, ethically unsound diamonds and wearing it as a hat while he moonwalked on to the field of play, laughing hysterically and licking blood from his hands. But, you see, that is just the sort of thing his public would have expected from him. And Balotelli is anything but predictable.
Giving a wad of cash to a homeless person is exactly the sort of counter- intuitive behaviour he specialises in. No one expected him to trespass in a women's prison with his brother for a bit of a laugh. But last October, while recuperating from an operation back in Italy, that's exactly what he did. No one expected him to chuck darts at youth team players out of a window at Manchester City's training ground last month either, but he did that too. He blamed both incidents on boredom. See what I mean? He is an imaginative idiot. His brain is curious and enquiring, always seeking out new ways of being massively stupid. And that's what separates him from his dreary idiot-contemporaries, who are happy to play it safe with their predictable acts of street-brawling and incessant adultery.
According to the Sun's source, this was not the first time he had committed an act of charity. "Mario is really generous," they said. "He always hands £20 notes to the Big Issue boys without even taking the magazine." Hear that? Without even taking the magazine. Sounds like the sort of thing Jesus would do, right? Well, the Big Issue people would probably lecture him about the importance of giving homeless people a hand-up rather than a handout. But Mario wouldn't listen. As far as he is concerned there are only two ways of doing things: the Mario Balotelli way and the wrong way. It would be useless to point out the fine line between sincere acts of charity and self- aggrandising acts of vulgarity.
Like so many of his contemporaries, he is seemingly imbued with superhuman self-belief and a cast-iron sense of entitlement. He isn't guaranteed a starting place in the Manchester City team and is yet to establish himself as an international player, but this is what he has to say about his professional status: "There is only one player who is a little stronger than me: Messi."
He is just as comfortable with his wealth. When he wrote off his sports car in Manchester shortly after arriving in the city last year, attendant police officers searched him and discovered £5,000 in cash hanging out of his back pocket. Asked why he was carrying such a sum, Balotelli shrugged and said: "Because I am rich." Nobody can control him. His exasperated manager Roberto Mancini has commented: "Every day I fight against Mario and sometimes I would like to give him a punch." Mario's response? "He couldn't. I do Thai kick-boxing."
There are tiny hints of vulnerability behind the bravado. He has complained of being homesick for Italy. Last month, millions watched a heart-rending YouTube clip of him struggling to pull on a training bib during a pre-match warm up before losing his temper and instructing a member of the coaching staff to do it for him. It was almost poetic; a poignant encapsulation of this young man's inability to navigate himself through the daily challenges presented by a cruel universe without seeking refuge in rage and indignation.
Liam Gallagher recently said of him: "Mario's smart, I like the way he's a bit of a headcase." And so the torch was passed from the previous incumbent to the next: Britain has its new Idiot Laureate.

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