This Week in Mario Balotelli: The Shoulder Goal

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In the 88th minute of what was already a rout vs. Norwich City, Manchester City forward Mario Balotelli scored a goal to make it 4-1 for the league leaders (Adam Johnson added another a few minutes later for good measure). It was a meaningless goal, but nothing Balotteli does is ever without import, so it's worthy of some consideration.

If for some reason you can't watch the video above, Balotelli took a pass from Johnson at the goalmouth, was stonewalled by very British-named Norwich keeper John Ruddy, sought out the rebound right near the goal line, and bumped it in with his right shoulder. It was a cute, arguably insulting way to score, because a more prudent player would have played it in off his head (as if a game that arbitrarily doesn't allow participants to touch the ball with their arms and hands should have a hierarchy of morally upright body parts). The British press and various blogs have responded with the usual round of Balotellian adjectives, adverbs, and phrases: "impishly," "nonchalantly," "outrageous," "again manages to cause a stir," "attention-grabbing," etc.

Balotelli has always been a controversial figure for years, but he has drawn special notice this campaign for his off-field activities, especially an impromptu bathroom-window fireworks party that burned down his house. This goal, as well as his quick two-yellow red card last weekend vs. Liverpool, have reminded everyone that Balotelli is every bit the troublemaker on the field that he is off it – there's really not much difference between his approach to sport and the manner in which he lives his life.

That lack of distinction can seem like something of a put-on – last Monday on the Guardian Football Weekly podcast, Paul MacInnes wondered if he got that red card just to cultivate his bad-boy image – but it also makes Balotelli a surprisingly reassuring figure. In a sporting climate in which Liverpool living saint Steven Gerrard gets in bar brawls, professional captain John Terry sleeps with a teammate's wife (correction: she wasn't Bridge's wife and they were not club teammates at the time), and prototypical English bulldog Wayne Rooney proves so vain as to get hair plugs, Balotelli presents a unified front of ridiculousness. Unlike those other stars, Balotelli exists on the football pitch as he does elsewhere. When he plays, the game isn't an entertainment venue or a space for a parallel reality, but a reflection of the world as experienced on a day-to-day basis.

UPDATE: The new video should work. Hopefully we can find something more permanent soon.

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Yeah, the video doesn't work... that's a pity, I was so excited about it... yet I read the article with pleasure, I'm glad I have come across it.

photo editor

I haven't had this many opinions on a lone soccer player in so long. I think at the end of the day I love him more than I hate him. (I'm still sour after his pouting last season.)

The difference between his nuttiness and Tevez's nuttiness is crucial to City being on top of the league this year vs. last. I think they had the talent to do it last year, but Tevez sank the ship. Of course, adding Kun was huge too.

Right before the goal, while the ball was in flight, I wanted him to blow a kiss to the camera and then nudge it in with his cheekbone. However, a shoulder pop isn't so bad.

Great stuff, even if you forgot to mention Wayne Rooney's own sexual indiscretions with grandma-aged German prostitutes and also his hysterical Skype sex-chat-scapades.

Premier League keeping the Balotelli video in shackles.

FREE BALOTELLI.

John Terry did in fact sleep with a woman who had a relationship with Wayne Bridge. He's no angel and this isn't meant to be excuse him.

However, Bridge and Terry were not teammates at the time, and she was never married to Bridge.

Other than that, nice post.

Gah, you're right. Will fix.

Bridge has the last laugh. He's sitting on 90k/wk and will probably never see a Premiership match again from the dugout.

Does Balotelli have a Nyjer Morgan-esque alter ego yet?

Wouldn't having an an alter ego run contrary to his "united front of ridiculousness?"

Video got taken down. Looks like no one can watch it now.