One week, two alleged stamps. Both assailants bad-boys of their clubs’ cities, further apart in distance than footballing heritage and seemingly now closer yet in terms of notoriety. One incident exponentially more temerarious than the other, and thus rightly so – relatively speaking –, one man went unpunished, and the other supplied with a four-match decapitation. Only, if just one of the two crime scenes were to be punished retrospectively, it was the wrong one left exonerated.
Mario Balotelli may cast more than an envious gaze at the Spanish footballing authorities, much as the English do those shores with an understandable predilection for sunnier days on a golden beach. The decision to deplete Pepe of a suspension for an ostentatious trampling on the hand of Lionel Messi was absurd. Perhaps the powers-that-be took into account, unfairly, Messi’s status as The Second Coming of Diego Maradona – karmic law suggests an equal and opposite reaction to every action – and Pepe was thus the purveyor of retrospective punishment too, of a sort. Only, Messi isn’t Maradona, and so his Hand isn’t exactly His Hand.
What really transpired between Balotelli and Scott Parker Sunday will be up for dateless debate, until such a point in time when technology allows telepathic study of a players’ in-game temperament with a verbiage of colours to display apparent swings in mood, or perhaps cameras that detect unnecessary tensing of muscles that may signal intent of some form, negative or not. Until then, nobody can be right, nor can anybody be wrong (we dismiss the possibility of Balotelli himself discussing the event, because it is unlikely he will confess to such a crime, and if he denies wrongdoing, most will label him a liar), and so we are left hooked on football’s proverbial fence. The only conclusion from Balotelli v Parker is that there is no definite conclusion.
With Pepe, as with Karl Henry v Marc Albrighton in the Midlands derby last Saturday, brutal pellucidness was, thankfully, the sole element at work. Known recalcitrants in full bodily-control, and in full knowledge of what they were about to do, shamefully going out of their way to transgress. Balotelli was spinning, out of control, and plainly, in too awkward a state of motion to possibly have garnered enough to control to narrowly avoid, and this is no exaggeration, mutilating Parker’s face. He looked guilty to those looking for a guilty man. But it’s just another interpretation of events.
The fact is, plain and simple, that Pepe v Messi should not have even seen the light of a refereeing inquisition. It did not require such elaborate analysis, just a good old-fashioned ban. It was that crass. But Pepe walked, as he did all over Messi, while Balotelli now faces time, justly or unjustly, on the sidelines. It is only the matter of refereeing consistency that requires amelioration.
This time, at least, the Italian has every reason to believe he has been picked on by virtue of being Mario Balotelli, Italian Enigma – if the stamp truly was accidental, of course.
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