Upset by the these actions, Ferdinand, who was celebrating the birth of daughter Tia, had to be pulled away from the front man and has since apologised for his reaction. In the wake of Wayne Rooney’s suspension following his actions while celebrating at Upton Park, it raises the question of what is acceptable when toasting the success of victory or a goal. Just how far, is too far?
If Balotelli has done wrong in this instance, he is not the first and certainly won’t be the last to make such a poor behavioural judgement. A few infamous examples spring to mind immediately. In 2006 Gary Neville received a £5000 fine and warned over his future conduct after running 60 yards to the opposite end of the Old Trafford pitch to celebrate Ferdinand’s last minute winner against Liverpool. Clearly charged with emotion, Neville’s action was no accident and his punishment was rightly handed out. Fast-forward to 2009 and Emmanuel Adebayor was charged by the FA with improper conduct after running the length of the pitch to celebrate his goal in front of the Arsenal supporters. Again, this is clearly a step too far in enjoying the moment. Goading opposition fans is not something that should be encouraged and the FA was right to step in in this case.
The actions of Neville and Adebayor are examples of where players have gone too far. For a player to go out of his way to wind up opposition fans is inexcusable. But what if a player scores in front of these opposition supporters? Players receive a barrage of abuse every week in stadiums across the country. Some of the things shouted these days are beyond criticism of a player’s performance and should be acted upon. Verbal attacks on players and their families are unacceptable and the line should be drawn well before this point.
This writer would not want to suggest it is ok for players to antagonise supporters through actions or words. However, we often forget that players themselves are only human. Like anyone else, they can only take so much provocation before they react. Two wrongs don’t make a right but while the acts of Adebayor and Neville were clearly over the top, perhaps there are distinctions to be drawn. If and when Balotelli decides to tell his side of the story, maybe then we can judge on what side of the fence he falls.