The Sun reports that the Italian striker was asked for an autograph by the young fan at City’s training ground, but turned the tables on the lad by asking him why he was playing truant from school.
The boy explained that he was absent because he was being bullied – sparking an incredible reaction from the 20-year-old superstar.
The City ace drove the boy and his mother to the school and demanded to speak to both the headmaster and the bully, during which he apparently mediated as the two boys buried their differences.
“See, I do smile,” Balotelli says. “My public image is absolutely not a fair reflection of who I am. Sometimes I do the wrong thing and there are things I regret but I’m 20. People who know me are aware I’m not a bad guy but I’m shy; it’s difficult to be here giving an interview.”
Do any of our American readers remember Amos Otis? Otis didn’t have the bad boy reputation that Balotelli has, but was seen to be a slightly tricky customer, so there are intriguing parallels.
This from Bill James’ 1984 Baseball Abstract:
In the years that Amos Otis was in Kansas City you would occasionally, maybe once a year, see a note in the letters section of the paper that went something like this:
As I was leaving Royals Stadium after the Royals/White Sox game of June 13 I experienced car trouble and was stranded for 25 terrible minutes in the heat beside I-70 as the postgame traffic rolled by. I was wondering how we would ever get out of there when a car stopped behind me and the driver asked if we needed help. To my amazement, the driver of that car was Amos Otis.
Amos had been cast by the media as a moody and unapproachable man, and that he is; he is moody, and he is unapproachable.
Amos Otis was an intensely private man leading an intensely public life. He disdained showmanship—probably he hated showmanship—of any type and to any extent. He could never quite deal with the fact that his business was putting on a show. This is what is called ‘moodiness’ by the media. Yet there was a rare, deep honesty about him that was the defining characteristic of him both as a man and as a ballplayer. He could not stand to do anything for show. He could not charge into walls (and risk his continued existence as a ballplayer) after balls that he could not catch. He could not rouse the fans (and risk his continued existence as a baserunner) with a stirring drive for a base too far. He never in his career stood at home plate and watched a ball clear the fence. McRae and Brett, they did that sort of thing; Otis would sometimes turn away interview requests with a sardonic comment, ‘Talk to Brett and McRae. They’re the team leaders.’
It went further than that. Amos could not quite walk down the line when he hit a popup (that, too, would be dishonest) but he could not bring himself to run, either. Because it was false, you see? He wouldn’t have been running for himself or for the team or for the base; he would have been running for the fans, or for the principle that one always ran.
But what you must also see is that the same honesty which denied Otis the indulgence of flair, the same feeling which required that he keep his kindnesses out of the view of the public, this is what built the wall around Amos. He could not give interviews because he could not recite cliches becase they are false.
James goes on and it’s all good stuff, but I had better not keep typing as a) it’s copyrighted and b) it’ll take forever. In any case, it’s hard to know what to make of the media perception of Balotelli. The suspicion remains that he’s one of the few sane people in the mad world of football. Or not. Who knows?