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Thu Apr 24 18:36:12 SAST 2014

Rugby players play for team

Simnikiwe Xabanisa | 21 June, 2012 07:110 Comments

IN HIS formative years as a coach, former England manager Fabio Capello spent time as a general manager for a variety of sports, which included rugby union.

During his brush with rugby, he came across a young David Campese, who was supplementing his "shamateur" income by playing club rugby in Italy.

When he was asked a few years ago what he had learnt from being in charge of a rugby team, Capello said it was that football could learn from the 15-man game.

Watching Italian striker Mario Balotelli being Mario in Italy's 2-0 win over Ireland on Monday night, one couldn't agree more with "Il Capo".

Balotelli is fast becoming the poster boy for everything that is wrong with football.

After scoring a sensational volley - a goal that showed everything that could be great about him (skill, strength and a wonderful technique) - all he cared about was railing at perceived injustices against him.

Much was made of teammate Leonardo Bonucci putting his hand over Balotelli's mouth to prevent him getting himself into trouble by mouthing off.

For all that drama, nobody even knew who had so offended the Manchester City striker. It could have been the "racist" fans at Euro 2012, it could have been his coach, Cesare Prandelli, or it could have been a ball boy who looked at him skeef, nobody knows.

All we knew was that Mario was pissed.

What got to me as a sports fan was that, having marvelled at his strike, we were robbed of an exuberant celebration to match the genius.

Thanks to his "Why Always Me?" T-shirt, Balotelli gives the impression that he honestly feels the world has it in for him.

If it did, Manchester City would not have splurged £24-million on what is essentially potential and little else, and he wouldn't be earning 120000 quid a week at the ripe old age of 21.

When Balotelli is being indulged, people seem to forget that, with him, City are paying for an unproven talent who has given too few flashes of what he is capable of.

Sure he made the decisive pass that enabled Sergio Aguero to win the English Premiership for City. But five games before that he very nearly destroyed their chances of winning by looking for a red card all game long against Arsenal.

As Prandelli said this week, not only does the player baffle him, he also has no concept of team - something that would never fly in rugby.

In a sport where you have 15 men playing, each guy has to do his job for the team to do well.

In soccer, the done thing is to shovel the ball on to a Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo so he can save everyone's backside.

This creates the unbearable petulance often shown by both those players (yes, Messi also does it).

Think of the precocious talents in rugby today, Israel Dagg, James O'Connor, Kurtley Beale, Will Genia, Pat Lambie, Eben Etzebeth.

They all understand the concept of a team and the referee's on-field authority (they never get a chance to swear at him because only their captain is allowed to talk to the ref).

Failure to abide by that will see them sorted out at the bottom of a ruck, a place I wouldn't mind seeing young Mario buried.

For all his sullenness, Balotelli is apparently a generous soul off the pitch. But the issue is that his office is the field, and he needs to bring that generosity to the pitch.

If he does that it will be a sign that he respects the game that has given him so much.

Rugby players always give that impression.

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Rugby players play for team

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Thu Apr 24 18:36:12 SAST 2014 ::

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