Early in Sunday's 1-0 victory for Arsenal over Manchester City, Alex Song went down in a crumbled heap after City striker and general headcase Mario Balotelli decided to aerate Song's knee for him. You may have heard about it happening. It was every bit as disgusting and dangerous as the tackles which have, on numerous occasions, ended with a broken leg and a lengthy spell on the sidelines for the victim. Twitter exploded with outrage, and announcing crews and pundits the football world over took Balotelli to task for his reckless behavior. Even his own manager hoped that the incident would be looked at, and that Balotelli would be forced to sit out.
Asked if the authorities should examine the incident with Song that referee Martin Atkinson and assistant Peter Kirkup took no action over, Mancini said "I hope so'' and admitted the striker deserved a lengthy ban.
Mancini would also claim in the same interview that Balotelli would not suit up for Manchester City again this season, and would likely be sold in the offseason. Granted, it's not that big of a limb to go out on to say you won't again field a player who everyone is sure will be suspended for the remainder of the year, but at least he was willing to take the moral stand and state, without any ambiguity, that the actions of his player were despicable and should be harshly punished.
Then, of course, the FA went and FA'ed it. On the same day they decided that gently grazing an offside player was the kind of error that can not be excused they also decided that a concentrated effort to deliver a potentially career-threatening injury is okay. Justice was thoroughly not done, but the infallibility of the FA's on-field officials was upheld, and that's all that really matters. With no further punishment handed down for Balotelli beyond the bare minimum three games he received for the red card he actually received in the game, he would be eligible to play for City's final three games of the season. Fortunately, with Mancini already stating his player deserved a lengthy ban, he certainly did the right thing and made it clear the club would still be sitting Balotelli, right?
What? No. Of course not.
With Balotelli suddenly eligible to be suited up three times, just in time for the crucial Manchester derby which will determine if the title fight lives on to the final two matches, Mancini's outrage is suddenly as non-existent as the FA's backbone.
"I thought Mario would be banned for six or seven games, that's why I said he wouldn't play again this season," Mancini said. "He only got three games so I'm pleased for this. He will be back for Manchester United [on April 30]. He will be ready.
In other words, Mancini thought that Balotelli's actions were deserving of a lengthy spell on the sideline, and willing to accept the consequences those actions would have on Mancini's team right up until the point that there was the chance to not have to deal with the consequences at all. A man of strong moral fiber, folks.
With Carlos Tevez, he of the months long Argentinian vacation, set to slot into Balotelli's spot in the Italian's absence the door is now open for a couple strong showings by Tevez to lead to a Balotelli-Tevez pairing come derby day. In the biggest game of the season, with all to play for, Mancini may well trot out two different players he rightfully swore never to play again, only to back down and take the coward's way out as soon as things got tough. This is even more laughable when considering that he manages a team that doesn't exactly struggle for competent striking options on its massive payroll.
At the end of the day, the FA is a weak organization which opened the door for Mancini to play his favorite child again, but it's Mancini's decision to walk through it. Club-ordered suspensions are far from outlandish in the world of professional sports -- Tevez himself was on one earlier this season. The problem is that in order to institute one you have to actually have at least the slightest desire to value player safety and doing the right thing over delaying the day when you watch your rivals hoist the trophy.