Why Always Him?: Mario Balotelli's Foolish Fireworks Led To An Iconic Celebration

Who else were we going to talk about on bonfire night?
17:00, 03 Nov 2023

Mario Balotelli, eh? He really was something. Mercurial headline-magnet. Occasionally-inspired goalscorer. Manager's worst nightmare. A true personality at a time when footballers were becoming increasingly media managed.

As it's the 5th November, who better to remember on Bonfire Night than a player whose idiotic and dangerous (don't try this at home) brush with fireworks led to one of the most iconic celebrations football has ever seen? 

Join The Sportsman as we answer the question posed by Balotelli's shirt, and look back at some of the other iconic celebrations the Premier League has graced us with over the years.



Why always this celebration? Because nobody will ever forget the act itself or the incredible game, that’s why.

Just 36 hours before the Manchester derby at Old Trafford in October 2011, Mario Balotelli had caused £400,000 worth of damage to his bathroom (that’s a lot of bathroom right there!), after he and his friends attempted to set off fireworks from the window. It was the latest in a lengthy list of misdemeanours from the headline-grabbing Italian forward, so when he netted the opener in City’s unforgettable 6-1 trouncing of United he unveiled the inquisitive ‘Why Always Me?’ printed vest which would become so iconic. We never did find the answer.


We all copied this one. Whether on the park kicking the ball about with brothers and sisters, or on the Sunday League pitch, or even delivering an unusual greeting to the neighbours after a long night bringing in the New Year – that last one wasn’t yours truly, honest. Yes, at one stage or another we surely all ‘did a Ravanelli’ by pulling our shirt over our head to mimic the Italian striker who made the celebration famous on his Premier League debut for Middlesbrough in August 1996. Perhaps he had more reason to do it than we did, since he scored a hat-trick against Liverpool and we just megged our two-year-old sister/bounced one in off the injured keeper’s knobbly knee/had one Guinness too many, but we all loved reproducing the White Feather’s moment in the Riverside sun, which remains one of the top flight’s most iconic sights.


Hull City’s first-ever season in the top flight will forever be remembered for the moment Phil Brown shunned the warmth of the dressing room for the freezing cold Etihad Stadium pitch to conduct his half-time team-talk, with his side 4-0 down against Manchester City on Boxing Day 2008. And the Tigers’ second campaign in the Premier League will forever be remembered for Jimmy Bullard’s recreation of his gaffer’s unforgettable faux-pas. Having equalised from the penalty spot with just eight minutes to go, Bullard had his team-mates congregate around him and proceeded to wag a finger of fake disapproval, sparking laughter among fans of all persuasions. Brown himself was understandably slightly less amused!

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The question with Cantona is which one? There was, of course, the time he swung off the stanchion behind the goal to celebrate equalising against Liverpool, stopping just short of jumping into the crowd on his return to action, eight months after he went hurtling feet-first into a Crystal Palace fan at Selhurst Park.

But surely the most iconic was the sheer look of brilliant arrogance as he stood with arms aloft, taking a slow turn to survey all around him after delivering a sublime chip over Sunderland keeper Lionel Perez in a 5-0 Manchester United win in December 1996. It was a perfect reflection of the aura around the scintillating Frenchman.


Who needs a well-crafted social media post to respond to press criticism when you can use a goal celebration to deliver the ultimate counter-punch? Wayne Rooney’s goal in Manchester United’s 3-0 win over Tottenham in March 2015 gave him the perfect chance to make a joke of the video which had emerged that morning showing him being knocked out by former team-mate Phil Bardsley during a friendly sparring session in the England captain’s kitchen. As you do. After finding the back of Spurs’ net, Rooney threw a few fake punches, then recreated his dramatic fall against Bardsley by collapsing backwards onto the Old Trafford turf. No longer a huge drama, the story was now little more than a light-hearted explanation of a memorable Premier League moment. Killer blow, Wayne.

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The man, the myth, the Robot.

The Premier League got this celebration second hand, since Peter Crouch first unveiled his now-legendary moves in a couple of England friendlies shortly before the 2006 World Cup. He would later explain that it came from a throwaway joke at David Beckham’s pre-World Cup party, when he promised Jamie Carragher he would do something daft on the way back from the toilet. Carragher tipped off an ITV cameraman in attendance, Crouchy chose to do the Robot, and a legend was born.

So when the Stoke City striker netted his 100th Premier League goal against Everton 11 years later, he brought the infamous robot moves out of hiding to the delight of English football fans everywhere.

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