By RODNEY PAGE
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 6, 2001
Mamadou Diallo promises to behave. No more outbursts at officials. No more run-ins with fans. For the rest of the season he swears he'll be on his best behavior. Honest.
Never mind that in his view none of the incidents that resulted in five games' worth of suspensions and thousands of dollars in fines were his fault. If that's the way Major League Soccer wants to play it, Diallo says, that's fine. He'll play that game.
"Everybody sees that the red card I got in New York was not right," Diallo said. "Everybody knows that with the tackle, I didn't deserve the red card. Against Colorado, everybody knows what the guy said. He said, "Negro, go back to Africa.' It hurt. I'm not the (kind of) player that makes problems. Everybody is going to provoke me, the players, the referees. I don't have any support from the referees. I have to take care of myself.
"Now I don't care what the referee does or what the people do. I can only try to do my best on the field. If something happens, I can only walk away. If you're the best player, everyone will try to stop you. I cannot let that bother me. After the game I can only walk away and go home."
Diallo returns tonight after spending four games (including an exhibition against English club Fulham) on the bench for trying to fight the fan he says made the derogatory remark. He also sat out two games for a red card he received against New York/New Jersey on April 21, the last time the Mutiny won.
Without Diallo, the Mutiny is 0-5 and has been outscored 12-2. Clearly, the Mutiny needs Diallo in the lineup if it is going to make a run at the playoffs.
Mutiny coaches and general manager Bill Manning have talked to Diallo about the importance of staying on the field. They have talked to him about walking away from potential conflicts. They have even offered anger management classes, but Diallo refused.
"I don't go to any classes because I don't need that," he said. "I'm not that kind of crazy person. I know what I'm doing. Everybody knows the red card I got was not right. Everybody knows what that man said to me (in Colorado). I don't need to go (to classes). I can take care of myself."
The last time home fans saw Diallo was May 9 against Los Angeles, when he scored four goals but Tampa Bay settled for a 4-4 tie. He left the stadium immediately and refused to talk to anybody.
He has since had time to reflect on his suspensions. He said he has realized that the best way to help the Mutiny and exact revenge on the league is to play. Diallo has six goals in five games, tied for second in the league.
"I know that I'm very important to the team and the only way I can help the team is to be on the field," Diallo said. "My not playing is very tough for the team and it's very tough on me. If I don't play and the team loses, it hurts me. Sometimes I think it's my fault. If I'm on the field, maybe this doesn't happen."
The Mutiny views tonight's game against Dallas as the beginning of its "second season." Midfielder Carlos Valderrama also returns after a red card suspension, and defender Steve Trittschuh will play his second game since returning from a broken right fibula.
The only starter out is defender Chad McCarty, who is likely gone for another two weeks with a broken left ankle. The Mutiny has a seven game winless streak.
"With the return of our big guns, Carlos and Mama, hopefully we can continue progressing and we'll be able to break this spell," Mutiny coach Alfonso Mondelo said.
WHEN/WHERE: 7; Raymond James Stadium, Tampa.
RADIO: WWBA-AM 1040, WAMA-AM 1550 (Spanish).
RECORDS: Burn 3-5-1, Mutiny 2-7-1.
COACHES: Burn -- Mike Jeffries. Mutiny -- Alfonso Mondelo.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Burn -- M Chad Deering, F Ariel Graziani, F Jason Kries, M Miles Joseph, G Matt Jordan. Mutiny -- F Mamadou Diallo, M Carlos Valderrama, M Steve Ralston, G Scott Garlick, D Steve Trittschuh.
NOTES: Mutiny M Josh Keller is questionable with a sprained left knee, the same injury he had in the preseason. ... Burn M/D Jorge Rodriguez will miss the match; he is playing for El Salvador in the Copa de Naciones tournament in Honduras. ... The Mutiny is winless in seven games and has not won at home this season (0-4-1). ... Mondelo was away for three days to attend his daughter's wedding. ... Dallas lost 6-2 to the Fusion Saturday at home, its second-worst home loss ever. ... The Mutiny defeated Dallas 4-2 in the opener. ... With only seven points, the Mutiny is last in the Central Division but only three points behind both Columbus and Dallas. A win would pull the Mutiny even with both for second place in the division. -- Compiled by Rodney Page.