Racist gesture the latest scandal for Edwin Cardona, the 'big baby' who just can't stay out of trouble

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The 24-year-old added to his already bulging rap sheet by insulting South Korea players during a friendly, and he needs to grow up fast

Edwin Cardona is not the first South American to insult an entire population with a single gesture, nor, sadly, is he likely to be the last. As the likes of Neymar's Santos team and Ezequiel Lavezzi have shown in the past, players from the continent, which in terms of racial sensitivity lags far behind Europe, seemingly cannot help but pull their eyes tight in a crass imitation of physical features typical of the Far East. 

For the Boca Juniors playmaker, however, it is the latest transgression in a career that has been seriously hindered by indiscipline and a lack of professionalism. Cardona should have a great future in the game ahead of him, but he needs to shape up, and fast, in order to reach his full potential. 

A product of the Atletico Nacional academy in his hometown of Medellin, the youngster initially came to prominence in the 2011 Toulon tournament, where he helped Colombia to the famous youth title and was voted the competition's second-best player behind compatriot James Rodriguez. It was not until three years later, however, that he finally made his mark at Nacional, breaking into the first team and inspiring his side to a place in the Copa Sudamericana final. 

That form eventually took him to Mexico, where he spent three turbulent, yet productive years with Monterrey. This year then saw a fresh start for Cardona; a move to Argentine giants Boca Juniors. Throughout his short career he has caught the headlines for his stunning ball control and incredible set-piece ability, but also for a tendency to get into trouble with depressing regularity. 

From the very start two recurring issues have dogged Cardona. A relative giant at 6'3" and with a bulky frame, the 24-year-old has struggled constantly with weight problems. In 2016 a photo of the playmaker looking seriously out of shape caused outrage at Monterrey, and began the rift that eventually led him to abandon Mexico.

An inability to respect authority, be it on the pitch in the shape of the referee or off it following a coach's orders, has also been a regular theme in the Cardona story. 

"He is an overgrown baby, as I say, he likes everyone to be on top of him and it lifts him greatly when he scores, he is an emotional kid," Antonio Mohamed, Cardona's former coach at Rayados, explained to TyC Sports shortly after releasing the player to Boca. A habitual rebel, Cardona went as far as to effectively walk out on strike in June 2017, when he was drafted to play in fellow Mexican team Pachuca and squarely refused to move. 

Cardona PS

On the pitch, meanwhile, the Colombian is liable to fly off the handle. In seven games for Boca this season he has seen red twice, the second coming for an admittedly questionable elbow on Enzo Perez after his stunning free-kick had sent Boca ahead in their Superclasico clash against River Plate. Cardona has seen red a total of five times since the start of the 2016-17 season, averaging an impressive expulsion every 10 games. 

Now the controversial youngster finds himself once more in the eye of the storm for his inability to control himself. 'Slanty-eyed' gestures like the one he exhibited in the dying moments of Friday's friendly with South Korea clearly have no place in football, and Cardona deserves all the condemnation he has received in recent days, even if he did offer a rather half-hearted apology after the game in which he was careful only to say sorry to those "who were offended" by his insensitivity. 

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If previous precedents are taken into account, he is unlikely to face a ban. FIFA is cracking down hard on discrimination in the game, be it racism, homophobia or otherwise, but since the incident was not punished on the field a hefty fine and a warning over future conduct is the most probable punishment. 

Cardona's acts, however, betray a more serious problem. He is one of Colombia's most talented players, with James one of the few Cafeteros with the ability to change a game with a single flick of the boot. But unlike his team-mate, whose behaviour since bursting onto the scene as a 17-year-old in Argentina with Banfield has rarely been short of exemplary, Cardona still leaves a lot to be desired in his general conduct. 

At 24 he still has plenty of time to mature and realise his undoubted potential. But his unnecessary, malicious insult on the pitch against South Korea seems to prove former coach Mohamed right: he is a "big baby", a Peter Pan figure who simply refuses to grow up and take his profession seriously. 

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