Tag Archives: balotelli

Italy Can’t Kick Racism Out of FIGC Presidency, Let Alone Football

Racism is a major problem in Italian football – just ask Mario Balotelli, who fled Italy the first chance Carlo Tavecchiohe got, only to return three years later to escape the not-racist-but-still-pretty-awful English press.

That problem just got a whole lot worse: Earlier today, Carlo Tavecchio, a bona fide racist, was appointed president of the Italian Football Federation. In July, Tavecchio said he hopes to strengthen the rules governing non-EU players, so that Africans “who previously ate bananas” can’t insinuate themselves into Serie A.

Tavecchio won 63 percent of the vote. I think it’s time for Balotelli to move back to England.

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A Blue Revolution Powered By The Green Stuff

“In soccer, money is destiny,” Brian Phillips wrote in 2011. “And destiny’s not distributed equally.”

At its best, the Premier League is an exhilarating spectacle sustained in part by a moneyed elite that spends millions on superstar players. At its worst, the Premier League feels like a lame excuse for the moneyed elite to play for more money. In the early 1990s, English clubs broke away from the old Football League and formed their own competition designed to realize the commercial potential of a new, streamlined league that would fully embrace live television. Since then, a small band of financially empowered teams has dominated. Sometimes they’re a “Big Four;” sometimes they’re a “Big Three;” once in a while they’re even a “Big Five.” While those clubs vie for major honors, the rest of the Premier League invents and then competes in a series of phony battles, the most notable of which is “The Battle To Avoid The Drop” and the most banal “The Battle To Finish In The Top Ten If, By April, We’re Too Good For The Drop But Not Good Enough For Europe.”

Occasionally, it’s possible for traditionally weak teams to break into the top tier; however, such maneuvers require the type of money that Chelsea, traditionally a promising but never truly successful club, has enjoyed since 2003, when Russian billionaire and celebrity yacht-owner Roman Abramovich decided, virtually on a whim, that he rather liked Stamford Bridge. After a couple of seasons of steady investment, self-proclaimed “Special One” Jose Mourinho secured Abramovich’s team the Premier League title. And last year, after numerous failed attempts, Chelsea became the first London club to win the Champions League, or European Cup — as it was known before a certain fascination with the green stuff necessitated a rebranding.

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The Beautiful Weirdness of the Community Shield

Every August, one week before Premier League kickoff, the previous season’s FA Cup winner faces off against the reigning league champion in the FA Community Shield. Manchester United has won the annual curtain-raiser 19 times, more often than any other team, but Sir Alex Ferguson, who engineered half of those triumphs, doesn’t consider it a legitimate trophy. (Then again, Fergie can afford to dismiss ten victories; he’s the game’s most decorated coach.) The Community Shield is probably the most ambiguous thing football has ever produced, and, in a sport that still hasn’t settled the handball rule, that’s saying something.

Originally, the Community Shield wasn’t the Community Shield at all; it was the Sheriff of London Charity Shield, and instead of pitting two money-grubbing big-time teams against each other in a sponsored-by-McDonald’s spectacle, it served as a 90-minute diplomatic necessity, fought between a team from the Amateur Football Association and one of its professional counterparts. Scottish whiskey distiller Baron Dewar, an early promotional expert who also founded the Theatrical Sports Five Miles Cycling Championship Shield, is credited with conceiving the event. The first-ever Sheriff of London Charity Shield match finished in a tie: at the end of regulation, Sheffield United (the professional representative) and Corinthians (the amateur representative) had each scored a single goal. With United unwilling to play extra time, the two teams elected to “share” the six-foot trophy. It was all a far cry from Mickey D’s.

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Reflecting on the Euros: 15 Things We Learned

1.      It’s getting harder and harder to host- In recent years, FIFA and UEFA have made a lot of noise about the importance of spreading football around the globe, encouraging traditionally unsuccessful football nations to host international tournaments. It’s no surprise, then, that, despite a couple of glorious moments, this year’s hosts were both eliminated before the first knockout round. After all, neither Poland nor Ukraine is one of the best eight teams in Europe.

Wild expectations don’t help. After Poland’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Greece, Francizek Smuda claimed that his team had been “paralyzed by pressure.” Ukraine looked similarly disabled against England, though a controversial goal-line decision provided them with a readymade excuse.

2.      Holland are still unreliable- Almost 40 years after the 1974 World Cup final, Holland are still masters of self-destruction. First, their pre-tournament preparation was marred by a dressing room argument over whether certain black players had been racially abused by someone outside the squad. Then the team imploded against Denmark, Arjen Robben forgot how to shoot, and Robin Van Persie reverted to, well, Robin Van Persie-at-the-2010-World-Cup-form. Holland exited the Euros without a single point, and Bert Van Marwijk resigned soon thereafter.

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Balotelli’s Talent Comes Good

Mario Balotelli stood shirtless, his intimidating muscles flexed, staring straight ahead. He refused to betray any emotion. Indeed, he refused to do anything other than stand and stare. But then his teammates engulfed him, and, through a crowd of sweating bodies, his face slowly softened into the faintest trace of a smile.

On Thursday night, Loew’s German players stopped being world beaters and instead became nearly-men. Italy progressed to the final, where they will serve as the last obstacle in Spain’s pursuit of a historic third consecutive tournament victory. Antonio Cassano, who suffered a stroke in October, elevated himself from endearing bad boy to national hero. Andrea Pirlo commanded midfield with his customary elegance and poise, but the contributions of others overshadowed him. Italy’s was the ultimate team performance. 

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England Depend on Unreliable Rooney

Ten months have passed since Wayne Rooney aimed a kick at Miodrag Dzudovic’s leg. That moment of madness spawned a brief public hate campaign against Rooney, a frustratingly familiar routine that lost all momentum when England fans realized that the Manchester United striker represented their last, tenuous hope of tournament success.

Rooney, who has polarized opinion since his emergence on the international stage in 2004, is one of only two players to have been sent off more than once while playing for England. The other is David Beckham. You could hardly find a starker contrast. Beckham is suave, handsome and married to a pop star; rumor has it that his match-worn jerseys smell of something suspiciously like perfume.  Rooney is rough, ugly and married to his childhood sweetheart; in 2011, he swore loudly at a camera during an overly boisterous goal celebration.

What Beckham and Rooney have in common is an uncanny ability to frustrate and inspire in equal measure; especially when playing internationally.

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The Beloved Autocrat: How Mancini Conquered The Fans

Since his arrival in the winter of 2009, Roberto Mancini has made quite an impression.

Maybe it was the cute Italian accent or the gradual improvement in City’s defense. Something about Inter’s handsome former boss appealed to a set of fans still acclimating to their club’s financial and footballing altitude.

Or maybe it was the scarf. Perhaps Mancini’s initial wardrobe choice had nothing to do with the weather. During a period of tumult, the simple yet luxurious attire of Mark Hughes’ successor provided a blast from the past in sharp contrast with City’s constant talk of the future. City needed that. More than any of their million-pound playing assets they needed an acceptance of what used to be as they embraced bullish expectations of what had yet to arrive.

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Balotelli Is Starting To Define The New City

While failed bathroom experimentation may have condemned his pyrotechnic career to the realms of lazy humor, Mario Balotelli’s footballing talent has finally found the greenery most conducive to its belated blossoming.

The frown so intrinsically linked with his controversial endeavor failed to disappear, but in this culmination of careful improvement Balotelli showed that he’s more than just a troublesome ornament.

After years of almost constant indignation, it was easy to sympathize with the forward’s celebratory message. “Why always me?” read his undershirt – revealed just after the first of six Manchester City goals.

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