Super Mario

Sorry, no entry again this morning – I was fully loaded with a suit carrier and well packed rucksack, as I am heading up to Leeds for a conference. So sitting on the train what ‘hot topic’ should I cover during my extended 2.5hr commute?

After much deliberation I have decided to dedicate this entry to one of my favourite current ‘sporting icons’ – Mario Barwuah Balotelli.

Every article I read on Super Mario seems to quickly condemn his wild and bizarre antics both on and off the field. I understand why the heavily regulated national press cannot be seen to back British sport’s number one villain…but I have no such restrictions.

I do not support Manchester City, I don’t care if they win the league, I’m not Italian and I have no allegiance to Manchester United or Scott Parker – I am a complete neutral – but I love Mario Balotelli.

Sport is about entertainment, but for me it’s not really about the 90 minutes on the pitch, it’s about the pointless post-match debate (usually after about four pints). A spectacular goal might provide five minutes of ‘expert analysis’ but the image of Mario, dressed as Santa, handing out £50 notes can really loosen up the conversation. And barely a week goes by without another classic headline, he is consitently providing the fireworks for countless late night rants.

Mario is an anti-hero, an ‘old-school’ baddy, who gets every supporter (and hater) very excited. When he is on the pitch every touch (or stamp) is booed or cheered, and off the pitch he even dresses up to cement his villainous image. I believe he is doing it deliberately – he has created a brand that all football fans have bought into; whether they love or loathe him everyone has signed up to the Balotelli roadshow.

And he is just what football needs, if every side was filled with dull, soulless players we would all turn off. And he’s not the first; Cantona lit up football in the 90s and more recently Mourinho has been inspirational with his brilliance.

As a neutral I would rather watch Manchester City than any other team, not because they play the best football (although arguably they do) but because I want to see what Mario is going to do next. He, almost single-handedly, manages to drive my excitement and passion for the sport.

So Mario, if you read this, please don’t try and conform…this country needs you!