The Lead

The internet is an amazing thing everybody!

To whit: last night, the Internet (well, the peninsula known as Twitter at least) united American and Canadian soccer supporters in their boredom at the needless 0-0 kick-about between their respective national teams in Houston (which I will only passingly note was the second time in as many meetings that Canada has held the US to a scoreless draw, which still makes that 8-1 Honduras shellacking all the more horrific and inexplicable).

Not everyone quite understands the Internet’s awesome power, however. Particularly fans of English football, and while we’re being particular, even more particularly fans of Mario Balotelli. As a wise woman pointed out amid all the teary blubbering in the tabloid press yesterday:

Indeed, AC Milan is not a Greek second division team, but a (perhaps erstwhile) Italian giant. And because the Internet cares not for your geographical location or satellite TV situation, it will allow you to a) watch his Serie A games on the computer b) read about his traipsing around Milan presumably ending up on a high fashion catwalk at some stage being piggy-backed by Kate Upton or something.

But I don’t think that’s what this is all about. Balotelli’s mad trip to England geared everyone up not because anyone care to see him dazzle in the Premier League—I was still holding out to the very last second for the magic to happen again—but because Balotelli ran counter to the entire English footballing ethos. He did not seem to work very hard at improving his performances. He misbehaved without the need to do so drenched in gallons of cider and then, afterwards, mountains of canned remorse. He showed outward loving emotion to his adoptive parents. He had a temper yes, but one that did not often veer on Barton-esque thuggery. He was skilled but inconsistently so, and he didn’t feel the need for demonstrative celebration of the fruits of his hard work—goals. He did not respect the paternal advances of his manager.

Actually, Balotelli ran counter to the English ethos, full stop. And for that, he was loved there. Loathed as well yes, but mostly by those unfortunates for whom football isn’t a game but rather a long, indifferent, and wholly serious slog that never ends but which must be paid desperately close attention (kind of the same way many of the English us approach life). But for those who needed the break from the Premier League’s sometimes asphyxiating desire for blood, sweat and tears, Mario provided fleeting solace. He was just fun, for godssake.

Balotelli arrived unexpectedly in England to pretty much use the loo, and gave everyone something to smile about in the midst of another dreary school day. The moment is gone now so back to your seats children, and try to pay closer attention this time.

Canada

Canada and USA draw in friendly.

England

Birmingham goalkeeper Jack Butland rejects chance to hold talks with Chelsea.

QPR sign South Korean Yun Suk-young.

Mancini says Balotelli’s return to Italy was in the forward’s best interest.

Italy

Milan’s Urby Emanuelson heading to Fulham on loan.

Juventus plans to appeal Bonucci ban.

PSG’s Mohamed Sissoko to play on loan in Fiorentina for the rest of the season.

La Liga

Preview to today’s Copa del Rey clash as Barca face Madrid.

Granada welcome new coach Lucas Alcaraz, replacing Juan Antonio Anquela.

Casillas’ girlfriend/journalist says ‘the players don’t get on at with the coach.’

Germany

Stuttgart renew coach Labbadia’s contract till 2015.

Hoffenheim sign Igor de Camargo on loan from Borussia Monchengladbach.

Bit and Bobs

Milan’s Stephan El Shaarawy balancing a shoe while listening to ‘One day’ by Asaf Avidan.

Shanghai Shenhua to challenge Drobga’s move to Galatasaray, claim he’s still under contract with the club.

Bayern’s chairman says a switch in the football calendar a real possibility for European leagues.