The New York Times has a cover story on its web page today on Mario Balotelli, the star striker of the Italian national team and Manchester City, whose performance against Germany in Thursday’s semifinal turned me into a Squadra Azzurra fan for the first time in thirty years—at least for tonight’s final against Spain (in the Euro 2012, if one doesn’t know). Here’s hoping he scores the winning goal and becomes Italy’s national hero, thereby causing the masses of racist, monkey-chanting idiots there to STFU. He’s already won hearts in the peninsula and elsewhere by showing himself to be a good Italian boy who loves his mamma (below and here). On the question of race in European soccer, see this analysis on “Mario Balotelli and the new Europe” by historian Laurent Dubois, on his excellent blog Soccer Politics/The Politics of Football. A British TV reportage on Mario B. may be seen here. For now, all I can say is Forza Azzurri!
UPDATE: As it happens, Mario B.’s adoptive mother is Jewish and has family in Israel.
2nd UPDATE: Mario wasn’t too brilliant against Spain, nor were his teammates. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all, as they say…