Early Doors

A curious case of man bites dog

Early Doors

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For the second time in the last seven days a top Italian footballer has suffered an allergic reaction - to grass.

It may be the tip of the iceberg, as the single footballing parameter players and fans alike take for granted the most - the playing surface - bites back after hundreds of years of abuse.

Abuse not just at the hands of the diving players but of groundskeepers, lawnmowers, painter-decorators and the occasional owl: turf has simply had enough.

Yesterday afternoon Manchester City sulker Mario Balotelli was withdrawn just after the second-half restart, rubbing his swollen face in distress after suffering the reaction during half-time.

It was added that Balotelli suffers allergic reactions to certain types of grass. Stop sniggering at the back...

Poor kid. Arguably one of the most naturally talented players of a generation, Balotelli must wrestle with a faintly bipolar personality, a terrible haircut, and playing for City.

And now he has to manage the constant concern that a cheeky dive to the deck could literally be the end of him. Some threat for an Italian...

Giuseppe Sculli's malaise is a touch more understandable - somewhat eerily, the Lazio striker "swelled up and turned pink, like a prawn" (boss Edy Reja's words, not ED's) at half-time of his side's 2-0 home win to Palermo.

Sculli, it seems, reacted to the type of green paint added to the pitch to make it pretty for the TV cameras.

Gawp all you like - yes, Lazio of all people paint the pitch to make it look greener - but ED would hardly be surprised at such antics in a country whose perma-tanned Prime Minister gets botox implants and whose hardcore hooligans sport designer knitwear, and cravats. Tranny comedian Eddy Izzard called it "cappuccino fascism": ED calls it "being a ponce".

Fearful of provoking death threats, a slap from Paolo Di Canio or, even worse, a rash of silk Prada snoods tossed to the ground in demand of a duel, ED would like to praise Lazio for their performance in that match: at least Sculli scored twice before he blew up - City, and Balotelli, were abject as they went down to Andriy Shevchenko's Dynamo Kiev.


ED has whinged about the Europa League before, but last night Liverpool used the tournament to remind everyone that inspired wins against the 'big' clubs should not be used as a benchmark for their progress.

In what was a dirge of a game they lost to Braga, who admittedly are not a bad side but whose defence really should have been tested more than it was by the Reds.

The absence of a cup-tied Luis Suarez is important (Steven Gerrard does not count as he has played like a drain all season), but Liverpool's tendency to look long with Andy Carroll on the pitch was a touch concerning.

Clearly 'Biffer' is intended to play alongside Suarez in what could be the most entertaining 'little and large' combination this side of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, but on his own Liverpool looked a tiny bit rudimentary.

Plenty of food for thought for King Kenny, who seems to still know what he's doing and, with age, appears to have shed the flakiness that characterised the end of his previous stints in management. Joe Cole alas has lost the sense of creative responsibility required to act as playmaker for a top side, and Liverpool need to splash out on a top-class winger and left-back in the summer, and ideally a centre-half.

But it's all to play for at Anfield and, if Gerrard's convenient rest brings him back rejuvenated, they have every chance.


QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Considering the way we played in the first half we are fortunate to come away with a 1-0 because when you play as badly as that you are grateful you lose 1-0. To only be 1-0 behind, considering the start we had, might be a bonus" - King Kenny tells it like it is. While ED likes Woy, it concedes that he would have claimed it was the best they'd played all season.

FOREIGN VIEW: "I am happy with most confederations, but I don't know about Europe and how they will deal with my candidacy. Europe is the core of football. I would like now to make a real assessment in Europe. I will go to the Paris Congress of UEFA (on March 20) and I will already have declared my candidacy or otherwise" - in a rather delicious irony given events in his native Middle East, Qatar's potential FIFA presidential candidate Mohammed bin Hammam wonders if the shady infrastructure of European football is ready for democracy as he steps up his bid to oust Sepp Blatter.

COMING UP: Gianfranco Zola is a very nice man, and you can ask him a question here, although he will only respond to nice ones. A very nice man. There is also the small matter of Internazionale's Serie A match with Brescia at 7.45pm, while expert columnists Jim White and Paul Parker give their views on the domestic game this afternoon.

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