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Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Outside the Box – Football on TV: A mad Mario meets a melodic Manc and the result is perfect harmony


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The twin worlds of football and music have not always been cosy bedfellows. Lest we forget the audio abominations that still stain jukeboxes up and down this land: ‘Fog On The Tyne’, that god awful attempt by Ant and Dec to appeal to people other than 12-year old girls during the 2002 World Cup, and what about the 1994 smash hit for Status Quo and Manchester United, ‘Come On You Reds’ – a seminal moment in the world of football as it was that song that marked the moment when any lingering goodwill towards United from neutrals was eroded forever. It’s also notable as the last anyone ever saw of Status Quo. Rumour has it that Sir Alex had them taken out the back of Old Trafford and shot. Fergie has the power to do that you know, what do you think really happened to Bebe?

However, it must be said that in amongst the unceasing barrage of turgid soccer-based songs, there have been the odd few gems; coincidentally they are usually the ones in which the input of footballers is at a bare minimum. The granddaddy of them all of course was Skinner and Baddiel’s ‘Three Lions’, and the only involvement from players in that one was a few questionable cameos in the video. And that almost proved to be a mistake too – including the ogre-like Steve Stone in his first and last stint in front of the camera was almost enough to stop the song charting.

The other great success was New Order’s inspirational classic ‘World In Motion’ and again the players were largely shunned and told to just lurk in the background of the video looking all footballer-y, although they did let John Barnes perform his now legendary rap section, much to the dismay of Paul Gascoigne who had his own indecipherable mumbling monologue ready; fortunately he’s been able to air that frequently in the intervening twenty years.

The BBC were no doubt aware of the chequered past of musicians and footballers teaming up, because when they arranged the seismic summit between former Oasis guitarist and diehard Man City fan Noel Gallagher, and everybody’s new footballing champion and lunatic Mario Balotelli this week, they insisted that there should be absolutely no singing. And it was a masterstroke because it resulted in the most entertaining edition of Football Focus since Ray Stubbs and Lee Dixon had a scrap.

Beforehand, you couldn’t have failed to notice that the interview was coming. The BBC plugged it to death in the week leading up to it, even going as far as initiating a sort of internet viral campaign by releasing juicy snippets on their website throughout the week. Unfortunately, the BBC top-bods didn’t factor a couple of things into their strategy. Firstly, the internet was abuzz with only one viral campaign last week (in the shape of the hugely divisive ‘Stop Kony’ video), and secondly, having the stuffy 85-year old BBC attempting to infiltrate the guerrilla principles of internet viral campaigns is a little like handing Victor Meldrew an iPad and asking him to update his Facebook status.

Still, once the interview got going it proved to be well worth the wait. The usually media-shy Balotelli did much to enhance his slightly tainted image as he talked with great respect about City, the Premier League and crucially Roberto Mancini. Many have tried to besmirch Balotelli as an untameable loose cannon, but the obvious regard he holds for his manager disputes this claim. The man asking Balotelli the questions, Noel was in equally sparkling form. Of course the whole thing was a breeze for Noel; he has spent his whole life dealing with an egotistical, semi-maniacal nutter and one more day was not going to cause him any grief. Although like Noel, I was disappointed when Balotelli quashed some of the more peculiar titbits that have been reported since his arrival. It was with enormous sorrow that I learnt that he didn’t dress as Santa Claus and hand out wads of cash; nor did he escort a young victim of bullying back to his school to confront his tormentor. However Balotelli didn’t dispute that time he kicked Scott Parker in the head; swings and roundabouts eh?

So, more musicians interviewing footballers please BBC, and Sky for that matter. For instance, I for one would love to see Pete Doherty interview Maradona (wouldn’t be too hard to get them together either, probably have the same dealer). But we do have to be careful; in the studio next to Noel and Mario, the BBC had another clash of football and music going on but it was altogether less enthralling as Gareth Barry discussed gardening with the bloke from Embrace. Now, everybody together… ‘Come on you reds, come on you reds, just keep your bottle and use your heads’…

 

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