Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Maratona and Elsewhere #6 : 'The Big Number 12'

Torino 2-1 Atalanta - 17.02.13

Let’s begin with a quick look at the league table. In first place, we have the perennial champion CHILDBIRTH (no scudetti stripped but the possibility of doping remains). In second place we have an equal opportunity curse, the kidney stone. In third place? I would like to think that the dental abscess has to be up there. Mine didn’t help my week preceding the Atalanta game. Fortunately, all of the above can be resolved with time and medication. Footballing allegiances, however, are untreatable. Often terminal.

Gillman, the big number 12, who has been suffering from a particularly virulent Italian strain of footballing allegiance since his teenage years, made his first appearance of the season against the Bergamaschi, and didn’t seem overawed by the occasion or outwardly troubled by the seasonal temperature. In fact, he seemed surprisingly fresh considering he had been busy jinxing the hunchbacks in Rome the previous evening.  

This wasn’t a day for drinking cold beer outdoors, to be honest – I’d just finished my antibiotics  – but nor was it a day for standing still. One sometimes wonders how goalkeepers get back into the dressing room in one piece on a cold afternoon: an appendage drops off during the course of play and it isn’t until the half-time cup of tea that the awful truth dawns. Not that goalkeepers drink beer on duty these days, of course; maybe they did in the sixties when men WERE men: ‘keeper having a swift half while the outfield players lit up a crafty cigarette ('smoking down the wing' had a different connotation in those days)?

This wasn’t so much a game for watching, being largely free of controversy. For once the officials appeared to know what they were doing. Even the penalty against us (yet another to add to our burgeoning collection this season) turned out to be the correct decision. It was more a game for watching between the lines:

  • I understand that sometimes in football one must be economical with the truth (in the sense of showing a poker face to one’s rivals; not divulging transfer targets… but Sepp Blatter fits the bill equally well), but incomplete information between the club and the supporters leaves at least one season-ticket holder wondering what Ventura’s putting in his hot milk at bedtime. Bianchi starting? Fair enough – he is still captain, after all – but Stevanovic? A decent second half and a goal in the reverse fixture (the 5-1 in Bergamo), but otherwise nothing this season. And nothing this game, either. Consistency is not always something to be admired.
  • We had no anti-Cairo chanting. Why not?
  • We sang Ventura’s name after the final whistle (not that he acknowledged it – again, why not?).
  • I was a bit bemused by Vives’ selection and performance, but a quick glance at the stats showed that he completed more passes than anyone else on the pitch.  The stats don’t tell us how many of those passes went sideways or backwards, but there were lots of them.
  • Dolly Menga already has his own song (no; not the Barbra Streisand one) despite not having yet played for the first team. I’m not sure this is a good idea. (As an aside, I saw one of “TEAM MENGA” on the #4 tram the following day. You can’t miss them. Didn’t get the opportunity to speak.)
  •  Cesare Prandelli was allegedly present at the match. Was he there? Really? If so, was he watching Cerci? The allegedly Arsenal-bound Angelo Ogbonna? ('Arsenal-bound' ? Sounds uncomfortable. Is there a suitable laxative?) Bianchi? I would think not, though he did put in a shift, and it seemed that Cerci in particular was trying to set him up with a belated 30th birthday goal. If Prandelli was there, he couldn’t have seen the suspended Danilo D’Ambrosio, whose recent performances and stand-in captaincy have been eye-catching and have led some commentators to suggest a call-up to the national side could be imminent. One sometimes wonders how these rumours start…

Normal service resumed: Meggiorini wasn’t playing against Inter. Didn’t score.

It’s easy to warm to Valter Birsa. Young, quick, enthusiastic, works hard, good crosser. For him to score the winner was very pleasing both in the context of this match and as a punctuation mark  in his development as a player this season. The Maratona may have been singing Alessio Cerci’s name, but Birsa scored the winning goal.

[Just between you and me, what if Birsa played as a false 9 (you heard it here first, folks!)? Birsa and Barreto up top with Cerci/Santana/Dolly out wide? Not much physical presence, true, but it would certainly be quick enough. And a lack of physical presence up top hasn’t exactly held Barcelona back in recent years. Could be my medication talking, but why not?].

A couple of asides to round things off this time around:

Turin (with the stress on the first syllable if you’re speaking the local dialect; “Torino” is the Italian name) will be the European City of Sport in 2015. Rumour has it that the Olimpico will be redeveloped between now and then. Pros and cons. On the plus side, if the Olimpico can be improved (tifosi in both curve closer to the pitch, better acoustics and protection from the elements), I am in favour. But where do we play in the meantime? Sharing with the Gobbi again?  We’d have to rebuild half of their stadium every fortnight.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my pride in being a member of a club that does not discriminate against any opposing player or supporter on the grounds of their skin colour or ethnic origin. We may not be perfect, but we are not racist. We may criticise others for their allegiances past and present, but that is where it ends. I can understand Inter fans giving Balotelli the bird because he’s an ex-player, but I can’t understand them giving him the bird because he’s black. I seem to recall he was black when he played for them.

(Just for balance – I’m not singling out Inter for criticism here – I attach a list of Venaria Town’s fines for various offences:

SEVENTEEN instances of racist chanting and fines amounting to €170,000 in one-and-a-half seasons.)

See you with better teeth for the Palermo game.

Steve is a season ticket holder who moved to Torino in 2009 after meeting a Torinese lady called Raffaella on Facebook - you can follow Steve on Twitter here.

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