A packed stadium, Sampdoria scarves burning in the night air, the atmosphere venomous...
...ah, my mistake. That was the corresponding fixture last season. The 2013 instalment was more domesticated animal than savage, wild beast; somewhat underwhelming by comparison and certainly much less well-attended.
But, still, your friend’s enemy is your enemy1 and 3 points were at stake. You have to make an effort whatever the circumstances. So we sang the old songs about our visitors smelling of fish and having a polluted sea (a tad bizarre, considering that Genoa live there, too). There was also a special chorus for Enzo Maresca, “celebrating” his mother (we don’t tend to be very hospitable to ex-Juventini).
Except for a ten-to-fifteen minute spell during the first half when Toro were by far the superior team (but failed to capitalise upon that superiority), this was, culinarily-speaking, the football equivalent of tofu2. A cursory glance at the match statistics3 suggests that had this been a boxing match Toro would have won on points, but the two stats that stand out for this observer are three shots on target and no goals scored (from both teams combined). I understand that, pre-match, tickets for the Curva Maratona were changing hands for up to €250!4
After his brace of goals against Inter, Riccardo Meggiorini was back in our good books: his name was cheered when announced over the PA system before kick-off, and he was warmly applauded when substituted. However, despite his sterling efforts, he maintained his impressive run of not scoring in Serie A against teams not called Inter. I’m sure that, as he is an ex-Genoa player, it wasn’t for want of trying.
But generally we looked a bit toothless in attack - we are sponsored by the Beretta company that makes salami, and not their (in)famous arms-manufacturing namesakes5 – and the introduction of Bianchi in the second half did nothing to change that. I had been hoping that Bianchi would leave during the transfer window (for a variety of reasons, primarily that we are a far quicker team without him) and now the scene is set for his departure in the summer for €0 and we can look forward to a “tedious divorce” (© Peter Bourne 2013) punctuated by the occasional header.
Speaking of the transfer window, other than the fact that we didn’t spend any money – Cairo is reportedly going to spend €100 million on the La7 television channel instead, so at least we now know where the Serie A TV money’s going – it seemed to be a generally positive month: Sgrigna slung his hook; some of the young guys have gone on loan to get some playing time; Coppola has returned as back-up keeper to il gattone Gillet; we’ve acquired Jonathas, the wonderfully-monikered Dolly Menga (hello Dolly!), and Barreto, who is looking the part; plus we kept Angelo Ogbonna, without whom we’re on one of the longest unbeaten runs in European top-flight football (seven games, keeping four clean sheets in the process)6.
We didn’t get to see Sampdoria’s Gianluca Sansone (the player formerly briefly known as 'Torino’s Gianluca Sansone') or Maxi Lopez, who famously refused to join us when he finished his loan spell with AC Milan, saying he wanted to play in the Champions League (so he joined, er.. Sampdoria; it wasn’t about money, was it, Maxi?), so we were deprived of a couple of potentially interesting sub-plots. Perhaps the game’s most interesting incident was my friend Giacomo attempting (unsuccessfully) at half-time to demonstrate that the seats in the Maratona are unbreakable – but I was on the main concourse buying beers at the time and missed all the excitement.
Hoping that the game against Udinese will be a superior creature to both this match and the reverse fixture at the Olimpico last September (a 0-0 bore draw). I would like to take this opportunity to declare in writing my admiration for Antonio Di Natale as a player and a human being, and also my hope that he eats the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia equivalent of a dodgy curry before the game and is (how can I put this discreetly?) - indisposed.
P.S. I was asked yesterday if I thought Toro would be playing in Europe next season. My answer (in the negative) wasn’t the correct one, apparently! This conversation took place in a bar and should, as such, be taken with a substantial quantity of salt. Having said that, there must be a growing sense of optimism amongst some tifosi to provoke the asking of such a question in the first place. What a difference a month and seven games unbeaten can make.
P.P.S. For the record, my full answer was: 'No, but maybe the season after next.'
1 The relationship between Toro and Genoa is something for students of football history.
2 This one’s for students of home economics, as I believe it used to be called.
3 One for the statisticians – this is a broad church!
4 €250 for a €20 ticket for this particular match is something for students of comedy.
5 For the war historians and the foodies again.
6 Perhaps this is will come back and bite us on the arse in the summer: Rodriguez has played well in Ogbonna’s absence and we’ve shown that we can survive quite happily without him; on the minus side his transfer value will no doubt have fallen.