Saturday, 27 April 2013

Maratona and Elsewhere #10 : "Balzaretti gets the bird"

Torino 1-2 Roma 14.04.13

I was talking with my dolce metà (literally, “sweet half”) about having difficulties composing this piece, if you’ll forgive me for using a verb as grandiose as “compose” to describe my ramblings. She asked me what the English expressions were for “ blocco dello scrittore” and “sindrome pagina bianca”. The fact they translate perfectly into English did not help much. I thought for a moment that writer’s cramp would have been preferable, but then it occurred to me that I wasn’t actually writing. Writer’s cramp probably no longer exists in the twenty-first century in the developed world, having been superseded by carpal tunnel syndrome and texter’s thumb. The travails of a blog hijacker…

Yet another Sunday afternoon that left an unpleasant aftertaste: there was violence before the match; during, a homecoming that Federico Balzaretti will not remember with much fondness aside from Roma’s three points; and Angelo Ogbonna suffering from foot-in-mouth disease in an interview afterwards.

The Maratona chanted: “you only have knives… we’ll fight you with our hands whenever you like.” It transpired that two Toro fans were stabbed outside the stadium during disturbances before the game. The Corriere dello Sport reported that the injured Toro fans were attacked by other Toro fans. This is highly unlikely, to put it mildly. There were fans of at least one other club present, camouflaged in Torino FC shirts. This was certainly disquieting on the day, and bodes ill for the derby.

Federico Balzaretti. Torino-born, Torino-bred. Ten years in a Torino shirt. Captain of the Primavera. Ninety-four appearances for the first team. Twenty-seven appearances for the national team at U-20 and U-21. A player of considerable talent. A future Granata legend-in-the-making. And then when the club collapsed in 2005, he joined… Juventus. For this lapse of judgement (betrayal, sacrilege, call it what you will), extenuating circumstances notwithstanding, he will never be forgiven.

His reception left no room for doubt.  My regular reader will be perfectly aware of the welcome given to ex-Juventini and the selections from the Maratona songbook reserved for special guests. Said songs were delivered with particular malice on this occasion, and his dismissal after 80 minutes was celebrated with quite some relish. Which, as Marina Beccuti pointed out in her article at, may serve as a warning to Angelo Ogbonna, who has still not given a straight answer to the Juventus question.

In the aforementioned interview, it was put to him that Toro could win the derby and he laughed. As one can imagine, reaction to this gaffe was swift and brutal. Facebook, for example, lit up like a Christmas tree, with many angry comments, of which perhaps the most eloquent went approximately as follows (my translation):

“More than 10 years with us. Vice-Captain. And when a journalist hypothesises a remote chance of winning the derby you burst out laughing? "… but for the people it’s important." GOD! SURELY IT’S IMPORTANT TO YOU TOO! Enough, for me it's over. Our colours are not to be mocked by anyone. Good luck for a lousy career.”

There has certainly been growing appreciation and support for Guillermo Rodriguez’ performances in Ogbonna’s injury- and suspension-enforced absences this season. The figures tell part of the story:

Our record this season to date with Ogbonna in the starting 11:

P 16  W 3  D 5  L 8  F 22  A 29  Pts 14  GD -7

Our record this season to date without Ogbonna in the starting 11:

P 16  W 5  D 8  L 3  F 18  A 15  Pts 23  GD +3

Part of me wonders if Cairo has been telling Ventura to pick Ogbonna when and wherever possible, regardless of Rodriguez’ form, in the hope that his performances improve and his transfer value increases. Problem is, if his poor performances continue the value of the team decreases. Watch the rats mercenaries players leaving sinking ships at Pescara, Palermo and Genoa/Siena when relegation hits them over the next few weeks in order to avoid the €300k Serie B salary cap next season, and think “that could be us”.

Our next home game is, of course the small matter of the derby.  We haven’t won a derby in a generation. We haven’t even scored in one since the 2001/2 season. And there is the nightmarish possibility that they could win the scudetto at the Olimpico. My worst-case scenario: they win the scudetto, their fans invade the pitch to celebrate, we invade the pitch to (shall we say) remonstrate with them, we are handed a points deduction and are relegated as a result. I will be a Napoli supporter when they take on Pescara, as a Napoli victory would (at the time of typing) postpone the seemingly inevitable. As will a Juventino of my acquaintance who told me he won’t attend the derby if Juve can win the scudetto, as he knows that there is violence planned before the game. Lucky the extra stewards drafted in are temps from Manpower, ne? (Local dialect for “innit?”)

I said upon winning promotion last May that I would quite happily settle for 17th in Serie A this season. Fortunately my hair had already turned white and/or fallen out. We’re doing this the hard way. Rumours of my allegiance changing to Duck Farm Chieri women’s volleyball team are not totally untrue. I will be taking more of an interest in them in future, as they are fine athletes and I now have a shirt autographed by four of their players. That said, I was given a signed Ogbonna shirt about a month ago. Will wait until September before deciding what to do with it.

1 comment:

  1. The Torino FC blue shirt is my favourite,sponsor badge would be a reason NOT to buy the shirt… They should do the sponsor logo just in white.