Friday, 12 April 2013

Maratona and Elsewhere #9 : A sickening feeling....like sitting on your balls.

Torino 3-5 Napoli - 30.03.13

It had been raining all day and I was feeling apprehensive, hence the above tweet. Fortunately the rain eased off around six o’clock, so it was possible to be sociable for a little while outside the stadium (a beer, a Borghetti; a quick snifter of Sambuca for those who like the stuff) before making our way inside. There seemed to be a larger crowd than usual, which led to cries of “Dove eravate?!” (“Where were you?!”) from some of the ultras. I have been ever-present in the league at home this season, but my voice hadn’t yet warmed up, so not guilty. It’s fair point, though: fair-weather fans do piss me off. I was there, using the metaphor of freezing my balls off when Gubbio came to town last season in Serie B, while less-committed (and warmer) people stayed at home.

Once inside the stadium, however, it became clear that most of the extra people through the turnstiles were Neapolitans who live in Turin. We have FIAT to thank for the presence in Turin of large numbers of people from the south of Italy. There was a massive post-World War II influx of meridionali, who came to work for the dark side, building the Cinquecento and Seicento. They were not exactly welcomed with open arms. They were considered to be dirty, noisy, lazy, short in stature, and disorganised by northern Italian standards. Indeed, signs could be seen in shops declaring “no dogs or Napuli”.

I knew previously of this immigration from the south but I hadn’t considered the prejudice and stereotyping that must have been associated with it. But it happens. It happens in England, too, where Liverpudlians are considered by some to be (how can I put this discreetly?) light-fingered and Yorkshiremen are careful with money. In Italy we have the Genovesi inventing the transparent fridge door, to make sure the light’s off so they know they aren’t wasting electricity, and anything badly constructed was made by a Bergamasco.

So, in the minutes leading up to kick-off, when virtually everybody was jumping - “chi non salta bianconero è!” – I was happy; we had a stadium united. But then it was “Odio Napoli” and “Napoli, vaffanculo!” which made my heart sink a little. That said, there was no Venaria-style “let Vesuvius erupt”, as I confidently predicted in M&E#8.

There are some people in Italian football for whom I have a soft spot. Napoli’s president Aurelio De Laurentiis is one of them. He has a passion for football, a sense of theatre and a sense of humour, and he’s an outspoken critic of the supine / cretinous / corrupt football authorities in this country. I would swap him for Cairo at a stroke. I also like Mazzari’s team; they play some good stuff. I don’t, however, like Mazzari’s players as individuals. They strike me as cowards. Their club President may be from a family of film-makers, but their job is to play football, not to be actors. They are underhand in terms of making or feigning off-the-ball kicks and elbows when nobody in a high-visibility yellow shirt is watching, and they display complete and utter contempt when a decision is given in favour of the other team. It saddens me to think that these guys are probably the only ones with even an outside chance of preventing Venaria Town from being awarded another scudetto. No class. If we could afford Cavani or Hamsik and there was a chance of them joining us, however, I would probably be able to hold my nose and forgive them: “he’s a flawed genius, that’s all!”

I can forgive them a little for showing dissent when the referee is a buffoon, though. It’s becoming a little tiresome talking about incompetent officiating, so from now on I’ll try to praise a particular official if he (I don’t think there are any female officials in Serie A; I could be wrong) does something praiseworthy. Step forward Andrea Gervasoni who, as the 5th official on the goal-line, awarded us a penalty that referee Danilo Giannoccaro wasn’t going to give. Please see Carlo Quaranta’s excellent article at http://www.toro.it/press/view/2735 for an in-depth critique of Giannoccaro’s performance.

That penalty (converted by Jonathas) and the Meggiorini’s goal soon afterwards that gave us the lead for two minutes were celebrated with such gusto that an impartial observer might have thought something important had happened. Perhaps it had? We belong at this level. That moment felt like “HEARD YOU MISSED US! WE’RE BACK!”. And, while we’re not yet mathematically safe, there is confidence that we can stay where we feel we belong.

The game was remarkable in many ways, though for most of those one would require the services of an idiot savant. It was the first time since 1993 that all three Toro strikers scored in the same match. That’s a pretty damning statistic. It was the first time Barreto had scored a Serie A goal for yonks - the yonk is the S.I. unit of goalscoring time and is equivalent to 144 donkey’s years - and the Meggiorini scored against a team not called Inter. It was the first game Torino had ever lost 3-5. I saw a foul throw in Italy penalised for the first time. Il gattone saved his first penalty in a Torino shirt, which was also the first penalty Napoli have conceded this season, whereas we are two away from equalling the all-time record…

… and a certain Blerim Dzemaili scored his first Serie A hat-trick against his former club, the first of which at least would ordinarily have landed in Row Z . He once played for a club called  'Young Fellows Juventus' in Zurich, strangely enough. Glöckner von scheisse.

Antonio Conte was allegedly in attendance, too. Why? Hopefully planning for a first derby defeat in a generation – not that he has any previous in match-fixing – but perhaps he was taking his cat for a walk. (It’s on his head.) His presence didn’t go unnoticed. References to excrement come as standard. Online translation services are available should the reader need assistance with “bastardo parruccato pluricondannato”. That’s what I shout when I hear his voice on the radio.

Any other business? We’re becoming adept at throwing away leads. We lose concentration after restarts: we conceded two minutes after half-time and two minutes after taking the lead. We have no ball out of defence if we have nine defending a corner and they have two guys on Cerci. He was very poor against Napoli, by the way. The most energy I saw him expend all night was when he ran to the Meggiorini to celebrate the third goal. I hope it’s not a case of blood rushing to his ego after his debut for the national side. We missed Brighi in midfield and must get his contract sorted prestissimo. Brighi would not have allowed Dzemaili as much space as Basha did. It was nice to see a different formation, but I would have liked to have seen Bakic (of whom I’ve heard great things) for once instead of Beavis. I mean, Vives.

A bittersweet evening, insomma. Eight goals, much incident, generous applause from the Maratona to the players and vice versa, but no points. A bit like sitting on your balls: you feel sick, but you’re glad you have them. Glad I was there to see it.

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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