Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Maratona and Elsewhere #11 : ’Better late than never’ is a matter of opinion.

My apologies for the delay. I lost interest for a while there.  I went to the derby (purely as a spectator and not as a blogger, hence no notes taken) and the pantomime that was the game against Genoa - more of that to follow - and I felt so generally disgruntled about that game and our not-exactly-scintillating form in previous matches that I boycotted the Catania match and planned, as you may remember, to take up watching women’s volleyball.

Let’s face it: we weren’t great last season. We were the least-worst team in the division, and thoroughly deserved to be 17th. For the most part, excluding some aberrations - such as the 5-1 at Atalanta, the win against Lazio, the brief lead against Napoli at home and the ultimately futile recovery from 0-3 away at Fiorentina - it didn’t make for enjoyable viewing. We were lacking in at least one department at some point in nearly every game, be that concentration (especially immediately after kick-offs and in the last 10 minutes), street-wisdom, tactics not suiting our top goalscorer, use or otherwise of the bench, and (in some cases) talent, to name but a few. We weren’t slash-your-wrists awful, and indeed would have finished higher with some luck and some better refereeing, but we simply weren’t good enough for most of the season. 

But “time heals nothing; it merely rearranges our memory” (© G. Numan, though he probably stole it from Philip K. Dick), so I’m back, memory rearranged, season ticket renewed. As much as I admire the ladies of Chieri Torino Volleyball (and I wish them well for their new season), they don’t play at the Comunale/Olimpico and that is where the Maratona is. 

Our transfer activity during the summer has been interesting and, I feel, generally positive. There’s still the small matter of the bans for the ex-Bari players and what to do with the autographed Ogbonna shirt that’s under my bed, but, like a second marriage, this has been a triumph of hope over experience for me. And at least I have a better idea this time around of the emotional rollercoaster ride ahead.

So, my take on the last three home games of the season?

The derby remains a bit of a blur. It was preceded by a very enjoyable Full quasi-English breakfast for eight which did involve certain amount of alcohol, ostensibly to settle any pre-match nerves.

After parking our cars we encountered a group of young gobbe who immediately crossed to the other side of the road and began hurling insults at us, especially at the women in our party. We responded in kind but I felt (and still feel) that that type of behaviour should be kept for the stadium. Not that it’s particularly decorative or edifying inside the stadium, of course... 

As I said previously, I didn’t take pen and paper to the derby, so my recollections are a bit sketchy, not that the alcoholic breakfast helped. I recall losing my voice. I recall the atmosphere being poisonous. I recall they had at least twice as many fans in our stadium as we had at theirs. I recall that it was 0-0 after 80 minutes or so. I recall that Bonucci was not red-carded for pulling Jonathas down by his shirt in the penalty area and that we were not given a spot-kick, even though the referee (the clown Bergonzi, who was reportedly staying in the same hotel as Beppe Marotta in Dubai in the week leading up to the game), linesman and goal-line official all had a clear view of the incident. I recall Kamil Glik being booked twice and sent off for fouls that weren’t fouls. Much like his straight red in the reverse fixture, funnily enough.

So, an unpleasant aftertaste, though it seemed to me that both sides were playing to win but we suffered from the usual dubious/pro-Venaria Town officiating and the aforementioned lack of street-wisdom.
The Genoa game was the diametric opposite: neither team played to win and the referee (the notorious alleged gobbo sympathiser Gianluca Rocchi) was barely noticeable! 

The match was preceded by what should have by all accounts been a moment’s silence for the victims of the accident in Genova harbour that week, a week that included the death aged 94 of ex-Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti (of whom the legendary Peter Bourne commented: “only the good die young.”). However, the tribute went awry. The stadium announcer only got as far as “... ex-Prime Minster...” before his voice disappeared in a cacophony of whistles. I was told after the game that many people in the Curva Primavera were holding aloft photos of Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, two anti-Mafia magistrates from Palermo who were assassinated in 1992 (may I suggest that the gentle reader looks elsewhere for the historical background?). I couldn’t see any of this as somebody in the Maratona had overdone it slightly with the fumogeni; I was more-or-less blind for three minutes and had to breathe through a t-shirt that is still stained purple from the smoke.

So the mood within the stadium was already fractious. Add to this the fact that the Maratona was split roughly 50/50 between those who had forgiven Genoa for relegating us in 2009 and those who hadn’t, and the realisation that we were watching a fixed match, and you have one angry stadium.

There was no football of which to speak.  No challenges of note. No attempts on goal (though the Lega Serie A website claimed there were 3 on-target and 10 off; I’m calling bullshit). Angelo Ogbonna ducked out of two attacking headers six yards from Genoa’s goal in the second half. The Maratona quickly grasped the situation and voiced it: “We have to win to stay in (Serie) A!”, became “Fuori le palle!” (“Show us some balls!”), which evolved into “Ma giocate o no?” (“Are you playing or not?”), then “Venduti!” (“Sold!”), which then dissolved into us olé-ing Genoa’s completed passes and telling all 22 players to fuck themselves.

The newspapers “Repubblica” and “Torino Cronaca” rated the players in their next editions. Neither gave any points for either keeper, deeming them spectators rather than players, whereas  the” Gazzetta dello Sport” gave the Maratona 8 out of 10, so with my fraction of 8 I had a better game than Gillet.

I am no different to the average bear in that I resent being treated like an idiot, and so did not take very kindly to being presented with a match that was so clearly fixed prior to kick-off. It stood out like a sore thumb / dog’s balls / Lady Gaga’s cock (delete as appropriate), and it highlighted the club’s general ignorance when dealing with the tifosi. Leading up to the derby, much was made of the offer of a mini-season ticket for the last three home fixtures. Many (admittedly fair-weather) supporters forked out for the three-match ticket, went to the derby and then brought their kids to the Genoa game, only to be presented with a farce. What kind of club sells a ticket knowing – and Cairo had to be complicit in this - that 33% of those games are not fair sporting contests? Does that club deserve to have supporters? With this in mind, I thought “Bugger it!” for the Catania game, and so missed Rolando Bianchi’s farewell... and that, I thought, was that.

But then I watched some of the Euro Under-21 tournament, was impressed by players such as Gabbiadini, Insigne and Immobile, and was then pleasantly surprised when the latter joined us, and so my interest slowly began to return. Then the peer pressure kicked in, so eventually I went to the stadium ticket office and handed over my €230. Not bad for 20 games, really.

As I said above, we’ve had a pretty good off-season thus far in terms of transfer activity (Bovo, Bellomo,  El Kaddouri, Maksimović, Immobile and Larrondo et al), and the latter pair appear to have an understanding from what I saw during the friendly against Novara. I feel we need 2 or 3 more bodies in and Vives and the Meggiorini out, but with the new personnel and the tactical shift from Ventura to 3-5-2 / 5-3-2 I think we’ll have a slightly more comfortable season than last season. We won’t be the least-worst team in Serie A this time around. He said, confidently.

I leave you with something I wrote in the heat of the moment after Genoa:

My anger, well… instead of a new season ticket, I’ll give the money to my dentist, who is gobba, strangely enough. At least I’ll have something to show for the money, and I’ll get an anaesthetic with it.”

M&E 12: Pescara on Saturday. F.V.C.G.!  
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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