Friday, 30 August 2013

Maratona & Elsewhere #12: Toro v Pescara: “17 is unlucky for some.”

Torino 1-2 Pescara - 17.08.13

The number 17 is considered unlucky in Italy, and so playing against Pescara in the Coppa Italia (I refuse to use the name of the sponsor) on August 17th turned out to be for us. But not for them, curiously. Lady Luck is a capricious creature, isn’t she? Italians generally are a superstitious bunch, prone to using certain gestures to ward off the evil eye, knocking on iron (“tocca ferro”) for luck, not cutting their nails on a Thursday, practising Catholicism, etc…

My personal favourites relate to the selection of lottery numbers. There are many television charlatans in this country with premium-rate telephone lines who claim some kind of paranormal ability to predict numbers. There is an ancient Neapolitan system known as La Smorfia, in which the first letter of something you dreamed about corresponds to a lottery number. I have a book on this stuff which dates from 1996, in which a naked woman represents 21 and head lice represent 87, to give but two examples. I’m not sure what number equates to a naked woman with head lice; I’ll get back to you on that.
“But Steve,” I hear you say, “last night I had a dream about an octopus living inside an acoustic guitar!” That’s 67, my friends (I kid you not).
The book includes many photographs of famous people, accompanied by seemingly random digits. I include one below for your dining and dancing pleasure.

(Yes, that is James Hewitt.)

The relevance of all this? I repeat, the number 17 is considered unlucky in Italy. I am led to believe that Italian high-rise buildings often do not have a 17th floor – bear this in mind if you intend to visit Italy on your next bungee jumping holiday - and Alitalia don’t have a Row 17 on their seat plans. But why is this? Well, if you rearrange the Roman numerals XVII you get “VIXI”, which can be found on tombstones. This is Latin for “he lived” (i.e., “he’s dead now!”). Salvatore Masiello wears 17. Make of that what you will, but he’s certainly been no good luck charm for us thus far. I recently bought a lotto ticket and chose his shirt number and those of Vives and the Meggiorini. Won bugger
all. Q.E.D. 
But I digress. The match? Considering the fact that most of Italy is still on holiday during the third week in August, a crowd in the region of 10,000 for a cup game was quite impressive. Which is more than can be said for the game, more’s the pity. After about 3 minutes I took out my notebook and pen, ready to scribble some pithy aperçus, but before I knew it one of the Ultras (possibly drugged) conducting the singing had jumped up ten rows of seats and was in my right ear, berating me for not joining in! Trying to explain that I was writing for an English language blog about Toro was as much use as trying to teach a dog a card trick. Fortunately I am not an aggressive person by nature and I was too surprised to react to the invasion of my personal ear, to be honest. I do, however, have a contingency plan for any repeat performance :-)

Other than nursing my perceived grievance – there were many others not singing, and none of them were writing! – I have little to report other than that one of the thirty-or-so Pescara supporters lit and threw a flare at our brothers and sisters in the Curva Primavera. This unsurprisingly brought a reaction from the Maratona: a chant of “Uccideteli!” (“Kill them!”) and a not-so-friendly invitation to a rendezvous after the game. For their supporters’ behaviour, Pescara were quite rightly fined €7.000. Quite unbelievably, our club was fined the same amount for our brothers and sisters having the temerity to throw the damned thing back!

So, a defeat to a team from Serie B, one that we beat 3-0 in our opening game in Serie A last year. What to read into it? Well, we have nine new faces in the squad – eight if you don’t include Cesare Bovo, who was with us on loan in 2007 – a new Captain, and a new formation, so it will be interesting to see how and how soon we find the correct blend. Pescara themselves appeared to me to be fitter than us and seemed to know each other better. I must add, however, that I’m not 100% convinced we set out to win that game. The second half had the feel of a pre-season friendly, a training exercise, a let’s-concentrate-on-the-league, boys. 

The general mood of the Curva was less-than-positive in the immediate aftermath. Indeed, we sent the players away with a flea in their collective ear and a respectful suggestion that they show some balls in future. My ticket had a face value of twenty centesimi (about seventeen pence), though, so I suppose I can say it was value for money. (I have no idea why I was given a paper ticket, as my season ticket is in the form of a smartcard.)

I could rant and rave about the Coppa being seeded, but if we can’t beat Pescara in the third elimination round I’d be wasting my breath. They now play Spezia in the fourth round, which will be useful for both teams in terms of fitness and squad rotation, and the possibility of playing Milan at the San Siro will be something to look forward to for their supporters. I think it would have been of benefit to OUR players and OUR supporters, too!

Just to put the cherry on the turd weekend, we also had the inaugural Mamma Cairo trophy, a four-team tournament contested by our Primavera squad and those of Milan, Inter, and Venaria Town, celebrating the life of the late mother of our club president. Unfortunately, the team from Venaria just happened to win the thing. So an unpleasant weekend all round; a cup defeat to a team in a lower division, and our president’s mother’s trophy awarded to the gobbi. The latter embarrassment was 100% avoidable. I wouldn’t have invited them, personally. 

In the week separating this mess and the beginning of the new Serie A campaign there was much noise aboutnCairo-Ventura-Petrachi bringing Enzo Maresca to the club (though both Petrachi and Ventura have subsequently employed a sloping-shoulders policy and denied any responsibility). Maresca is probably best-known in Granata circles for scoring against us in the February, 2002 derby and mimicking Marco Ferrante’s “horns” goal celebration (see below). 
The idea of a piss-taking ex-gobbo joining Toro did not exactly go down well. Indeed, Piero Chiambretti, who is a famous TV and radio personality in Italy and a proud Toro tifoso, declared he would change his lifelong allegiance if the deal went through. His and other supporters’ protests led to the idea getting kicked into the long grass, if you’ll forgive the pun. But more of that next time. For now, I’ll leave you trembling with antici...


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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