Hellas Verona have one scudetto to their name, that of 1984/5. That season was unique in that it was the only season when referees were chosen at random instead of being assigned to specific matches by a special commission, the 'designatori arbitrali'. The idea behind this was to improve the image of the game after the usual match-fixing and corruption shenanigans; to eliminate the (ahem) possibility that certain clubs were influencing the appointment of certain referees to certain games with a view to distorting the results.
One doesn’t need an IQ over 70 to see that something strange had been happening:
- In the 1980/1 Serie A season, Venaria Town won the scudetto and Roma finished 2nd.
- In the 1981/2 Serie A season, Venaria Town won the scudetto and Roma finished 3rd.
- In the 1982/3 Serie A season, Roma won the scudetto and Venaria Town finished 2nd.
- In the 1983/4 Serie A season, Venaria Town won the scudetto and Roma finished 2nd.
- In the 1984/5 Serie A season, under the new referee selection system, Verona and Torino occupied the top two places, while Venaria Town finished equal 5th and Roma 7th. How refreshing!
- In the 1985/6 Serie A season, Venaria Town won the scudetto and Roma finished 2nd.
***When we arrived at the stadium there was no real sense of anticipation. There was an atmosphere of “What the hell are we doing here on Wednesday night? The derby’s Sunday lunchtime.” With all due respect to Verona (“Veronese, sei un figlio di troia! Pezzo di merda sei tu! Sei giallo blu! Sei giallo blu!”), this wasn’t the match we were interested in. To me it was like being led to one’s table by the maître d’hôtel, ordering the thick, juicy, dry-aged prime rib and the bottle of Barolo, and then having to sip tap water and nibble distractedly on a breadstick in the meantime.
[I was still recovering from having to watch our first win in Bologna in thirty-three years on a dodgy live stream at my better half’s nephew’s 7th birthday party, surrounded by anklebiters, their sickeningly proud parents, squadrons of tiger mosquitoes and not nearly enough alcohol. I usually react badly to children and mosquitoes at the best of times. Other than penicillin, my only other allergy is to country and western music, and I was subjected to two hours of that in a classroom this week. “Stand By Your Man” three times, FFS. There are times in a man’s life when deafness would be a blessing. But I digress.]
So was Toro vs. Verona the calm before the storm? Well, there were some frayed tempers here and there, particularly on the concourse at half-time, but we didn’t have the all-out-brawl silliness of the Milan game. We’re anxious about Sunday, certainly, but I wasn’t aware of that anxiety affecting the players. I got into a conversation with a woman from the Red Cross having missed our second goal whilst on beer duty. She didn’t know who’d scored either, but the chant of “Alessio è! Alessio Cerci!” solved that problem. He later talked himself into a yellow card, more’s the pity. The fact that Kamil Glik spent the entire game on the bench avoiding a yellow card and suspension for the derby should have been a big enough hint for Cerci to keep his trap shut, but no. That Luca Toni’s a big lad, isn’t he?
The players left the pitch to our applause and an exhortation for Sunday: “UCCIDETELI!”
And so to more pressing matters. The gentle reader who believes that things come in threes will no doubt be aware that Cerci has converted penalties in our last two matches and that Glik was sent off in both last season’s derbies. There is no statistical law that states that these events cannot be repeated. However, though a card or two for our captain would not be a surprise, I simply can’t see us getting any change out of the hunchbacks in the penalty department, even with the aid of my bleach-and-cockroach-encrusted crystal ball (details available on request as always). The appointed referee Paolo Silvio Mazzoleni (an antique dealer from Bergamo, it says here) isn’t one I know, but we will have Daniel Orsato (an electrician from Vicenza) and our old friend Paolo Tagliavento (professional clown from Terni) as goal-line officials, so anything could happen. Incidentally, Tagliavento refereed the Bologna vs. Milan game last week, in which Milan were two goals down in the 88th minute and managed to draw in injury time. Does that sound familiar?
If we are to enjoy the benefit of a red card and a penalty, a not-unpleasant scenario would be Ciro Immobile scoring from the spot after (welcome home) Angelo Ogbonna takes an early bath. Personally, however, I would prefer the red card to be for Giorgio Chiellini, for whom I have a dislike bordering on the pathological.
My predictions? Well, it’s always better to be circumspect in situations such as these, so I’ll go for a poisonous atmosphere, Cerci marked and/or kicked out of the game, some dubious officiating and a defeat, our noses to be rubbed in it by the striped half of the stadium (yes, half – the ticketing arrangements have bordered upon risible). Here’s hoping I’m wrong.
Now to invoke the curse of my fantacalcio team (it’s called fastnbulbous!, Beefheart fans) upon as many of their players as possible.
A presto, tutti.
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.