I don’t know why I expected better, but I did.
Italy is a wonderful place, and I am usually very defensive of it. Nowhere else can you stand in the exact spot that so many Caesars, Popes, heroes and villains have stood in before you and walk in their footsteps. Nowhere else can you taste food as good, see art as fine, and until recently watch football as beautiful.
Nothing annoys me more than hearing people criticise the place. I’m like a protective father, I get filled with rage sometimes when I hear the petty complaints some people have – especially about Rome. This is quite odd, considering I’ve only been there twice and I’m the first person to complain about how backward New Zealand can be sometimes – surely this is the country I owe my real loyalty to? But love doesn’t work like that. You can’t help who or where you fall in love with and will do anything to protect.
My patriotism towards my father’s country is not completely through a red, white and green eye patch though. I recognise some flaws.
No, it’s not the way that in cafes and delicatessens you pay before you queue up to get your food. No, it’s not the way the trains work. Both those things are perfectly logical to me. What I don’t understand is the cronyism. In some ways it can be good, in that change comes slowly. New Zealand for example has suffered from things changing far too quickly in the past. But the big problem comes when things are so obviously completely ass about face that they almost stay the same just to spite everyone. The way football is run is the best example of this.
If I was in charge of Italian football, here are the things I would fix in order of priority – 1. Racism. 2. Corruption. 3. The slide of Serie A and Italy’s rankings because of falling crowd numbers, violence, poor city council run facilities, poor organisation, lack of innovation, racism and corruption.
Fans making monkey noises when players of colour get the ball, bananas being thrown on the pitch, and anti-Semitic banners and songs. No wonder stadiums are half empty and parents won’t take their kids to games. Racism would get my first priority, not because it’s the cause of all Italian football’s current woes, it’s not, but it sure is embarrassing and what makes it even more intolerable is the way when it comes to this subject, heads are buried in the sand so deep they are emerging in the South Pacific Ocean. It is disgusting and immoral the way racism goes on unchecked in Italy. Corruption is the other major priority because it’s the number one reason why all the other problems don’t get fixed.
So what is being done about these issues? Well, for starters, the FIGC (Italian version of NZF) just elected a new president. The position had become vacant following gli azzurri’s elimination from the World Cup when the previous supremo Giancarlo Abete decided to stand down. There were two contenders for the job. Former AC Milan and national team legend Demetrio Albertini – 42 years old, seen as a potential new broom, backed by several of the big Serie A heavyweights such as AC Milan president and former PM Silvio Berlusconi and Roma president James Pallotta. And the other contender, Carlo Tavecchio – 71 years old, Abete’s vice president for many years, seen as the establishment candidate, backed by most of the smaller clubs and as such the overwhelming favourite – of course he was.
Tavecchio is a man with what we might call a colourful past. When I say colourful, of course I mean he’s a convicted criminal.
- 1970 sentenced to four months for forgery of credit title
- 1994 sentenced to twenty eight months two days for tax evasion
- 1996 sentenced to three months for failure to pay social security deductions and insurance
- 1998 sentenced to three months for omission or falsification of reports
- 1998 sentenced to three months for abuse of office for violation of anti-pollution regulations
But why should that stop him, right? I mean, I’m a good lefty soft on crime liberal, I believe in second or in this case sixth chances and besides, he probably had a difficult upbringing.
But then, perhaps because it was all too easy and he was getting a bit bored with how comfortably he was wiping the floor with poor Demetrio, with two weeks to go before the voting, he said this (translated by goal.com): “In England they select players based on professionalism, whereas we say that ‘Opti Poba’ is here, he was eating bananas before and now he’s starting for Lazio and that’s OK.”
Carlo Tavecchio it turns out is a nasty racist. Can’t wait to see his plans for halting the racist chanting in Italian stadia. Yeah, right. Be a bit rich for him to tell the Neanderthals to stop throwing bananas now wouldn’t it?
Following his comments there was plenty of time for the power players behind the scenes to either get in behind Albertini or find another candidate. What did they do instead? Rally around the caveman of course. A fortnight later he won the election with 63% of the vote. Sigh. That’s typical Italy I’m sorry to say.
Contrast this with the reaction of the NBA to the LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling suggesting that his girlfriend shouldn’t bring black players to Clippers games. Banned for life and forced to sell his franchise. Anywhere else in the world Tavecchio would be dog tucker. If Donald Sterling moved to Italy we’d probably make him President of the Republic, provided his sex drive is up to it.
But wait! There’s more! Now, to make matters worse, the continuing fallout from Italy’s poor World Cup also meant we needed to find a new coach for the national team. Cesere Prandelli, who I thought was doing a fine job and was actually trying to change the culture with his ‘code of ethics’ he enforced on the players to much wailing and gnashing of teeth, clearly had to go as he didn’t fit the mould. His replacement was announced on Friday – former Juventus boss Antonio Conte – a man who was banned from the game for ten months (reduced to four on appeal) for failure to report match fixing. Oh goodie.
At a time when Italian football is getting further and further and further left behind by the likes of the English Premier League, La Liga and the Bundesliga, we’re purposely going further and further and further backwards, not forwards. I’ve seen Kamikaze pilots with better survival instincts than those making the decisions on behalf of the Italian game.
No respect for fans of the game certainly, but mostly no respect for anyone but themselves and the feathering of their own nests. What a complete disgrace.
At least Italian food and art is still the best in the world. The football is not anymore sadly and what’s worse is these bastards don’t even seem to care.
A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: http://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/