Unsavoury incidents plagued the Italian game off the pitch this week, and on it things weren't much better.
There were 18 points up for grabs in the six European matches in which Italian clubs were involved. Not so long ago Italy was dominant on the European club scene. But times have changed. The six Italian teams involved only managed to a combined eight points. Napoli was the only winner, 4-0 against lowly AIK of Sweden. The other five matches ended in draws with Udinese and Inter equalising only in the dying seconds. A disaster in any language.
Allegri versus Inzaghi
AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri and club legend Pippo Inzaghi never liked each other and it was confirmed on Thursday when they met at AC Milan’s youth teams headquarters. The two, according to reports, nearly came to blows. If only Milan’s first team could show the same fighting spirit.
Paying Lippi service
It’s hard to believe, but the mighty Marcello Lippi may be already in trouble at Guangzhou, after his team’s defeat against Al Ittihad in the AFC Champions League. If it does not overcome the deficit in the return match, Lippi may be sacked. With little hope of having his six-million-dollar-a-year contract honoured by the Chinese.
Justice Italian style
Four Genoa players have been investigated for months in relation to an alleged plot to affect the result of the local derby between Genoa and Sampdoria on 8 May last season. The players in question are Domenico Criscito, Omar Milanetto, Dario Dainelli and Rodrigo Palacio. Now, I happen to have been born in Genoa a few years ago. And I can assure you that the local derby is THE event on the football calendar, talked about for months before and after the actual match is played. To suggest that it could have been “fixed” is tantamount to doubting the virtues of the Virgin Mary. So, we can all be happy that the case against the two clubs has been dismissed. But even if it means upsetting a few people in high places as well as legions of supporters, I want to take the liberty of letting you know my opinion. There WAS something fishy that day. And not just because Genoa is on the Mediterranean Sea.
Gianpiero Gasperini is the new Palermo coach. The club Chairman, Zamparini, has sacked former supremo Giuseppe Sannino after only three rounds of Serie A, confirming his reputation as “coach-eater”. Gasperini played for Palermo from 1978 to 1983. Will he last till the end of the season? My answer is “No”.
Lion of Belfast dies
Former Juventus player Rino Ferrario has passed away, aged 85. He played for Juventus and for the national team in the 50s, winning two Scudetti and taking part in the 1954 World Cup. He missed the previous Word Cup, because Italy was sensationally beaten by Northern Ireland in the qualifying rounds. In Belfast, local supporters made the Azzurri less-than welcome as graphically described by legendary radio commentator Niccolo Carosio. “They are beating our players” he shouted on the airwaves in an era with no television. Ferrario, built like a heavyweight, disposed of a few opposing players and supporters before being beaten into submission. The match, and the qualification to the World Cup, was lost. But Ferrario gained the rest of his life the reputation of “Lion of Belfast”.
Hard work rewarded
A guy by the name of Raffaele Pagnozzi has been bestowed with one of the highest honours in Italy by President Giorgio Napolitano. 'Raffaele who?' I hear you asking. He is the General Secretary of the Italian Olympic Committee as well as being in the running to become Chairman of the organisation. He came to Australia in 1999, allegedly to make arrangements for Italian athletes who would take part in the 2000 Olympics. Somehow, with the help of a friend in high places, he got himself a spot as a crew member on one of the yachts sailing in the Sydney to Hobart. Talk about priorities.
Balotelli’s fighting spirit
Mario Balotelli strikes again and Roberto Mancini’s patience is definitely running out with the young striker. The latest row is about Mario’s habit of smoking, a terrible sin for his coach. The striker is refusing to quit and the coach has not included him in the team that played Real Madrid. But forced him to travel to Spain, anyway. Will Balotelli finish the season in Manchester City’s colours? Odds are lengthening.
Come to Naples
…Then die. So goes an old proverb, meaning that after you have seen the city’s beauties, there is nothing left for you to live for. In recent years, regrettably, it also means that life for tourists, in Naples, may somehow leave something to be desired. Just ask four Swedes who were in Naples yesterday for the match between the local team and Sweden’s Aik Solna. They were savagely beaten up by a group of locals. And to add insult to injury they have told Police that they are Napoli supporters who were on a trip to the Italian city.
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