There are great expectations for this weekend’s clash between Juventus and Napoli, the two competition leaders in Serie A.
Yet, would you believe, nearly six years ago the two teams met in Serie B! Juventus had just been relegated for its misbehaviours in the buying and selling of matches, while Napoli had just come up from Third Division, where it had ended up after the club’s bankruptcy.
In their first Serie B encounter they met in Naples on November 4, 2006 and the result was a 1-all draw. The scorer for Juventus? You guessed it: Alessandro Del Piero! The survivors from that team who will take the field or sit on the bench tomorrow are Gianluigi Buffon, Claudio Marchisio, Giorgio Chiellini, Paolo De Ceglie and Sabastian Giovinco. For Napoli, captain Fabio Cannavaro was there together with Gianluca Grava, now a reserve. On Saturday Del Piero, the protagonist of so many top matches for Juventus, will have to settle for a less prestigious intra-city match, but nevertheless always a derby.
I refer, of course, to the match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney FC. Amazingly, a match that would have attracted some 50,000 spectators will be played at Parramatta Stadium in front of just more than 20,000 - not a smart move from the second Sydney team.
After only two rounds of the current season Sydney FC is already in trouble. Two matches and two losses is not what officials and supporters had in mind.
However, the results do reflect the quality (or lack of it) of the squad. I’d like to suggest (In my usual shy manner) that whoever is responsible for bringing such poor quality players to Sydney should be disposed of urgently.
The only bright aspect, so far, is the performance of Del Piero. Overcoming the handicap of playing with team-mates that, in Italy, would have problems playing in Third Division, Del Piero has shown class (not surprisingly) and commitment. If only some of his team-mates could learn from him.
Italy’s coach Cesare Prandelli is complaining, saying he is not being given enough time and therefore he cannot give younger players a chance in the national team, which sounds like a very poor excuse.
Meanwhile, at last some good news for Italian football: more than 10 million people watched Italy versus Denmark on Italian TV.
Looking for a coach? The great Giovanni Trapattoni may be available soon. The Republic of Ireland win over the mighty Faroe Islands saved him. But after the next loss he may be asked, politely, to leave. Given some of the foreign coaches who have graced the A-League, he would by far the best.
Being a crook may well prove to be an expensive business for the referees involved in the Calciopoli scandal. Take Paolo Bergamo, who was sentenced to pay a fine of $1 million for the role he had in “softening up” a few referees. But, you guessed it, he says he did nothing wrong and he is eagerly waiting for the appeal trial.
Laid to rest
On a sad note, the body of Giorgio Chinaglia will be transferred from Naples (Florida) to the cemetery of Prima Porta (Rome) in the family tomb of former Lazio coach Tommaso Maestrelli.
The two had a great understanding at the Roman club, and Maestrelli transformed Chinaglia from an obscure third division player to a world-class striker.
Pity his career after football landed him in trouble with both the US and the Italian Police. Death, and a lack of action from the judiciary, spared Chinaglia the embarrassment of spending the last few years of his life in jail.
In doubt as to what will happen in the big match between Juventus and Napoli? Former Napoi striker (now with Juventus) Fabio Quagliarella has got it all figured out.
“It will be a great match, but it will have no bearing on the Scudetto,” is his forecast.
Father to be
Mario Balotelli is assuring all those who care to listen: “I shall be a good father,” commenting on the impending arrival of his first child with Raffaella Fico, an Italian actress who will never be challenging for an Oscar. The liaison promises to be a fiery one.
The price of honesty
Remember Simone Farina? He refused an offer of $250,000 to fix the result of a second division match. Did Italian clubs fight each other to get the signature of such an honest man? Did they offer him a rich and long-term contract? Forget it. The football Mafia so active in Italy made sure that Farina did not receive a single offer to keep playing in Italy. And now he has migrated to England to work with Aston Villa’s youth teams. Being honest can be a very difficult endeavour.
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