Tag Archives: Italy

World Cup friendlies are a necessary evil. Emphasis on the “evil.”

It’s Hold Your Breath Season. At least three World Cup dreams ended today and the USMNT plays tomorrow.

For the 32 national football sides heading to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, pre-tournament friendlies are a necessary evil. Necessary because competitive tune-ups are essential if they hope to be in top form for their opening matches. Evil because players can get hurt, even in matches that don’t count for anything.

The second round of friendlies got under way today (more are scheduled for tomorrow), and already the necessary evil has taken a nasty toll. Read more

Italian football sanctions AC Milan over fan insensitivity

The Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio (FIGC), the governing body of football in Italy, just broke bad on AC Milan over its supporters abusive behavior. Gab Marcotti at ESPN FC explains.

The Italian FA charged Milan for the fact that some of their fans engaged in racist abuse during Sunday night’s match against Napoli. In accordance with the regulations, the stand from which the abuse originated (San Siro’s Curva Sud) will be shut for one game. (Individual supporters who are identified can also be charged under separate statutes. Had the abuse been reported as more widespread, Milan could have been forced to play behind closed doors. And had it been noted by the official, the game could have been suspended.)

As you probably know, we’re not fans of racism in football at S&R. Not at all. Nor are our guest posters. So the idea that FIGC is finally getting off its ass and doing something about the appalling behavior of it fan base is welcome news.

Except, well, except that this isn’t exactly what’s happening here after all. Marcotti continues:

But here’s the thing. Of the 14 Napoli players who played that day, 13 were Caucasian. The other, Juan Camilo Zuniga, is mixed race. And he wasn’t being targeted. In fact, the songs had nothing to do with race as in skin color. They were all about Naples and Neapolitans. And apart from striker Lorenzo Insigne, none of the players were from Naples.

The song in question talked about Naples being dirty, about Neapolitans not using soap, having cholera and stinking to high heaven. Another chant implored Mount Vesuvius to erupt and clean up Naples, presumably by killing all the Neapolitans.

It’s offensive and tasteless, sure. But is it the kind of thing that should be barred from football stadiums?

Let’s venture a bit deeper into the weeds, shall we?

The Italian FA is not just taking its cue from UEFA’s new disciplinary code and specifically Article 14 (PDF), which deals with “racism, discriminatory conduct and propaganda.” And in doing so, it’s basically acting as a test case for possible future legislation.

Article 14 punishes those who “insult the human dignity of a person or group of persons by whatever means, including on the grounds of skin color, race, religion or ethnic origin.” Read it closely and you’ll see that while racism, ethnic abuse and sectarian abuse are specifically mentioned, it’s actually about insulting the “human dignity” of a group or individual. That can easily include other forms of discriminatory abuse, such as homophobic abuse.

But what they’ve done in Italy is to specify what constitutes an insult to “human dignity” and, unlike UEFA, they specifically cite (in addition to sexuality) territorial origin.

Ummm. Listen, I’m all for dropping the hammer on racism. But…this isn’t racism, is it? Is it legitimately “ethnic abuse”? Well, if you dig into Italian history, yeah, the South and the North have somewhat different ethnic histories, sort of. Of course, the diffs probably aren’t as pronounced as the gap you’d find between the North End in Boston and the cracker neighborhood I grew up in.

I don’t know. I’m ambivalent here. There can be fine lines in cases like this, and I won’t deny that sometimes Northern Italians speak about their Southern countrymen in ways that feel a bit like racism. Still, I’m not at all sure that FIGC hasn’t overreached.

Part of me says lighten up – this is basic smack talk. It’s often insensitive, I suppose, but are we going to ban fans for hurting the feelings of their opponents? (Read the rest of the article – Marcotti is on his game here.)

This one troubles me, not the least because I have earned a rep as an accomplished purveyor of the trash myself. And my beloved Rocky Mountain Blues have been known to sings songs that are, ummm, potentially hurtful. For instance, we hate the Scousers (Liverpool FC), and the article notes a certain cultural stereotype pertaining to property crime. We like to sing this one, to the tune of “You Are My Sunshine”:

You are a scouser
A dirty scouser
You’re only happy on Giro Day
Your mum’s out thieving
Your’s dad’s drug dealing
Please don’t take my hubcaps away…

And there’s “In Your Liverpool Slums”:

In your Liverpool slums
You look in a dustbin for something to eat
You find a dead rat and you think it’s a treat
In your Liverpool slums

In your Liverpool slums
Your mum’s on the game and your dad’s in the nick
You can’t get a job ’cause your too fucking thick
In your Liverpool slums

In your Liverpool slums
You wear a shell suit and have got curly hair
All of your kids are in council care
In your Liverpool slums

In your Liverpool slums
There’s piss on the pavement and shit on the path
You finger your grandma and think it’s a laugh
In your Liverpool slums

We also love to sing in honor of Manchester United hero Ryan Giggs. To the tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In”:

Oh Ryan Giggs (oh Ryan Giggs)
Is fucking sheep (is fucking sheep)
Oh Ryan Giggs is fucking sheep
He’s fucking sheep, sheep and more sheep
Oh Ryan Giggs is fucking sheep

This one works equally well for Gareth Bale, or for matter any Welshman with the right number of syllables in his name. The Welsh are whiter than I am – is this racist? Ethnic abuse? Or is it simply nationalistic, tribalistic, etc.? Am I describing a difference that makes no difference?

We even have at our own. Referencing the infamous scandal involving Blues captain John Terry and the girlfriend of former teammate Wayne Bridge, there’s this one to the tune of “London Bridge”:

Mrs. Bridge is going down
Going down
Going down
Mrs. Bridge is going down
On John Terry

Of course, this is personal, not collective. I just wanted to throw it in because it’s my favorite.

Frankly, these are some of the nicer ones. There are lyrics in a few songs I’ve heard that you wouldn’t repeat in a crowd of drunken sailors.

Perhaps you get where I’m going. There’s no excuse whatsoever for racism, but there’s a line, right? It can’t be illegal to be rude, can it? Sure, it’s primitive and juvenile and frankly, we already knew that I’m a terrible human being.

I mean, if you adopted these kinds of rules in the US, that would mean I could no longer point out, when the Broncos are getting ready to play the Raiders, that Oakland is the world’s largest open-air latrine. When the Avs go to play the Devils, I can’t crack that the New Jersey state bird is the housefly. That Nebraska’s football team plays on natural grass so the cheerleaders will have a place to graze. It would probably be hurtful even to snark about what a high percentage of Bengal players wind up in jail.

Or are these things okay because there is no twinge of the ethic about them?

We’ll be watching as things develop in Serie A. Like I say, I applaud any and all efforts to scrub racism from the game. But it would also be a mistake to overcorrect, I think. I’ve had some opposing fans say nasty things to me through the years, and I’d hate to see them punished over a weak-ass attempt at cleverness.

It’s bad enough that their teams suck and their children look like the mailman, don’t you think?

Blatter “appalled” by racist abuse of Balotelli: hey Sepp – less talk, more action

CATEGORY: Racism in SportsRacist abuse of AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli by AS Roma fans in yesterday’s Serie A match caused the official to briefly suspend play. After an PA announcement warning the offending supporters to cease and desist, the game was resumed.

While these things are hardly uncommon in Italian football (or throughout the rest of Europe, for that matter), FIFA dictator-for-life president Sepp Blatter is appalled

“Appalled to read about racist abuse in Serie A last night,” Blatter tweeted Monday. “Tackling this issue is complex, but we’re committed to action, not just words.”

Blatter added that FIFA’s taskforce against racism and discrimination is “serious about devising a unified approach for FIFA’s 209 members.”

Blah Blah Blahtter. I’m not a big Sepp fan, of course. While he is to be praised for his humanitarian efforts, the pungent aroma of Eau de Fixer follows him wherever he goes. In the case of world football’s persistent racism, I have no doubt that he means what he says – he’d like it to be gone, and FIFA is exploring a variety of remedies. On this I take him at his word.

The thing is, I survey the landscape and as far as the eye can see there’s nothing but inaction. Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri had it about right in the post-match interview:

“Stopping the game doesn’t work. It’s a happy medium and like all happy mediums, it doesn’t do anybody any good.”

The fact is that FIFA (and UEFA) responses to racism have been ineffective because they favor, as Allegri says, the happy medium. The half measure. The symbolic gesture. The sternly worded warning. The slap on the wrist.

The failure to stop an undesired action by an individual or group is a function of either a) a lack of power, or b) a lack of will. There’s not a lot FIFA can do about the racism of fans as they share a pint in the pub after the game, perhaps, but there’s a great deal they can do in the stadiums. For instance, in yesterday’s match the game could have been suspended and resumed later in an empty stadium. AS Roma could be fined and docked points in the standings. If none of these measures achieve the desired result over a set period of time, the club could be relegated to Serie B. And so on.

[UPDATED: It has now been announced that AS Roma is being fined 50K euros by the Lega Calcio. This number represents nearly 3.5/1000ths of a percent of the team’s annual revenue.]

What happens as soon as the governing bodies begin taking meaningful action? Well, the technology exists to monitor every corner of a stadium, and it wouldn’t take long to identify the perpetrators. A club facing the loss of revenue associated with meaningful action would have pegged and permanently banned the perpetrators for life before the crew had the stadium swept.

The club would find itself receiving a lot of help from its more civilized fans, too. There are people in the crowd who don’t want to see their team penalized and you can bet the farm they’d be willing to help finger the troublemakers.

FIFA and UEFA could do these things tomorrow. They might encounter a legal challenge if things progressed far enough, but my guess is that they’d be on solid footing.

But they don’t. Why not? If you have the power to solve a problem and you do not do so, then it can only mean that you lack the will to solve the problem.

We can speculate as to motives all we like, but in the end it doesn’t matter. Racism of the sort directed at Mario Balotelli yesterday persists because it is allowed to persist.

I assure you, Blatter isn’t any more appalled by the actions of those fans than I am by his inaction. Perhaps less bluster, less impotent indignation and more leadership is in order.

Another heart attack on the pitch: RIP Piermario Morosini

A few weeks back Bolton Wanderers’ Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the field during the team’s FA Cup quarterfinal match against Tottenham Hotspur. He was attended to by emergency staff on the pitch and eventually stretchered off and rushed to a hospital. Despite being “in effect, dead” for 78 minutes Muamba survived and is now recovering.

Today, another elite footballer had a heart attack during a game, and this time the news is tragic: Livorno’s Piermario Morosini died after collapsing early in the Italian Serie B side’s match with Pescara. Read more

The Scrogue’s Guide to Denver and the DNC: gelato

So. You had a great dinner. Or you’re out relaxing and enjoying the evening. Or maybe you read this post and promised yourself to seek out something cold and obscenely creamy. One way or another, though, it’s time for dessert.

How about some gelato? If you aren’t familiar with gelato, it’s Italy’s version of ice cream. And it’s like ice cream, except it has about half the fat and twice the flavor. Not sure exactly how they do that, but there it is.

We’ll start with the place that’s going to be closest at hand – Gelazzi. Since it’s located at 1411 Larimer, conventioneers will probably wander past it once or twice a day. By all means, wander in, because the gelato is wonderful.

Now, let’s talk about the best dessert experience in town. Read more