Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Il Calcio in Crisis

Here in P-Town, our soccer scandals tend to consist of items like GM Jim Taylor resigns, Coach Bobby Howe sacked, or Livid Soccer Moms Force PGE Park's Hand in Banning Admittedly Tiresome "You Suck, Asshole!" Chant: Protests Ensue.

Over in Italy the football world has been plunged into chaos. What began last week as a wiretapping sting that exposed the involvement of Serie A champions Juventus (owned by the old-money Agnelli family) in match-fixing and ref-bribing has exploded into an investigation that threatens to take Fiorentino, Lazio, and AC Milan (owned by new-money Silvio Berlusconi) down to Serie B, not to mention the spectres of ruined careers, public humiliation, and criminal charges. The news just keeps getting worse, from the resignation of the entire board of Juventus to the implication of Juve keeper Gianluigi Buffon (just named to the World Cup squad) in illegal gambling activities to the latest story that the entire Italian FA has been placed under emergency administration.

Now anybody with even just a passing familiarity with Italian football--that would be me-- is aware that corruption around the pitch is hardly a new phenomenon; in fact, Lazio and AC Milan have already made the shameful journey down to Serie B as a result of similar activities once before, in 1980. And Italy is by no means unique in this--witness last year's Bundesliga scandal. Black hearts hoping to make a fast buck (or even, if I remember my facts from the Bundesliga ref-fixing correctly, a mere widescreen TV will do the trick) in the beautiful game spill across all borders. There can be ideological reasons as well: When falling into a particularly conspiracy-minded mood, Derek has been known to advance his theory that the Rupert Murdoch-owned FSC broadcasts repeats of "classic" AC Milan victories in response to a win by a current team not in favor with the oligarchy.

I'd like to think that, as the "unnamed source" in this article states, this could, in the end, be a good thing for the sport in Italy, cleaning house once and for all. Bear in mind that what I hope will happen and what I expect to happen are not necessarily the same thing: I am, after all, the kind of person who hopes that Theo Walcott will prove to be a boy wonder and that Trinidad and Tobago will win the World Cup. On the other hand, if players like Luca Toni are indeed the future of Italian soccer, if catenaccio is, as he says, truly a thing of the past, perhaps there is reason for hope after all.

It's going to be a long, hard slog for Italian fans no matter what though, and Italy's bid for the World Cup just started to look a lot tougher. In the meantime, Italian speakers can follow breaking news at La Stampa, La Gazzetto dello Sport, Corriere della Sera, and La Republicca.

grazie mille to Joe McGinniss for the Italian links


The Manly Ferry said...

I'm pleased to see some locals caught up in and talking about soccer - especially the Timbers. I do the same thing from time to time in my corner of the blogosphere - at least when I'm not getting bent out of shape about politics and culture. Until and during the World Cup, though, I'll be giving the majority of my time to the beautiful game (and horse racing...even my hobbies have hobbies). It's good to know there are folks round here willing to hold up another side of the conversation.

Anyway, here's where I live. Visit whenver you like.

Lynda said...

Your predictions for the groups A-D are looking eerily similar to my own. We'll all be keeping an eye on your site throughout the tournament!