.: Interesting Coloumns & Editorials :. (1 Viewer)


Prediction Game Champ 2003 & 2005
Jan 12, 2002
Post in here any interesting article or coloumn concerning football. Before you start complaining, the coloumns are meant to be long , you can read them in your own free time or if the topic attracts you. Please give credit to the writer by including his name at the end the coloumn. You can write your own coloumns and they are more than welcome.

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Prediction Game Champ 2003 & 2005
Jan 12, 2002
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread Starter #2
    The once flourishing South American leagues have now become competitions that feature matches played in half-empty stadiums, clubs which have barely enough finances to survive, and the threat of hooliganism in an around every stadium.

    Not to underestimate other regions of the world and the footballers they have produced, but generally speaking South American players are the most creative. The Brazilian and Argentine grow up with a ball at their feet and are allowed to be imaginative and daring as they hone their skills in the streets free from "coaching" and the stifling burden of tactics. Despite, the current problems of South American football, there is no shortage of good players emerging from the continent. However, the last 20 years has seen an alarming pattern develop. This involves South American club teams selling off their young talent to European clubs at a faster rate and at a younger age. At first glance this doesn't seem to be such a problem. The South American club can cover its debts by selling off the talented player at a decent price. The European club buys a potential superstar who can help on the pitch as well as sell replicas and season tickets. And the player? Quite simply, they make more money than they could have ever imagined, playing the game they love, and traveling around the world. Everybody seems happy. A perfect Utopia, right? Unfortunately, things are much more complicated than this. The results of the ever-increasing exodus of South American football players to Europe has played its part in leaving the leagues of the continent in shambles and could threaten the very existence of those leagues.

    The many economic crises that have hit South America in recent years have had a profoundly negative effect on football there. Fewer fans go to matches as many are forced to spend what little income they have on basic needs. As a result, empty stadiums are the norm. Of course, matches like the 'Superclasico' in Argentina between Boca Juniors and River Plate will still fill a stadium, but instances like these are the exception and not the rule. Even when a large crowd does turn out, fan violence is always a concern. In the past few years stabbings and shootings in and around stadiums is on the rise. All over the continent the economic problems have led to low gate receipts for clubs and because of that clubs are now dependent on only two real sources of revenue; television contracts and selling off players. This helps explain why the average age of players sold has dropped. Many clubs look to develop youngsters early in order to sell them to a European club and reap a transfer fee.

    Inadvertently, this has led to the development of some of the world's best football academies. One example is Boca Juniors who have developed countless players over the years and have made over $100 million (US) in the last 15 years by selling their young talent. Unfortunately for fans, once a player makes it into the first team of a club they will probably only play in their domestic league for a year or two before they are "discovered" by a European team. This also helps keep crowd size down as fans want to see their favorites and the very best, but those same players are almost always sold to Europe. South American clubs are caught in a vicious circle of sorts as fans, partly because of economic situations partly because many talented players are sold, won't go to the matches, leading the clubs to have poor revenue from ticket sales and forcing them to sell their youngsters in order to survive. It has become a sad state of affairs and there appears to be no end in sight.

    The leagues are not the only things that suffer, what about the players? Yes, as mentioned, they become instantly wealthy and don't have to worry about their finances, but the players suffer as well. They are thrust into the international spotlight and have to walk around with the pressure of being worth millions. With the high wage also comes high expectations and one thing is for sure and that is there is little patience in European football. The fans and media alike have been programmed for instant gratification and if a young Saviola or Aimar can't produce the goods on the pitch then they won't be afforded sympathy but rather have abuse hurled at them regardless of whether they are still a nineteen-year-old kid. European football is characterized by a high-pressure environment. In one minute you may be on top of the world and in the next you may be brandished as a failure.

    The current state of affairs though in South America makes players want to make the move to Europe regardless of their age and the pressures they may encounter. And no matter what the situation in Europe it is almost always better than in South America. It would be almost unheard of for players to go weeks and months without pay in many of the top European leagues (although that has happened with some clubs). In Brazil and Argentina though this is commonplace. Look at the example of Juan Roman Riquelme. He wanted to stay with Boca Juniors, but having his brother kidnapped, and the poor economic conditions of the country worked together for him to decide it was time to get out even at the "old age" of 24. Now new players have emerged from South America. Names like D'Alessandro, Kaka, Robinho, Tevez, Cavenaghi, Luis Fabiano, Paulinho, and Mancini will be household names in Europe within a couple years. South America's loss is Europe's gain.

    South American football's problems go much deeper than just the selling of players. Corruption, match-fixing, and embezzlement are problems that left unheeded will continue to wreak havoc with the sport in the land that has given us such great football and so many great players over the years. Selling young talent is perhaps a natural occurrence brought on by the aforementioned problems. If there is a club president who rakes in the cash from a television deal and doesn't give money to his club then what can you do? A crook is a crook and then the club is forced to do what it needs to do in order to survive. If the status quo keeps then it will only have disastrous consequences for all of football. The great Eduardo Galeano once wrote about what was written on the walls in South America and one said "We don't want to survive, we want to live". Not to draw a correlation between severe poverty and despair with football but that saying mirrors what is happening in South America. The leagues will never rebound; they will merely survive showcasing a mixture of extremely young talent and older veterans with the stars in the prime of their careers playing in Europe. What can we do but hope that someday the situation will change and South America can see an improvement of life and however less importantly football as well. Many things must change in order for this to happen, players will have to stay and corruption will have to be kicked out of the South American game. For now Europe lives and South America survives.

    George Tsitsonis ,
    (soccerage )


    Senior Member
    Jul 30, 2002
    Crystal Palace Aki Riihilahti's website has a few stuff written by him. :) Quite interesting and hilarious to read at times too...

    One example from there:

    Who rates who?

    Walsall - Crystal Palace 3-4
    Ipswich - Crystal Palace 1-2
    Crystal Palace - Coventry 3-1
    Crystal Palace - Nottingham Forrest 0-0

    It is easy to say who is the best manager in the world. Or the best coach or the best scout. It is any journalist. They do it so easily. It is amazing how they can evaluate any game or player, speculate tactics, physical or mental state of any club or player at any given time. They write a good game.

    That is how civilised society works. Journalists put the world of football into words. They know. And they get paid to tell the others, readers in this case. Obviously part of their job is to find and even create problems to interest the public even more. Without saying goes that they are also known to be masters of solving these same problems and other things on and off the pitch. Just open the tabloid papers and the truth is out there.

    It is actually bit weird that clubs use scouting-system and coaches at all. The same information and knowledge they could get with 50 p from the nearest newsagent. It would be much wiser and cheaper for clubs to base their knowledge of other teams and players on journalists’ professional work. After all they know how to put it into words. It would be only fair that journalists would really be paid from both paper and the clubs.

    It is literally unbelievable how all the multitalented people have chosen to be journalists. Not just writing a story from a game, journalists are also good enough to evaluate over 22 players during ninety minutes. Player’s ratings are really the most fascinating part. You can get a number from one to ten in terms how could you have performed. So this way everyone is ranked in every game. Obviously all the journalists have beforehand considered game tactics and done some research of every player’s job and role in the team and a current match.

    Does all this start to sound like that bitter blond Finn footballer have gotten too many fives and sixes in this seasons ratings? Not really. You can imagine that I can’t really sleep at nights if my marks are low. After all I don’t want to be a bad player, which is obviously in journalists’ hands. So after the last Sundays clash against Ipswich I went to my local newsagent’s to read the verdict again.

    This is what I love about England: it is the promised land of football and football journalism. Without any real effort I can find eight papers that all had a story about our game. This is a good way to learn about the game. However there was quite a wide range of stories and evaluations. Sometimes it was hard to believe that I was reading about the same game. I was bit confused about what to think or who to believe. Of course football is subjective and every pair of eyes sees it differently. But very differently at this time. None of the papers had the same man of the match and in some cases the players’ ratings were completely opposite from one paper to another. Yet we all are talking about the same game. So who is telling the truth then? Probably everyone and no-one. It is just a matter of an opinion.

    As a footballer I am under public eye and papers have right to evaluate and criticise me. That is part of my job. A journalist’s job is to cover every aspects of a game and evaluate all the players at the same time. This time I decided to turn around the roles. Instead of always getting a number from the journalists I thought to give them one. After all it is fair enough to give some feedback for them as well. So here are my press ratings from the Ipswich- Crystal Palace game.

    Daily Express started the game well but made some easy mistakes in the end. This time usually inform Daily Star had a nightmare, they couldn’t get grip of it at the whole time. Not just their evaluations went wrong but also they had problems with facts and ideas. Picture text crucified the story by mistaking six foot two black centre half to a five foot nine pale midfielder. The Sun had a cracking start but faded away later in the story. The winner and paper of the match was surprisingly The Daily Telegraph that evaluated the game well, was both precise and entertaining and literally outwrote the opponents this time. The Guardian also had a solid game. Couple of bad mistakes in facts from The Mirror and Daily Mail really would have required an earlier substitution. Overall it was quite a professional but boring press overview of the game. Obviously I am disqualified to evaluate The Times, plus I wouldn't do it anyway because I could get the sack.

    In the end everything that is written is a truth. A truth of how one journalist sees the game. There is no ultimate right or wrong, it is the opinion of one pair of eyes. The journalists have been left with the tall order of covering every Saturday all the aspects of always so different game. But we love it anyway. After all one of the highlights of a normal day is to go to a nearest newsagent to find some news of football.

    The Guardian 7
    The Sun 6
    Daily Star 4
    The Daily Telegraph 8
    Daily Express 6
    The Mirror 5
    Daily Mail 5

    This time I recommend:

    1. Quinoa -porridge
    - Not all of the healthy food taste like crap -

    2. The Times
    - The Daddy of all papers -

    3. Nirvana -album
    - Smells like good music -

    I do not recommend:

    1. Player's ratings
    - Even though they are easy read, they are also the most misleading and unprofessional overview of any match -

    2. Giving ratings to papers
    - I am sure one of them will take it personally -

    3. Anybody using Plough Lane at Wimbledon
    - It is a traffic nightmare, but I have to drive through it anyway, so could everybody else not -



    Prediction Game Champ 2003 & 2005
    Jan 12, 2002
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread Starter #4
    One of the unwritten rules of the transfer market has long been to not buy a player on the strength of his performance in a World Cup/European Championship.

    Over the years the likes of Karel Poborsky, Gheorge Hagi (at a number of clubs) and Ilie Dumitrescu have proved that a good summer showing does not always guarantee good signing.

    And, in similar fashion, those players who become surprise national heroes in a major championship cannot always be assured that they will retain their heroic status for too long. Remember Toto Schillacci? The wild-eyed top goalscorer of Italia '90 was last heard of in Japanese football.

    Cast your mind back to those sun-drenched early mornings in the summer of 2002 and it was a topsy-turvy World Cup where Nicky Butt was proclaimed the best player in the tournament by none other than Pele and Southampton midfielder Anders Svensson knocked mighty Argentina out with a stunning free-kick while stars like Henry, Beckham and Figo faltered.

    But now, back in the Premiership, it seems that normal service has been resumed for some of the players who shone in the Land of the Rising Sun while for some life has taken a real turn for the worse:

    Nicky Butt

    Gorton's finest was a player who probably barely expected to get a run-out in the tournament proper. Yet an injury to Steven Gerrard and an understanding with fellow Manchester United midfielders Scholes and Beckham saw him given the nod by Sven Goran Eriksson.

    His powerhouse displays in midfield, especially that which saw him all but place Juan Sebastian Veron in his back pocket in the Argentina game, led to a deluge of praise. Sir Alex Ferguson, who has always had affection for this uncomplaining member of his squad, led the applause and proclaimed that Butt would be lining up in his first-choice eleven when the season started.

    Fergie was true to his word and Butt was one of United's better players in the club's troubled start. But, when England expected once again, he broke down with an ankle injury against Macedonia in October. This kept him out at a time when a Keane-less United needed him most.

    And with players like Quinton Fortune and Phil Neville filling the central role with some distinction, Scholes and Veron returning to their best form and Keane now back in harness, the local boy regularly regaled from the terraces to the tune of KC and the Sunshine Band has unluckily seen his first-choice status disappear.

    Trevor Sinclair

    But for a broken metatarsal, Sinclair would neither have been in England's squad, nor would he have broken an all-comer's record for air miles travelled.

    His trips to Dubai and Japan, where he was standing by in vain on Kieron Dyer's knee, were followed by a flying visit home to England before a bone in Danny Murphy's foot went the same way as that of Neville the Elder and Beckham.

    Sinclair, probably by now completely unsure what day it was, dutifully flew back to England's camp and was given the poisoned chalice of the left-midfield spot.

    His showing against Sweden showed signs of jet-lag but against Argentina he played the game of his life, sticking manfully to the task of stopping Javier Zanetti in his tracks. Trev quietly became a national hero.

    After a successful summer (his wife gave birth too), it was back to West Ham.

    Sinclair must long for the land of sushi and sake as the Hammers' abject form has continued all season.

    Talk of a big money move elsewhere has long dissipated and he has come under attack from some fans for a perceived lack of effort. West Ham's midfield may remain their best asset but Sinclair has definitely been a lesser light and an England recall would seem highly unlikely.

    Alpay Ozalan

    If it hadn't been for the South Koreans, Turkey would have been the surprise team of the tournament. Their achievement in reaching the semi-finals while playing a fine brand of football should not be forgotten. FIFA recognised this by naming two Turks in their sixteen-man 'players of the tournament' squad. Alongside the excellent midfielder Hasan Sas was Aston Villa stopper Alpay, the mainstay of a tight Turkish defence, who only the class of Brazil ever fully got the better of.

    Alpay was rightly proud of his World Cup showing, especially as it came after nearly five months out with an ankle injury. And the Turk developed ideas far beyond Villa Park and became determined to quit the Midlands. Then he changed his mind.

    But after a horrific showing in the Birmingham derby and some more grumblings from Alpay, Villa boss Graham Taylor decided there was no point picking a player likely to leave in the January transfer window. A spat over whether reserve team football was the right place for a man of such standing followed soon after.

    And when January came there was no rush of suitors beating down Alpay's door. A mystifying newspaper comment that the biggest club in Britain wanted his services seemed to contain little truth considering Manchester United's surfeit of centre-backs. Arsenal showed interest only for goalkeepers and Newcastle, another club linked, signed Jonathan Woodgate instead.

    Alpay either makes his peace with Taylor or he faces a lonely rest of the season on the sidelines.

    El Hadji Diouf

    Alpay wasn't the only victim of the curse of FIFA's select sixteen. Even the likes of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ballack have had mixed seasons. But think of World Cup stars flopping badly and Liverpool's £11m summer signing from Lens is usually among the first names to spring to mind.

    While never actually hitting the back of the net in the Far East, the Senegal striker's front-running terrorised defences, especially those of France, Denmark and Sweden. Surely he would do the same in the Premiership?

    Not as yet. And nor or is there any sign of him fitting into the Liverpool side or forming a strike partnership with anyone. He's even been shifted out to an unfamiliar right-wing slot, where unkind observers have remarked that he can do less damage.

    An early brace against Southampton aside, he has joined Emile Heskey in the unhappy club of being expected to miss rather than score when handed a goalscoring opportunity.

    In a side who play such a regimented system, Diouf's unpredictability sees him stand out week-on-week as a scapegoat. An excruciating terrace anthem to the tune of Black Lace's 'Agadoo' has been his only solace. Yes, things really are that bad.

    And even allowing for the type of 'first season syndrome' that afflicted the likes of Pires and Veron, for Liverpool fans, whose season increasingly rests on one game in Cardiff, it's becoming harder to accept that the £11m spent on Diouf was the amount they received for Kop idol Robbie Fowler or could have bought Nicolas Anelka for.

    Junichi Inamoto

    After a 2001-2 season at Arsenal that saw him play no more than four appearances for the Gunners, a period when he gained little more than the nickname of 'T-shirt' for his prowess in selling merchandise to an adoring Japanese public, Inamoto's match-winning performances in Japan's group matches came as a genuine surprise.

    Inamoto's dribbling bemused first Belgium and then the Russians and when news came that Fulham had secured the services of the midfield tyro, many believed that the Cottagers had got one over on Arsene Wenger. And when the Japanese star starred in the club's Intertoto run, that opinion gained greater credence. But then, as injury struck and Fulham began to struggle towards the bottom of the Premiership, the 23-year-old has started to stage something of a repeat performance of his time at Highbury.

    The Japanese tourists may still flock to Loftus Road to catch a sight of him riding the pine of the sub's bench but there seems little place for him in a settled midfield in which Sean Davis, the expected fall-guy, has pushed himself into England's reckoning.

    A return to the Far East seems more than likely at the end of the season, though for a club who recently admitted that their wages bill is 190% of their total turnover, maybe a return to the Fulham first team might serve to add vitally needed revenue.

    Written By : John Brewin.
    (soccernet.com )


    Senior Member
    Jul 31, 2002
    Switzerland, Tuesday 11, 2003.

    Talks were held today on an expanded UEFA Cup competition.
    Representatives of Europe’s top clubs were invited to UEFA headquarters in Nyon to take part in the two day European Club Forum. Top of the agenda were plans to introduce a group stage to Europe’s second tournament, similar to the Champions League.
    Initial indications are that most clubs are supporters of the proposals with the final format set to be announced later this year. Television and marketing revenue generated by a UEFA Cup group stage would give many clubs a major cash boost.

    Taken from Metro.


    Senior Member
    Jul 31, 2002
    Europe’s top clubs are to ask FIFA and EUFA to pay players salaries during the finals of the World Cup and European Championships.
    The 102 European Club Forum members will also question who will insure players on International duty.
    They also opposed FIFA’s Confederation Cup and World Club Championships.



    Senior Member
    Jul 31, 2002
    Bayern Munich could be thrown out of the BL after alleged 35 million euro cash bung from Kirch. Top BL officials have informed Bayern that they could have their Professional Licence withdrawn and placed in the Amatuer League.

    Yeah right.


    Senior Member
    Jul 31, 2002
    Inter have confirmed that they will make a bid for Ryan Giggs at the start of next season. Inter President Massimo Moratti has stated publicly that "If a deal can be done we will do it. He is the type of player the fans would love here."


    Bedpan racing champion
    Jul 25, 2001
    ++ [ originally posted by Roverbhoy ] ++
    Bayern Munich could be thrown out of the BL after alleged 35 million euro cash bung from Kirch. Top BL officials have informed Bayern that they could have their Professional Licence withdrawn and placed in the Amatuer League.

    Yeah right.
    It's a dream, a true dream to see Germany's only REAL good club be thrown in the amateur league :drool:


    Senior Member
    Jul 31, 2002
    ++ [ originally posted by Roverbhoy ] ++
    Bayern Munich could be thrown out of the BL after alleged 35 million euro cash bung from Kirch. Top BL officials have informed Bayern that they could have their Professional Licence withdrawn and placed in the Amatuer League.
    The plot thickens.
    It now appears that Kirch have over a hundred unreported private "contracts" with German BL players which they should have disclosed but didn't. :eek:
    Something stinks in Germany and it ain't the cheep beer. (Although I'd still drink it anyhows).:angel:


    Bedpan racing champion
    Jul 25, 2001
    This is a great article! It will take you some time to read it all but it's certainly worth it!

    I read it a couple of years back in a Dutch magazine and I stumbled across the English version just now:

    Racist. Violent. Corrupt. Welcome to Serie A

    For years it was the finest league in the world: beautiful, brilliant and glamorous. But this season a tide of scandal has swept across Italian football - and now threatens to overwhelm it

    Rory Carroll
    Sunday May 6, 2001
    The Observer

    Forty minutes to kick-off and the boys of the Curva Nord are waiting. It is an atrocious night, rain sluicing down the Stadio Olimpico's roof, saturating the pitch and front 18 rows of the stand. 'Parma vaffanculo!' yells a skinny teen, pleased to be the first. He is ignored. This is where Lazio's irriducibili gather, but it is the time for finding friends, choosing a spot, munching pizza, skinning up, flicking through damp fanzines and newspapers. Front page headlines wonder whether Roma can be prevented from winning the scudetto. Tucked inside are the other stories: a match stopped because of a riot in the stands; probes into players' fake passports; stars pleading innocence after testing positive for banned substances; referees accused of taking bribes...
    Twelve minutes to kick-off and it is down to business. Paolo, a chunky man in boots and black bomber jacket goes first, stomping to the front to cheers. Another follows and another until more than 200 stand in the downpour. Their chants are picked up by the rest of the curva. 'Parma vaffanculo' becomes a roar. Fists are raised. Marco's eyes gleam. The Parma contingent, a patch of maybe 300 visitors on the opposite Curva Sud, are forgotten as the irriducibili's rage widens. 'Tutto e tutti vaffanculo!'

    Everyone and everything is being invited to **** itself.

    Red flares fizz overhead. Rain hardens and thunder rolls in theatrical timing as the players jog into the arena. A forest of right arms stretches upward in fascist salute. A giant screen flashes the players' names and faces. The Curva Nord inhales as one and erupts at the first black face. 'Booh-booh-booh-booh.' In staccato it sounds like thousands of monkeys. Parma are fielding four black players. A feast for the irriducibili.

    Racism, hatred, violence, corruption: welcome to Serie A, Italy's Premiership. Once upon a time this was where the beautiful game was at its most beautiful. Once upon a time this was, Italians prided themselves, the most glamorous league in the world - and the best. No longer. Today the face of Italian football is bruised, contorted and ugly. The league's reputation is in tatters - and for reasons far more fundamental and disturbing than the poor recent record of its clubs in European competition.

    A malaise has engulfed calcio this season. There have been ambushes, stabbings and beatings as violence has spilled from the stadiums into cities with ultras (the hard-core fans) turning Serie A, B and C into battlefields. There have been attacks on players by their own supporters, a trend that has included besieged dressing rooms, assaults on players' relatives and a firebomb attack on a team bus. There has been widespread evidence of corruption, from match-fixing and bribery, to positive dope tests and dodgy passports. Finally there has been the exposure to a disbelieving and disgusted international audience of an apparently endemic malicious racism among both fans and players that is all but tolerated in Italy itself.

    Last autumn the Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira and his black team-mates were subjected to sustained abuse during their Champions League game in Rome, and not just from Lazio's notoriously racist fans. The Yugoslav defender Sinisa Mihajlovic repeatedly called Vieira a nigger. Vieira spoke of a 'racist atmosphere that you can almost breathe' and in the aftermath Uefa were swift to punish Mihajlovic with a two-match ban while his club forced him to apologise publicly, a microphone in his hand, shortly before the kick-off of Lazio's next Champions League fixture, against Shakhtar Donetsk.

    Lazio's coach Dino Zoff was relaxed about the shoddy incident. Cursing during matches, he said, was unfortunate, but went on all the time. Last season, when the club had been fined after fans barracked Venezia's black defender Bruno N'Gotty, Zoff, the most capped player in Italian history and a former national team coach, had been even less concerned. 'I don't know whether you could really call that racism,' he said. 'It's more a question of people making fun. Fans pick on someone tall, short, grey-haired.'

    Zoff's response then was echoed in the ambivalent attitude across Italy to Mihajlovic's verbal assault on Vieira. And within minutes of hearing Mihajlovic's apology combined with an appeal for tolerance, Lazio's fans produced their own response. When Shakhtar's Nigerian centre-half Izek Okoronkwo got his first touch the grunting began again. (A few weeks later it was Emile Heskey's turn during an England-Italy friendly in Turin, an incident that prompted FA protests.)

    Italy's football officials say things are not so bad, that problems are exaggerated and temporary. A journey through Serie A suggests the opposite. The problems are that bad and getting worse. They are also connected. Racism, violence and corruption feed off each other.

    If mentioned at all, racism is usually buried far down the match report, a single sentence about a black player being barracked every time he touched the ball. As sure as the whistle blows every Sunday players will be vilified for the colour of their skin. On that night's football chat shows, marathons of analysis and opinion, there is rarely a mention. A stadium resounding to booh-booh-booh is not a shock, not a scandal, it is merely there.

    It carries with it an echo of English football 25 years ago, when black footballers could be greeted by monkey noises and bananas thrown from the terraces. But even then the abuse was not so vicious and the disease not so widespread - or so acceptable. Because in Italy today it's not just skinheads who are doing it. At January's Lazio-Inter match, Michael Fanizadeh, a coordinator of Football Against Racism in Europe, was shocked to see women and children hurling abuse. And those fans who do not join in sometimes grimace, sometimes smirk, but mostly look as if they don't hear anything. Maybe they don't. Maybe the taunting is so routine they no longer notice.

    Except no one believes that. It is impossible to be unaware of the ritual. From Udine to Verona, Brescia to Rome, Naples to Bari, it zig-zags down the peninsula, relaying an unmistakable message: racism is tolerated. The nation watches as abuse rains down on some of the league's greatest footballers - players such as Edgar Davids of Juventus, Lilian Thuram and Patrik Mboma of Parma, and Clarence Seedorf of Internazionale -and the nation does nothing about it. Prejudice bubbles openly. In January Verona, who have struggled all season, were linked with a move for the highly rated Mboma, the African Player of the Year. The deal fell through. 'You need to draw your own conclusions,' the Verona president, Giambattista Pastorello, said. 'If you have fans that do these things you need to have patience.' (The club later insisted that of course Pastorello did not mean to say racists could veto signings.)

    And it's not just fans. In February last year Torino's Senegalese defender Djibril Diawara had his nose smashed while playing Bari. With blood pouring from his face, Diawara confronted Luigi Garzya, Bari's captain. This was too much for Bari's coach, Eugenio Fascetti, who shouted: 'The nigger Diawara spat in Garzya's face! And the spit might even be infected! Why don't they just stay home, these niggers?' Fascetti later said he had missed his player's elbowing of Diawara and withdrew his statement. To heap salt onto the wound, Diawara received a four-match ban for spitting, while Garzya, a white Italian, received only a one-match ban for pushing him in the face.

    Not that racism is a particularly recent development in Italian football. The formation of the ultras dates back to the late Sixties. At the time they found their inspiration from England and adopted English habits such as scarves and chanting. But there was also one Italian habit. Politics. In tune with those rebellious times, the ultras reflected political rivalries: Lazio were of the Right, for instance, while their great rivals Roma were communists. In those early days they even displayed the same banners that had been used in political demonstrations, turning them over and putting football slogans on the back.

    These days, however, the relationship between politics and football has been turned on its head: political rallies no longer lead to riots, so football has become the most promising outlet for those itching for a fight. And, as the ultras have become more uniformly right-wing, there have been orchestrated attempts by the hard Right to infiltrate and use football to recruit members - though even that may simplify the phenomenon. Maurizio Marinelli, director of the Study Centre for Public Security, has identified three types of infiltration. The Right have targeted Lazio, Verona, Fiorentina and Inter, infusing a xenophobic, anti-Semitic agenda. Left-wing militants have targeted Livorno, Modena, Ternana and Genoa. They are less ideological but want to rebel. And finally there is an embryonic third category, a misanthropic movement called Loma which is trying to inject nihilistic individualism into Torino, Lazio, Genoa and Verona. In such ways have cities with relatively good race relations, such as Verona and Bari, acquired racist fans.

    Sometimes there is even a quasi-official tone to Italy's racism. During a 1997 trip to Poland, the Italian national squad refused to accompany federation officials on a visit to Auschwitz. A journalist who wrote the story was threatened. Meanwhile Gianluigi Buffon, the Italian national goalkeeper, has worn a T-shirt sporting the fascist slogan, 'Death to those who surrender'. Buffon, who plays for Parma in Serie A, also raised a few eyebrows last year when he picked 88 as his shirt number for the new season. The decision upset Italy's Jewish community, which pointed out that the figure is sometimes used as a neo-Nazi symbol - 'H' is the eighth letter of the alphabet, so 88 equates to HH, or Heil Hitler. Buffon denied any knowledge of the link, claiming: 'I have chosen 88 because it reminds me of four balls and in Italy we all know what it means to have balls: strength and determination.' He later changed his number to 77. When Dutch defender Aron Winter signed for Lazio in 1992, graffiti appeared welcoming the 'nigger Jew' to the club. The pea-brained authors clearly had not noticed that the player's middle name is Mohammed.

    And then there are the banners - Celtic crosses, swastikas, slogans. Some are 50m long - 'Auschwitz is your town, the ovens your houses' - or a more modest 40m - 'Honour to the Tiger Arkan'. Death camps, Serb war criminals, anything goes.

    When interviewed, which isn't often, black players admit to feeling isolated but tend to keep their heads down. There are very few black Italian players, though Fabio Liverani made history a couple of weeks ago by becoming the first black player to represent Italy when he made his international debut in a friendly match with South Africa. Matteo Ferrari, a black Italian who plays for Internazionale, would not identify an abusive opponent to La Repubblica. 'It was all finished after 90 minutes,' he said. 'The player in question asked for my forgiveness.' Clarence Seedorf, a team-mate of Ferrari, said his white team-mates rarely discuss the chanting. 'When these things happen I don't feel offended. I think with sadness of those people, of their education, which must be very low,' he said. In some respects he is right. Some fans are too ignorant or immature to distinguish between monkey noise and the abuse hurled at white players and rival fans. After all, bad taste is the leitmotif: burn the South, shit you are and shit you'll stay, cat eaters, earthquake victims, Juliet is a whore.

    Some positive steps have been taken. Roma and Lazio officials visited a synagogue and up and down the country players sported kit with anti-racist slogans on 22 October. Stiffer penalties have reduced the number of offensive banners. Ultras have appointed stewards.

    But, by any standards, the response is inadequate. Calcio's defenders usually argue that football merely reflects racism in society, which is where the cause and cure lie. They have a point. Racism has risen sharply since immigration sprinkled black and brown faces in what until 10 years ago had been an almost all-white population. Unemployment and crime are falling yet xenophobia spreads. Opinion polls show the arrivals are blamed for crime, disease and poaching jobs. Right-wing extremist groups have sprouted in many cities.

    On 13 May, the centre-right is expected to win a general election on a platform of cracking down on migration. The Northern League, part of the centre-right, now bashes illegal immigrants instead of southern Italians. Calcio inevitably absorbs these influences but some believe it performs a service by allowing racists to ventilate. 'Perhaps it is better to let them shout themselves out in stadiums than to prohibit them and find them cropping up again, ominously, in city streets,' said Giuliano Zincone, a Corrierre della Sera columnist.

    Enzo Bianco, the Interior Minister, thinks stadiums legitimise racism. Whether as a consequence non-white immigrants are more or less likely to be beaten up is impossible to say. But the galvanising effect on the extreme Right is undeniable. Fabrizio, an irriducibili leader, said the stadium had become the only place to express right-wing views. Groups like MS-Fiamma Tricolore and Forza Nuova rely on matches for publicity and recruitment. 'The stadium is an aspect of the social fabric where we conduct our politics,' says Roberto Fiore, the London-based head of Forza Nuova.

    Paolo, the chunky skinhead who pushed to the front of the irriducibili, was a member. Marco, the trainee accountant, was not. He joined in the salute for the hell of it. Paolo's job is to nurture Marco.

    Yet no politician, club or player has emerged to consistently champion anti-racism. The typical response is silence. As a result no country in Europe comes close to the frequency, viciousness and openness of the racism to be found in Italy's football.

    Unlike Dino Zoff, the issue clearly upsets Arrigo Sacchi, one of Zoff's predecessors as national coach. 'We have the least habitable, the most uncivilised and poorly educated stadiums in the world,' Sacchi said. 'The sporting culture here is broadly deficient.'

    In mid-December last year, following a humiliating cup defeat, an enraged Inter fan threw a Molotov cocktail outside the San Siro stadium. This was significant for two reasons. First because it suggested a disturbing level of preparation. And second because of the incendiary's intended victims. It hit and damaged the coach carrying the Inter team, in other words the highly priced players the Inter fans cheer every week. Marco Tardelli, the coach, was one of many on board badly shaken by the attack. 'I just cannot accept this type of violence bursting its way into football,' he said. 'After the Heysel disaster, this is the worst that's ever happened to me in football. Next thing they'll be shooting at us from the grandstand.'
    The firebomb was just one example of an escalating crisis, with a huge increase in the number of violent incidents(see panel). One disturbing trend has been the proliferation of attacks by supporters on their own team or team officials, whether it be Roma fans ambushing players arriving at the Trigoria training ground, Brescia supporters smashing the window of a car carrying their club president's daughter, Pescara forced to train under police protection, Reggina president Pasquale Foti receiving a severed calf's head in the post, or Napoli ultras lobbing a bomb into the garden of the club's part-owner Corrado Ferlaino.

    Not that the violence has been limited to fans turning on their own. In some towns and cities it has become almost routine with railway and bus stations hosting battles between rival supporters. Three Serie A clubs - Napoli, Reggina and Vicenza Ü have been ordered to play home games away from their own stadium this season as a punishment for their fans' violent behaviour.

    To an extent the increasing violence can be traced to the same dynamic as the increased racism: orchestration by politically motivated infiltrators. But there are other causes. Some are banal: an early season clash between rivals almost guarantees a revenge cycle. The police, too, are often the intended victims; indeed, for many ultras the police Ü as the embodiment of authority - are the primary target. 'They want to stop me doing what I want to do,' Lorenzo, the head of the Roma ultras told Channel Four. 'So I must react violently. That's what the young guys in the curva think. The Curva is a territory that the ultras must defend.'

    Sometimes opposition fans are deliberately attacked to provoke the police. Friends of a badly beaten Roma fan vowed revenge at the next match - which happened to be against Liverpool. According to one ultra, Liverpool supporters were stabbed solely to draw in police. It worked. Bottles, stones and petrol bombs rained down as soon as they arrived.

    Giuliano Zincone, the Corriere della Sera columnist, provides an almost Hobbesian analysis of the racism and violence, with football providing a safety valve for a society of base, violent instincts.

    'The sports stadium is the only, and perhaps the last remaining place where extreme, cruel, dirty and primitive feelings are expressed,' he writes. 'It is the open-air catacomb for the barbaric custom of wishing the greatest possible misfortune on one's rivals, cast as infidels. That's the way it is. There is, and long has been, a minority that likes to go to the stadium in order to shout disgusting slogans, to vent hostility and give voice to the aggression and antagonism that are prohibited elsewhere.

    'Many people go to the stadium for the specific purpose of "offending". Unleashing the spirit of rebellion and complete antagonism is part of the modern soccer stadium just as cruelty was part of the operational functions of the Roman Colosseum. In the stadium, verbal violence can serve as a proxy for real violence.

    'The stadium is the platform for an almost religious and warlike devotion to one's favourite team... the vile banners do not, as a rule, express actual political inclinations, but reflect a vague desire to "be somewhere else", to seek direct conflicts rather than languish constantly in the bland repression and pacifications required by everyday collective life.

    'Cruel sentiments exist and perhaps it is better to contain them, to let them shout themselves out in stadiums, than to prohibit them there and find them cropping up again, ominously, in city streets and squares.'

    'Only suckers stick to the rules if the game is rigged,' writes a Juventus fan on an ultra website. It is a refrain heard all over Italy. Rumours of Serie A corruption surface weekly, fuelling a sense that the league operates above the law.

    The revelation that Lazio's Argentine star midfielder Juan Veron had a forged Italian passport shocked the league. Dozens of clubs and foreign players are under investigation for allegedly faking documents and inventing Italian ancestors to circumvent limits on non-European Union players. Prodded into action by Fifa, the Italian federation has yet to reach conclusions but stars such as Inter's Uruguayan forward Alvaro Recoba are unlikely to emerge unscathed. Time will tell whether the villains were players, agents or clubs. All protest their innocence.

    Italy is not the only country tarnished by the passports scandal Ü but only Italy could come up with the Night of the Watches. Gold Rolexes given by Roma to referees were returned lest the 'Christmas presents' conveyed the wrong impression. A federation inquiry flushed out expensive offerings from other clubs, such as holidays paid by Juventus. 'Where does the fine line between a kind gift and a bribe lie?' asked Corriere della Sera. The perception that Serie A's referees are on the take is widespread, the image of it as a corrupt league, long lasting and difficult to shift.

    A year ago as the Serie A title built toa nail-bitingly close climax, Juventus benefited from an extraordinary piece of refereeing against Parma. A last-minute equaliser was inexplicably disallowed, giving Juve a dubious and vital victory with one week of the season left. A tidal wave of anti-Juve feeling swept Italy including a street 'funeral for Italian football' and the front page headline on the Corriere dello Sport, 'Sorry, but this is a scandal'. (Juventus lost their final game and the championship went to Lazio after all.) This was in the same season that an Italian Serie A player wrote a letter to the Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana claiming he was bribed to lose a match. The magazine rebuffed magistrates' inquiries, saying its letters column was akin to a confessional.

    Juve have been accused before. Three years ago the 'season of poison' culminated in a controversial game in which Inter were denied a blatant penalty. 'Referees don't do this on purpose,' raged the Inter president Massimo Moratti, 'it's a habit. They are afraid of hurting Juventus. It is the rule, not the exception.' The former Italian international Roberto Mancini went a lot further, saying 'the last fair championship was won in 1991 by Sampdoria'.

    This season has seen new match-fixing scandals. A cup match between Atlanta and Pistoiese provoked much interest after a rush of inspired bets that the game would end 1-1, with a goal in each half - bets that proved extremely prescient. After a long investigation the allegations of match-fixing were upheld against six players who were banned for up to a year. Also this season, Perugia's coach Serge Cosmi while talking in a TV studio before an interview, alleged that the Italian Third Division (in which he was a coach last season) was a giant fix. His remarks were filmed and were later shown. They are now the subject of another investigation.

    This season has seen another growing area of potential corruption Ü footballers failing drugs tests. A fortnight ago Edgar Davids became the latest, and the highest profile player to join the list. The Dutch international and mainstay of the Juventus midfield tested positive for the steroid nandrolone after a sample was taken following a game in early March. Davids insists he is innocent and the authorities are awaiting the result of a second test before deciding on what action to take.

    Already this season four Serie A players (and one from Serie B) have been confirmed as failing tests, including Lazio's Portuguese international defender Fernando Couto, who was suspended 10 days ago, prior to being sentenced by the Italian Olympic Committee on Tuesday. Two players are already serving 16-month bans. There has been much talk among players about dietary supplements and better supervision of the use of prescription medicines, but a more sinister assessment of football's drugs culture came from former Parma coach Nevio Scala. 'It's a nonsense to say nobody is guilty,' he said. 'At the crucial time of the season, when results are decisive and players tired, there are people who are prepared to act incorrectly and administer forbidden substances.'

    A couple of years ago the former Roma and Napoli coach Zdenek Zeman caused outrage with his claim that doping was rife in Italian football. In total, eight players have now failed drugs tests since random screening was introduced, while a further 67 are under investigation by the Turin public prosecutor's office. The response of Italian clubs? To try to raise the level of nandrolone allowed in a player's bloodstream before a test is deemed positive - a move rejected by the Italian football association who insisted on adhering to the limits recommended by Fifa.

    Once again calcio is left looking sleazy. The same could be said for the country. Transparency International, a non-governmental agency, ranks Italy's corruption on a par with the Third World. Silvio Berlusconi, the billionaire opposition leader and likely Prime Minister, is sought by a Spanish court on suspicion of bribery. Football's failure to buck the trend diffuses moral pollution through Serie A. If clubs flout the rules why shouldn't fans? It is a sentiment that threads racism, violence and corruption into a vicious circle.

    Churning beneath the surface of Italian football's problems is a deeper explanation. Alienation. According to the ultras, greed has swept away a golden age when officials, players and fans were united in love of their club, a bond that would last even in dark years of relegation. Satellite television's lucre has turned officials into entrepreneurs and players into mercenaries. Only the fans have stayed true.

    So goes the mythology. The ultras see clubs enriching players and officials while hiking ticket prices. They see clubs negotiating huge sponsorship deals and refusing to subsidise away travel. They see clubs selling iconic players despite furious protests. They see betrayal. Throughout Serie A the theme recurs. Fans are the keepers of the flame, defenders of the faith. It is their duty to safeguard the club's integrity, with violence if necessary.

    The next few weeks will decide who wins the title. Roma have led for most of the season: can they hold their nerve in the face of Juve's impressive late surge? But in many ways it doesn't matter who wins. No amount of passion and skill can cover the fact that this season everybody has lost.

    Back on the Curva Nord, Marco expresses the view of many. 'The league stinks,' he says bitterly. 'You can smell the rot.'


    Prediction Game Champ 2003 & 2005
    Jan 12, 2002
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread Starter #20
    It's a bit old i guess ... Thuram at Parma ?? ;)

    Anyway, this reminds me of the anti-racism campaign in which Serie A players like Del Piero, Negro, Vieri, and Shevchenko were painted black .. and kept sayingthe motto 'NO to racism' .. it was a nice gesture ..

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