Thursday, January 18, 2007

Series A.....ggravating

I’m a big fan of Italian Series A football. I really am. I love the passion of the fans and the knowledge and dedication of everyone you meet in Italy for their favorite clubs. I am personally a huge fan of Fiorentina and I also like Siena very much. Luca Toni, the great Fiorentina striker, is one of my favorite players in the world, and I also always go out of my way to watch Yoann Gourcuff, who is quickly becoming one of favorites.

I also don’t have much patience for the standard complaints about Series A. The people who call it “boring” or “defensive” or “too low scoring” typically are revealing nothing more than the fact that they don’t watch Italian football and don’t know what they are talking about. This season Series A continues to be one of the highest-scoring leagues in the world, and the passing and attacking football couldn’t be any more attractive.

However, Italian football has to get its act together, or soon it will lose even its most dedicated followers. This week the President of Inter and the Vice-president of Milan were called into questioning for cooking the books; remarkably, this comes on the heels of the most damaging football corruption case in the history of the sport, which happened just this summer. It’s as if no one learned anything.

Here in the United States, our sports scandals typically involve steroids or something. There is no doubt that steroids are bad news, but in Italy, over the past year, we’ve seen clear and convincing evidence that certain favored teams were essentially bribing refs to have games decided in their favor. This, of course, shakes the sport to the very core and rightfully leads fans to ask why they should pay for a product if the game is going to be decided in advance. In the US, if such a sports scandal happened, it would surely be the biggest and most talked-about sports problem in the history of the country. In Italy, it seems as if it was nothing more than business as usual.

The punishments handed out in this summer’s scandal were scandals in themselves; it’s the one area where I have trouble defending Italian football. The fact that everyone got off so lightly almost ensures that people will do it again. If the Italian authorities have any sense at all, they will throw the book at Inter and Milan if they are guilty of cooking the books. Otherwise, people like me might just start agreeing with our friends that there is just something wrong with Italian football.

One other quick note today: Real was bounced, a little while ago, from the Kings Cup. Good job, everyone. Perhaps if the team president wasn’t publicly embarrassing the players, followed by the president immediately apologizing to the players, following the team coach giving rude and obscene gestures to the home fans, the team would be a little more stable. At least as a Real fan I can take with me that Robinho and Gago played well. Still, the team was terrible today in dead-ball situations. It’s too bad the team doesn’t have anyone who is good at the dead ball. You know, someone who is world-renowned for scoring from free kicks. Like maybe even someone who was sitting in the stands watching the game? Ah, well.

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