Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ragazzi, non mollare!

It sounds better when 40,000 sing it, as we'll hear on Thursday...

And for Martino!

Garrisca al vento il labaro viola,
sui campi della sfida e del valore
una speranza viva ci consola
abbiamo undici atleti ed un solo cuore!

Rit.: O Fiorentina, di ogni squadra ti vogliam regina
O Fiorentina, combatti ovunque ardita e con valor
nell'ora di sconforto o di vittoria
ricorda che del calcio hai tu la storia!

Maglia viola lotta con vigore
per esser di Firenze vanto e gloria
sul tuo vessillo scrivi Forza e Cuore
e nostra sarà sempre la vittoria!

Rit.: O Fiorentina (...)

Forza Fiorentina!
Alé Alé Viola!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sogno un cielo VIOLA!

We Viola men know that our dates with destiny are few and far between. While others dine regularly at the elite European footballing table, we are content with more humble fare. We are more "pasta e fagioli" than "spaghetti al tartufo".

But every so often a game comes along which invites us in to more fancy surroundings or, on this occasion, Ibrox. These are the matches that really get the stomach churning - but they are also games to savour.

It was nearly a decade ago that we were dishing out defeats to Arsenal and Manchester United (whatever happened to that pair of duds, eh?). It was closer to 20 years ago that we reached this stage of the UEFA Cup competition. Dragged there by little Robertino Baggio on the eve of Italia '90 we made the final. In the end, over two legs, we lost to another Italian team who play in black and white and answer to the nickname, The Hunchbacks.

Look back further and you will see that Rangers were the opponents on the only occasion Fiorentina won a European trophy - the Cup Winners Cup in 1961. Inspired by Kurt Hamrin they won the two-legged affair 4-1 on aggregate. It crowned a golden age for the Viola who had won the Scudetto in 1956 and then went on to finish second for several seasons in a row.

In my lifetime, however, the great Euro moments have been few. The Divin Codino skating across the icy pitch to beat Dynamo Kiev, Batigol silencing the Nou Camp and Old Trafford and, now, the possibility of completing Mission Ibrox and getting to Manchester for the UEFA Cup final.

I will settle down with my old pal Martino and a good bottle of Tuscan red and pray for victory. Then we could dream of another sumptuous footballing treat - possibly with Luca Toni as guest of honour.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Countdown to Apocalypse

I have been building myself up into a bit of a state about one particular game recently. The UEFA Cup semi-final, of course. Fiorentina against Rangers.

It is a re-run of the Cup Winners Cup final of about 47 years ago - which my dad was lucky enough to attend (depends on your definition of luck). The Viola won that one and here is hoping that they can repeat it this time.

I have just read an interesting interview with Celtic misfit Massimo Donati giving his view of what Fiorentina can expect. He says expect the Rangers to play an ultra-cautious 4-5-1 formation and try to hit on the break. How times have changed!

I believe the boys in purple have the technique and ability to grab at least one goal at Ibrox. That would make the return job in Florence a lot easier. I hope they can reach the final and meet old Luca Toni and Bayern Munich there. What a pleasure that would be...

Monday, April 07, 2008

Azzurri aces

Given that I have just posted my favourite three Viola players of all time, I thought I would follow up with my favourite three Azzurri from my era (circa 1980 to present day). Of course, I would probably have slotted two of my previous selection in here too but I will leave Roby Baggio and Giancarlo Antognoni to one side.

1) Claudio Gentile - I could have gone for the elegance and poise of Gaetano Scirea or Franco Baresi but why not go for old shirt-ripper himself. He was everything that the world despised about Italian football but he hit his peak for the 1982 World Cup. His man-marking skills put paid to Zico, Diego Maradona and Karl Heinz Rummenigge in the space of that competition. It wasn't pretty but, hell, it was effective.

2) Paolo Maldini - A no brainer, really, but he has been the most influential player in the Italian game for the last 20 years or so. As soon as he emerged as a teenager you knew you were watching something special. His driving runs from full-back were a joy to watch and his strength in defence second to none. Even now, as he approaches 40, he still shows the young boys a thing or two.

3) Andrea Pirlo - I was tempted to go for Luca Toni but if there is one Italy player I enjoy watching at present it is the Milan man. The way he runs a game from midfield is outstanding. He was a great player as an Under 21 but there was a danger he was going to lose his way. God bless Carlo Ancelotti for creating that deep midfield role for him. A model of poise, balance and grace.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The father, the son and the Batigol

This, believe it or not, is my 200th post on this site. So I wanted to make it a special one or, at least, a bit unusual. I have decided to pay tribute to my three favourite all-time Fiorentina players.

1) Giancarlo Antognoni - The undisputed King of Firenze I watched him as a little boy in pre-season training in the Tuscan hills. He was the epitome of elegance and - it seemed to me - never needed to look at his feet to know where the ball was. For those of you too young to remember, think Andrea Pirlo but a bit taller and more fragile.

He was the classic playmaker in a time before every football had to have a six-pack, thunder-thighs and a lung capacity the size of a small family saloon. He won next to nothing with the Viola but a World Cup with Italy. And he shares my name, what more could you ask?

2) Robert Baggio - Even though he went on to find fame and fortune with Juve, Inter, Milan and others we always like to think he left his heart in Florence. That was certainly the case in his first season with the Bianconeri when he declined to take a penalty against his previous employers. What a man!

He looked so small and defenceless out on the pitch and yet ghosted away from opponents as if they were not there. His balance was outstanding and coolness in front of goal impeccable. Even in his late 30s with Brescia he was still one of the best in Serie A. Ci manchi tanto Robi!

3) Gabriel Omar Batistuta - A true force of nature and possibly the greatest striker of his generation. He had power, pace and a the kind of never-say-die attitude which is not exactly typical of Italian football.

I think I have seen him score in every possible manner but if he had a trade mark it was probably this. The long ball over the top dropped in front of him, he barged past a couple of defenders and thumped the ball with such venom that even if the keeper got close he had no chance of keeping it out of his goal. "Fiorentina have scored, it's that man Batistuta again!"

You'll notice all this avoids mentioning Roma v Man Utd last night.