Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Calcio - Il Primo Amore

It is only a number, I guess, but still a pretty significant one. No fewer than 300 times have I voiced my opinions on football through these columns. That's quite a lot of hot air - probably enough to burst a couple of fresh holes in the ozone layer.

I thought I would go back to how it all began.

I first fell in love with Italian football before I reached my teenage years. Fiorentina were "in ritiro" in the hillside above the Tuscan village where my family is from and we were there on our annual pilgrimage/holidays from Scotland. Then Giancarlo Antognoni and company strolled into town.

It was as if the Gods had come down from Mount Olympus to walk among us mortals.

The stars of Serie A have always had an element of cinematic glamour about them. They were WAG-ing around before Wayne and Colleen had even been thought of. To a star-struck young Scottish-Italian this was football of a different kind.

The way they conducted themselves on the field of play was different too. Antognoni played "while watching the stars". His took his first touch for granted and kept his head raised looking for the destination of a defence-splitting pass. If there has ever been a more elegant player, he has missed my gaze.

Of course, of course - the fact that we share the same name makes me somewhat biased.

But those days lit a flame inside me which has never gone out to this day. It has flickered, I admit, during the times of crowd violence or match-rigging scandals. But something always manages to re-ignite it before it completely dies away.

Vulcanic presidents, colourful coaches and mercurial talents keep me coming back for more. The intense debates of the Monday morning in the Bar Sport have been rekindled by the arrival of blogs, Twitter and who knows what next?

Opinion is everything in Italy, after all. First you must have one and then you must express it loudly.

It's that world which draws me back time and time again. The land where the constant replays of the "moviola" spark hours of pointless but passionate debate. A nation where you sometimes get the feeling a government could be toppled by a penalty kick conceded or denied. A country that is frustrating and exhilarating in equal measure.

The Artemio Franchi signing the Canzone Viola, the Rossoneri in the Champions League, the Culo di Juve, the "grinta" of Inter - these are a few of my favourite things.

So let's cherish our Cassanate, the pearls of Pirlo, the magic of Jojo, Totti's cucchiaio and all the rest. It may not be perfect but, heck, I for one wouldn't have it any other way.

45 comments:

martinobhoy said...

Congratulations on the 300 old boy and for sparking my interest in Italian football especially the Viola.

I was reminded why I love it so much at the recent game against Lazio. It may have ended up 0-0 but sitting in a t-shirt in October with the Tuscan hills in the background I couldn't think of many better places to be watching football.

ginkers said...

Martino, I'm not sure you should be thanking me - I have probably only added to your heartache and suffering!

However, you are right. There is still something very special about going to an Italian game. Long may that continue.

Forza Viola

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