Roma 2 Atalanta 0

Since I last spoke to you dear readers, Roman football has been turned on its head; Lazio are top of the league, smashing goals in left, right and centre thanks to new signing the Zarate Kid, while Roma are wallowing around in mid-table after taking another bashing away from home, this time at Genoa. It wasn’t supposed to be like this at all you know. I want goals and glory, not limp-wristed surrender. Don’t these fucks realise I am a demanding Chelsea fan and want instant success, or so help me God I’ll call up 6-0-6 and complain that the ‘gaffer’s lost the dressing room, guv’? Clearly not.

So it was to my and Spangles’ delight that they bounced back with a comfortable win against Atalanta. However the biggest news of the day wasn’t the performance of newly fit Phillipe Mexes, or Mirko Vucinic’s vurtuoso display, oh no; I managed to wangle my way into the central section of the Sud, meaning that by fluttering my manly eyelashes and saying that my poor little English girlfriend was in there and needed be to look after I wasn’t stuck on the fringes of the crowd-based fun. Not that the guy on the gate believed a single word I was saying, but he let in two others just as I was asking him, so he had no choice but to wave me through.

It was a bit of a shame then, that the Sud was pretty flat for most of the game, a situation not helped by the small crowd (apart from our end everywhere was half empty), and the lack of away fans, who were of course banned from travelling. Hardly suprising really, considering that Atalanta are like the Millwall of Italy; from an industrial haertland with strong working class support, who aren’t big in number but contain a high ratio of baseball bat weilding nutters:fan.

Despite the slightly disappointing atmosphere, I managed to get a better view of what was going on and at least a little bit of a sing song. Pleasingly I am also started to get the hang of a few of the chants, and one of my favourites usually gets sung right at the beginning of the game after The Fedayn Ultras (who very much appear to be the dominant group in the Sud in terms of starting songs – coincidentally also the only non-right wing one) do their own song. First there is a big woooooooaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh that the whole end do, before lauching into:

Ovunque tu sarai (Everywhere you will be)

Non ti lascerò mai (I will never leave you)

AS Roma dai (AS Roma go)

Vinci per noi (Win for us)

(repeat first four lines)

Battiamo le mani (We raise our hands)

Noi da veri Romani (We are true Romans)

Battiamo le mani

AS Roma OLE LA LA LA LA!!

Which is toss lyrically, but it has a catchy tune and cool hand clappy bits, as well as a good ‘lalala’, which is always a plus in a football song. As you can see here:

Two first half goals were enough to seperate the two sides, with Chelsea reject Christian Pannuci opening the scoring with a deflected strike, and is bizarrely Roma’s top goalscorer so far this season with three. Montenegrian marksman Mirko Vucinic added the second and decisive goal with five minutes left in the first period, ensuring that the giallorosso faithful went into half time happier than their invisible Bergamese counterparts. Pannuci’s goal gave us a chance to sing a song of which I am a big fan, particularly as player chants are usually either rubbish or conspicuous by their absence in Italian football.

Noi vogliamo undici Panucci,

Undici, undici, undici Panucci!

It’s a really satisfying little chant in so many ways, with heavy ‘ooon’ and ‘chi’ sounds bouncing off your tongue and down the stands towards the pitch. I have, I must confess, been known to jump around the flat bellowing it out at the top of my voice.

The second half came and went without much in the way of incident, apart from a young local boy being brought on for Vucinic with about 20 minutes to. As well as being Roman, strong, fast, good at holding the ball up and (I apologise for the Hansen-esque list of adjectives) possessing good feet for a big lad, he’s also something most Romans aren’t: Black. Born to Nigerian parents in Castiglion del Lago in the province of Perugia, Stefano Okaka Chuka was like anyone born to immigrant parents in Italy, unable to claim the Italian nationality as his own until his 18th birthday. Considering that this a country that chucks out citizenships like confetti to just about anyone with Italian ancestry (like Spangles, who nearest Italian relative is her Grandma) this seems pretty, well, racist. The idea that being born in a country isn’t enough to giveyou it’s nationality is absurd, and stopped a talented young player from representing Italy at all until under-19 level. The same thing happened to Inter’s Mario Balotelli, another one who was born to Nigerian parents, who left him in Italy and promptly fucked off somewhere else. Balotelli himself has been pretty vocal about how ridiculous this is, using his profile as one of the best up and coming young players in the country to raise awareness of an issue that few care about. The idea that a nationality is intertwined with ethnicity is a something that no doubt the fascists waving their tricolori down the front of the Sud are very keen on, and play into all sorts of existing internal and external prejudices. A black man (or any other ‘impure’ peoples born in Italy for that matter, including some Southerners) has to choose to be an Italian – it’s not an innate quality. And it’s a pretty fucking shit definition, if you don’t mind me saying.

Anyway he got a good reception from the crowd and played well, and but for the linesman putting up his flag everytime he went through on goal (sparking a great song to the tune of The Red Flag about sticking the bandierina – or little flag – up his arse) would have shown us whether he can add the finishing touch to Roma’s flowing moves. Maybe his stereotypically large member kept poking out past the backline or something, or maybe the lino was, as the old song goes, ‘a cunt’. Who knows?

All in all Sunday was pretty positive, the team played some very good football, new siging Menez looks very tidy indeed and players are coming back from injury. Slowly but surely things are taking shape, and hopefully they’ll beat Bordeux tomorrow so Chelsea don’t have a chance to knock them out. Do you hear me football Gods?

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Italian TV: Tacky Vision

Picture the scene: a chiselled hard-bodied specimen of a man takes the stage. The lights are low, enhancing his high cheekbones and pearly white pearly whites, while his rippling shimmering torso is peeking through his skin tight, open to the belly button shirt. The low throb of a funky house record rumbles underneath, while our hero is crouched in his pose like a well-groomed funk panther. Before you know it the lights have gone strobe on your ass, six girls in boots and skin tight PVC shorts have bounded onto the stage legs-a-kicking, while the main man himself leaps into the air and gets his freak on – never before have the studio audience seen a pair of leather trousers and a haircut work a crowd like this, and they’re loving it, clapping along to the plodding, pedestrian beat of a tune that is the signature sound of the suburban All Bar One. They bring their perfomance to a (teenage fumble in the back of a Ford Orion) climax, grinning and panting heavily into the camera, taking every second of the barely-deserved applause, before the floor manager cuts back to Camera One and Jeff Stelling says; ‘thanks guys, now over to Oakwell, where Chris Kamara has news of a dramatic twist in Barnsley’s favour!’

Thankfully you in the UK don’t have watch your glorified vidiprinter filtered through light entertainment toss, but that’s not the same over here, oh no. Every Sunday Quelli Che il Calcio brings in the socres as and when they happen, but because it focusses solely on Serie A (the other leagues play on Saturday), they have some serious time to fill, hence yer previously mentioned dancing queen. Think Soccer Saturday mixed with Britain’s Got Talent and you’ll have an idea of just how horrid it is. Half the time the presenter Simona Ventura was bigging up her own stint on L’Isola Dei Famosi, the Italian equivalent of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! A show that upon watching proved to be  just as tacky and pointless as the British version. Although at least one of the stars is Vladimir Luksuria, the world’s first transgender MP, which is a damn sight cooler than Joe Pasquale and Gemma Atkinson. Miss Luksaria by the way, is the least convincing woman I think I’ve ever seen, nothing like those confusing trannies you used to see on Ricky Lake, or if you were really desperate for a she-male fix, Maury Povich.

But I digress. What is interesting about football shows over here is the amount of airtime women have on them, and I don’t mean by adding a photogenic face to a smooth link between highlights packages. Women are often either hosting the shows, providing analysis, interviewing players other sorts of terrifying freedoms that in Blighty would surely result in the very fabric of society having a flowery girly pattern sown onto it. Which seeing as Italian society is incredibly sexist in ways that you wouldn’t even imagine (Spangles once spoke to a woman who upon returning from London was racked with insecurity about her looks because men didn’t openly sex pest her in the street – seriously) is a trifle odd. You see it in the stadiums as well; there are loads of young women in the Sud, who know all the songs and go just as crazy (and swear just as much) as their male counterparts. Not once have I seen lechy behaviour there either, despite the fact quite a few of them are particularly diverting.

I don’t have a conclusion, other than something vague about the match being a release from the chains of being a worker drone or housewife and therefore melting the impose gender barriers that confine and oppress us all, but such cod-sociological piss water will not infect my personal space. Instead, take a look at this video of the show from Sunday just gone, where British pop mediocrity Estelle bashes out a little number.

I mean, what the fuck?

Lego Wasn’t this Good When I was Growing Up

Sometimes the creativity of others really knocks you back. When I was a kid Lego was a vaguely pointless tyo that involved you building a truck – and then looking at it. As presents go, it wasn’t exactly up there with my Ghostbusters HQ, which came complete with a pot of foul smelly gunk that was supposed to be ectoplasm from their slipperly apiritionary buddy slimer. Suffice to say my discovery of the sexual practice of bukkake put all that into a bit of perspective. Now I don’t know if you all have checked out Brick Shelf, but if you’re a bit of a saddo liek me then you might want to. Here’s a couple of my own personal favourites, just for you.

First up, it’s everyone’s favourite deranged despot, Adolf Hitler. How you say, blackly comic?

Next up, it’s Vladimir Lenin, looking for all the world like a character from a Soviet Thomas the Tank Engine. ‘No,’ said the Communist Controller. ‘The Revolution doesn’t come until until October’. Hohohoho.

But my all-time favourite lego must be this wheelbound playa;

I don’t think he needs any introduction, does he? I can almost hear his digitised voice telling me that I am… a… very…. bad… maaaan. Yeah, so I’m burning in hell, whatever.

Not a Cunning Linguist

Today has been a fairly typical day for me so far; get up, have breakfast, get on with looking for work, proofreading, studying Italian yada yada yada. But every now and again I have an adventure to somewhere new, somewhere magical, or just somewhere that will sell me stamps. Today’s trip was the local post office, which fulfills the third criteria if nothing else. I’d popped out to buy some milk and chocolate wafer biscuits for the over-worked Spangles and had been instructed to find somewhere that would sell stamps for post that is being sent to England. They have a bit of a weird system in Italy in that you can buy all sorts of things at your local tabbacheria, which is usually a slighty bizarre combination of a coffee shop/snack bar/place to buy fags. However, the jolly and rotund stereotype behind the counter informed me that no stamps were sold there, but that the post office was only around the corner. With a little spring in my step I sauntered off into the Rome sunshine, happy with the way I communicated with the locals and feeling a bit more like I was at home here. That optimism was soon to be chopped down like a tree in the Amazon; quickly, quietly and by a leather-faced foreigner.

Italian post offices are just as depressing, boring and packed full of people at all times of the day as their UK counterparts; you could see people lining every wall in the building waiting to pay their utilities and post packages to relatives down south or abroad, staring blankly into space in the way only those in the icy, sky blue grip of the truly mundane can. Luckily for me the queue for the post section was pretty short and I popped up at the counter after a couple of minutes. ‘Posso comprare un francobollo per l’inghilterra?’ I asked. To which Leather Face responded ‘Il blah a blah sul blah di blah. Questo blahblahblahblahblah nella blah fila.’ A familiar sense of dejection washed over my entire body; I knew that I wasn’t going to get stamps here, instead I was going to get a less-than-cheerful reminder that I am utterly incapable of completing the most basic of transactions. It’s a shit feeling, let me tell you, one that’s impossible to grasp unless you’ve experienced it. Feeling like a total outsider, looking at the sympathy on the faces of people who are trying to help but can’t, then skulking off.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had problems communicating with people since I’ve moved over here; buying the laptop that I’m typing this post on was a particularly painful process, and one that cost me €100 more than it should have done, but it’s humiliating to explain to someone that you literally don’t understand a single word that comes out of their mouth and that despite trying to learn the language for the best part of a year you’re still no closer to cracking it, especially when near enough everyone you meet has at least some grasp of English (although it would be handy if they worked in post offices and consumer electronics stores). This feeling will often manifest itself externally by blaming Italy and Italians; usually by complaining that they speak too fast, or that their language is shit and makes no sense – and by the way how dare they not speak exactly as it is written in textbooks – but really there’s only person to blame, and that’s a realisation that is pretty hard to take well.

I’m off to the post office up by Termini now, they deal with tourists posting things all the time, so I suppose I’ll make out I am one. At least that way I won’t get the pitying looks.

Back to the Drawing Board (Yes it’s a lame pun – sue me)

It was an absolutely baking hot day yesterday. One of those days where you wake up sticky on sheets lightly peppered with with persperation. Like every August day in Rome, in fact. Frankly I would have forgiven myself for not moving a single muscle until at least about four in the afternoon, but when there’s football to be watching, you have to put all such thoughts behind you and step into the kitchen, stand the heat and make yourself a fat old plate of scrambled eggs. If only the Roma players had had the same kind of gumption and mental fortitude as I do, yesterday might have turned out oh so different.

As omens go, the metro breaking down at San Giovanni was not a good one. We had planned on getting up there early and having something to drink, but instead were in all sorts of public transport related panic, a situation not helped by the fact that Spangles wanted to get in the ground half and hour before kick-off, something I haven’t done at any football match since about 1996, when 20 of would queue outside the gates for the West Stand Benches to get the spot at the back and on the halfway line. Those were the days. By all accounts a lot of the Ultras groups do that at the Olimpico as well, giving them time to sort out flags, organise their banners and get their spot (although in fairness you’d have to be a wee bit silly to not know where their usual place is, let alone stand in it). We ended up getting there about 40 minutes before kick off, with enough time to share a large bottle of beer and get really rather excited indeed. Excited enough to get completely confused by what entrance to use, to find where the staircase I needed was, and to find the seat I was supposed to be sitting in. It turned out to be this one in the west section of the Sud;

Not great, as you can clearly see from the non-view. Luckily for me there were plenty of spaces about; either because they didn’t sell out their season tickets in this section, those fans were still on holiday, or people smarter (and crucially there earlier) than me just sat in any old seat they fancied further up the stand. The most disappointing thing about where I am though isn’t the view, but that bar two ultras groups further up the section everyone sits down, and that on yesterday’s form they don’t seem to join in with most of the songs that they sing in the central section. In fact the whole atmosphere was strangely flat yesterday, not helped by the fact that there were only about 500 Napoli fans in the away end. Despite this Roma played pretty well in the first half and more than deserved their 1-0 lead, from what looked in my seat like an Aquilani volley, but you can’t quote me on that. Of the new signings, John Agent Riise was solid at left back and Julio Baptiste seemed to do all right for someone who doesn’t possess a first touch.

But as usual with Italian football, the most interesting stuff was going on off the pitch. During half time there was commotion in the away end and all of a sudden thousands of Napoli fans poured through the gates to their section, to a cacophony of boos, jeers and chants of ‘Vesuvius, wash them with fire’, all topped off with a rousing rendition of ‘Oddio Napoli’ (I hate Napoli). Anyone who is familiar with Man United’s ‘Viva Ronaldo’ song will know the tune, because that’s where they nicked it from.

The banners you can just about see in the distance read ‘157 days in cells’ and ‘five years of bans’, while the little white flags say ‘spies’, an insult referring to one of Roma’s main faces, who is accused of grassing up all of Napoli’s top boys/lads/chaps/twats to the police after an unseemly tussle between the two sets of fans some time back. In repsonse the Sud displayed a series of banners, one of which read ‘Napoli Ultras have no honour and no evidence… who accuse without proof’. Napoli fans shouldn’t be so hard on their Roma counterparts however, they are perfectly capable of being banned from games by their actions alone, with yesterday being a perfect example. At around half past nine in the morning 1500 of their supporters including leading ultras hi-jacked a train at Napoli’s main station that was supposed to be going to Turin and demanded that it be redirected to the capital so they could go to the game. Now, reports form Naples have suggested that this was because of an insufficiency of trains being laid on, that they were all ticket holding fans and that the capi ultras co-operated with the police to make sure that there was a minimum amount of trouble. However, there were also reports that they pulled everyone who wasn’t going to Rome off the train, including people who were going to hospitals up north, and when they showed up at Termini some hours later they started lobbing explosives around at bemused and probably terrified tourists. They then were escorted to the Olimpico, being pretty objectionable along the way.

Napoli arriving at Termini. A pleasant bunch.

Napoli arriving at Termini. A pleasant bunch.

However when they got into the ground they were very impressive, visually and sonically. It’s no surprise that their team perked up several notches backed by that sort of support and for the first 25 minutes of the second half it was pretty much all Napoli, despite the fact they were down to ten men 54 minutes in, after Santacroce received his marching orders for a wild lunge that gave the referee no option but to show him his second yellow card of the day and send him for an early bath. However the Neapolitans soon levelled the scores when Hamsik slotted home a rebound from a towering header that came off the woodwork, right into his path. He won’t get an easier chance this season, and it proved that sometimes it really is harder to play against ten men. That was enough to wake Roma from their post-half-time slumber, and they proceded to carve out chance after chance, most notably one from new signing Menez, which he will no doubt have nightmares about. The game ended 1-1, a result that will satisfy Napoli more than Roma, and puts an early dent in giallorossi title ambitions. You certainly can’t afford to drop points like that in this league Jeff.

So an irritating start to my Roma supporting career, eerily reminiscent of late 90’s Chelsea, complete with the sort of crowd grumbling and impotent, stifled chants that characterise a disappointed, oudone group of supporters. Still, at least we beat Tottenham as usual, eh? Oh.