An Even Longer Day (of Football)

One of the problems of being a football fan is that so much of your heppiness relies on 15 (relatively, even allowing for lower league weirdos xx) handsomely paid men who couldn’t give a flying toss about you or your life deciding whether they can be bothered to do their jobs properly, or whether their boss has any idea how to tell them how to do their jobs, or not getting soundly trounced by a team barely ever in second gear. Especially when you knew that all along that Scolari was a poor choice as manager, and boooooooooooooo it’s all crashing down around our ears.

Anyway, multiplying this feeling by three is a questionable idea, especially when you have days like yesterday: Up at half seven to go on an away trip with Lodigiani to Collona, a little town 45 minutes on the train south from Termini, not far from Ciampino for those of you who have flown into there from the UK, and finishing at half eleven after a rip-roaring Roma-Milan game that also gave me one of the best goals I have ever seen live, courtesy of Brazilian Wonderkid de jour Pato.

The Lodi experience was as ever, amusing and odd, and a bit shambolic. This wasn’t helped by a new and disgusting character who went by the name Borgo. Borgo, for those of you who have seen ID, is a lot like Gumbo, only less simpathetic. He mumbles everything he says, usually spits while doing so, walks in a permanent zig-zag motion while nodding like a smackhead and dresses like he lives in a bin. Which for all I know he does.

Large portions of the whole day were spent shouting at him for:

  • Walking into the path of oncoming cars
  • Falling asleep
  • Spitting on people as he spoke
  • Drinking all the beer
  • Not singing
  • Saying fascisty things
  • Being constantly, incessantly on his fucking phone

He’d make a great sitcom character, only no-one would believe that someone could be so obnoxious, unpleasant and thoroughly useless and still have friends. I assume they keep him around as a sort of group cat, independent enough to buy pizza and drugs and to tell people to fuck off, but not quite well-formed enough a human being to really pay attention to anything anyone says, or care either way. He also stank, and farted like his arse was an exhaust pipe: in short, he was the sort of guy you go out of your way to avoid on away trips, but when there’s seven of you on the train it’s pretty tricky.

Luckily he did his best to avoid doing what he was supposed to be – supporting his team – and slept through most of the game and had his phone glued ot his ear for some reason or another, which seeing as he didn’t say a word to anyone at the other end hard to figure out why. Maybe he was testing to see  if there was enough brain up there to damage with radiation.

For once, the game was actually entertaining too, and although Lodi lost 3-1 and finished the game with nine men, some comical refereeing livening proceedings immeasurably. One of the Lodi guys was sent off for swearing at a player who had just two-footed him from behind, while the assaulter got away with a yellow, Collona had a goal disallowed which looked suspiciously over the line to me and at 3-1 decided that the best punishment for a Lodi player being flattened in the box was an indirect free-kick. On top of this, there was a 20 man brawl which ended in one of our boys being pulled off the pitch by his own keeper in a headlock. Beautiful. There was also a lot of not paying for things, like train travel and match tickets (I can’t believe they charge for this level of football) while waving the Portuguese flag around, and an irate old man who was so incensed at the use of a metal bin as a perch to direct chants from that he tried to kick it out from under him, all of which was pretty funny. And it was a very pretty place as well.

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Not so funny was the fascist guy who turned up on his own with a Palestinian flag (not to express solidarity with the opressed and murdered peoples might I add, but just to show off his fuck-witted anti-semitism), and then sprayed some celtic crosses around the place, doing all of us the world of good. On the train back there was a lot of anger at this, partly because it reflects badly on the group and casts them all as of that political persuasion, which Simone in particular seemed annoyed about, but mostly because they want to keep politics out of the group. Borgo of course thought otherwise, the bell end. 

Simone also told us that he never pays for public transport, taking trains down to Naples and back for a laugh and declaring that ‘Trenitalia is my house’, as well as showing us just how he bunks the metro (the classic move getting of getting in behind someone else who’s put their ticket in – I think it helps he’s almost as a short as the barriers mind you), and then went into one of his classic chats about English football. I zoned out at this point, I was tired and my brain had had enough of trying to decipher the Rome dialect.

So, a brief bit about Chelsea then. I’ve managed to watch a decent amount of our stuff through various channels and I think I have a vague idea of what we’re about, and it’s not looking good. It not  just that United turned us over good and proper without playing all that great, that can happen at Old Trafford, it’s more that we seem to be spluttering and hacking in every position, and that I can’t help but see cracks forming that may never be repaired. Now having known Ray Wilkins when I was a kid, I know that he is in fact a smashing guy, but I’m not convinced he’s a good enough coach, nor do I think that Scolari’s other coaches know how to keep a team fit over the course of a long season. We looked shot to bits after an hour of Sunday’s game and we are still conceding stupid goals from set-pieces, something we hardly ever did under you-know-who. Even worse is that we can’t blame injuries for that; we had Terry and Carvalho in the middle of the back four, and Cole and Boswinga on either side. Add Mikel in front and Cech behind and we should be pretty much inpenetrable, but we’re not, with individual errors and poor organisation making previously frightening defenders look like Gareth Hall. The most damning statistic is that we’ve only won seven out of our last 18 games, which form that won’t win us any trophies, and while that doesn’t bother me a huge amount – a healthy, stable club in the long-term is far more important to me – it’s a shame to see such a talented and commited group of players underperforming so badly. I just hope those who repeatedly slagged off Avram Grant while we took the title race to the last day of the season and the final of the Champions League are happy with what our new media-friendly,  exspansive style is bringing us.

Anyway, after saying pretty much the same thing to my newly-arrived in Rome mate who’d come round to watch the match, we set of for the Olimpico batting a poor zero for two, as I believe the yanks say. You haven’t been following football if you didn’t know that David Beckham was making his debut for Milan on Sunday evening, an event so momentus even the Guardian decided to do a (rubbish) match report with barely a word said about the giallorossi. So here goes nothing. Totti was out, so they decided to not persue with the three-man triangle up front, and instead reverted back to the five man midfield that caused them so many problems at the start of the season, with Vucinic up front on his own, and Baptista providing support of sorts from an attacking midfield position. Presumbaly this was to keep the pressure up on an ancient Milan midfield, but instead it kept their even older back four relatively free of trouble, and consequently the pinged back and forth between the sides, although Milan looked marginally more dangerous. Pato in particular looks like a real player, and in the second half he proved it by scoring two goals, the second of which was just insanely good and sent their huge travelling support absolutely mental (highlights below – just before the minute mark).

That put them 2-1 up within the space of 15 minutes in the second half after going in at the break behind to a Vucinic goal, and after that it looked like they might run away with it, Pato and Kaka were causing all sorts of problems down the left, and Roma were struggling to keep hold of the ball. Then Vucinic scored, completely out of the blue, and for the last 20 minutes it was pretty much all Roma; Mirko himself could have had a hat-trick if a flashed cross hadn’t hit his heel while he wasn’t looking. All in all it was a damn exciting game of football, and perked me up no end. It was also good to see a big crowd at the Olimpico; when it gets going it’s a pretty special place.

So, three games, two losses (both spankings) and one draw. As Scolari always says in his press conferences; this is football.

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