Thank Fuck for That

Last night was a strange experience. As has often been the case this season, a televised (and therefore easy to find on Sopcast) Chelsea match has clashed with a Roma home game. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem; I’d made my choice by coming out here and getting a season ticket, and goddamn it if I wasn’t going to get value for money. However this time I was very concerned about being dump out of the FA Cup by Southend, which would be the biggest cup shock we’ve had inflicted on us since Millwall knocked us out on penalties in 1995, if you discount the League/Fizzy Pop/Worthless Cup. And who doesn’t? The feeling of foreboding was palpable, and when I got a text message from my cousin saying:

‘One nil Southend. Pathetic’

 

 

all interest in the spectacle before me vanished like our ability to defend set pieces.

While the Sud kept up it’s constant flow of songs, urging the team to add to the rather good first half free kick from Julio Baptista, I was constantly checking my phone, trying to picture the scene at Roots Hall, mentally willing my team to score a goal – any goal – through some sort of Jedi mind trick. In truth it helped that Sampdoria had turned up for the game, which had initially been postponed due to a freak downpour back in October, with a similar attitude to the almost entirely absent Rome public. So while a half empty stadium was baiting Cassano and watching The Beast play like some sort of Drogba/Totti hybrid, My brain was throbbing ‘score a fucking goal you rudderless bunch of fucking cunts! This is all about ME and MY feelings of embarrassment!” in the general direction of Essex. Just before the second half started I got another text that simply said:

1-1 ‘Ballack

 

 

‘Thank fuck for that’, I replied, and at that point I zoned out completetly. ‘Oh wait,’ said my eyes. ‘Baptista has scored a wonder goal, dribbling round two players and curling a splendid finish in the far corner, before running to the Sud to take the applause.’

‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever,’ my brain replied. ‘I’m busy envisaging a game in another country whose outcome I am attempting to change with the power of aggressive thought-rants.’

All I could think about was my phone. I placed my hand in the pocket where I keep it so I could grab it the instant it vibrated. I tapped it, hoping that somehow that would dislodge messages that read ‘2-1 Lampard’, ‘3-1 Anelka’, ‘4-1, referee handballs it in before wheeling away to celebrate’, I squeezed it like a stress ball and there was a permanent cloud around my vision, like I was watching the game in flashback mode. Roma could have had another three more if they’d tried, but it was as if both teams had given me the green light to forget about them altogether. Samp just gave up, while Roma lazily passed the ball about, half-trying to add to their tally. Meanwhile…..

‘FUCKING VIBRATE YOU BASTARD PHONE!’ Just done’t let us lose on penalties again. PLEEEEEEEAAAAASSEE?

It was at this point that I had a moment of clarity: this is why football clubs have us over a barrell. Despite everything that is wrong with football, everything that is fundamentally wrong with my club – the greed, the ticket prices, the ruthless commercialism, the absolute disdain with which the club holds its supporters, the ruthless expansionism into other territories selling brands like a football club is a can of Coke – here I am, in another country, at another teams stadium, with a season ticket I bought for that team in my pocket, and all I can think about it is the horrible feeling in my gut that ‘we’re going to lose this. I just KNOW it. It’s terrible.

The journey back was the same. I was of no use to anyone, my mind slipping in and out of fantasy land. Then as I plonk my phone down on the table I see it has a message:

4-1 second half class

 

 

Thank fuck for that.

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.

dscf07371

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.

It never rains but it pours

My match report for Roma-Samp on Wednesday night: I got wet. Not through any orgasm inducing football or impromtu piss games, just incessant, pounding rain. The players came out, swam around a bit, then after Juan unsuccessfuly tried to pass the ball five yards only for it to plop to a halt two inches from his boot, went back into the dressing room. We got a full five minutes of watery action, which was enough time for me to hear the ‘oo-oo’ sound again, this time directed at everyone’s favourite Eurotrash brat Antonio Cassano. Maybe I misjudged the outburst against Inter after all.

Anyway, it was wet. Have I told you that yet? It was very, very wet indeed. Take a look for yourself.

The picture doesn’t really do it justice; as we got off the tram and started to walk to the ground, what had been a few specks of rain suddenly turned in a torrential downpour. If God was having a piss like I used to think as a seven year old, he’d had a night on the Tenant’s Super, and we were his roadside hedge. It wasn’t the right night to not have a hood or a brolly, nor was great timing for my brand new suede Gazelles, which considerably slowed my pace getting into the ground (mud on suede is like a total no-no, fellow metrosexuals). Suffice to say I got fucking drenched and spent the rest of my time (not filled up with watching a comedy pre-match F1 display on the swimming/running track and the subsequent short-lived farce of a ‘game’) slopping around in with my jeans rolled up past my ankles so they didn’t ruin my trainers. Yes readers, I am a sad cunt.

Not that in the ground was any better. Thanks to a brilliant piece of design that gave the Olimpico a big gap at the back between the wall and the roof, water came gushing in from the back, while the wind pushed it in our faces, meaning that everyone ended up huddled in the middle of the section. This didn’t help the mood at the Olimpico, which was already not a happy one; when the names of the team were being read out, their were whistles and jeers, with only De Rossi and Totti getting unananimous approval. The anger at the team grew when Samp’s players came out in the pissing rain to clap their 500 or so supporters – garnering a round of applause from the Sud – while Roma’s lot stayed put. Now, I can understand why applauding people that have travelled six hours to go to a game that was called off is more important than doing the same for people who can get a bus home, but politically it was a very bad move. Chants of ‘andate a lavorare’ (‘go to work’) filled poured down from the Sud, and as I trudged out with the rain still tipping down a large group of ultras had gather outside the posh stand where the players were to berate them with the same chant. Meanwhile Spelletti has admitted that the players aren’t listening to him anymore and people are starting to look very unhappy, both in stands and on the pitch.

Still, only Juve and Chelsea coming up, so things should pick up.

Eep.

On the plus side, my trainers escaped unscathed.

You get back from a six hour journey from Genoa…

And you get those two shitty results greeting you when you get back. What a load of cunt.

LIverpool man, fucking Liverpool. They’re fucking crap.

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Bring Me the Head of Chelsea’s Marketing Department

As someone who has a season ticket at Chelsea in his name, I still get the occassional promotional email sent to me from the club. Usually these take the form of ticket promotions, or things happening at the ground (player signing sessions and what have you). Every now and then though, a piece of diamond-encrusted corporate balls will drop into your inbox; is this the most poorly timed message ever?

Now I don’t know about you, but quite apart from the cringe-worthy headline, asking people to go quote hunting for mortgages right now might not be the sort of thing you want attached to ‘your brand’ right now, no? Spangles has just taken a 6% hit on the valuation of her (in the process of being sold) house, and she’s one of the lucky ones, so you’ll forgive me for thinking that far from being a charitable, jolly FIVE GRAND GIVEAWAY, this is in fact Britannia’s way of using a football club to try to increase traffic to their website, snatch a few hapless souls into giving them large sums of money and help oil the grubby wheels of a struggling industry in the process. It’s pretty ugly stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree, and I’m not just talking about the image of Mike Riley showing a red card to a large, overdue utility bill.

‘Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.’ You know what? I think we’re quite aware of that already, thanks very much.

Thank Fuck for That

Somehow, despite quite possibly the most disjointed display I have ever seen in my life, AS Roma have won a game away from home! Incredible. Mind you, they were helped by the world’s worst referee and a ludicrous sending off near the end of the first half, when Bordeux’s Henrique was sent for moving his arms around in the box, interpreted by the officiator as an assualt that wouldn’t look out of place in a post Croydon pub punch-up.

However, late into the second half and with Roma still trailing 1-0 in a game they could ill afford to even draw Spalletti sent on this man and things rapidly took a turn for the better:

'The New Italians'

That’s right, The New Italian and righteous brotherman Stefano Okaka Chuka. Now, the three Roma goals may have come from Vucinic and Julio ‘second touch is a tackle’ Baptiste, but to me and the denizens of the Trastevere pub we watched the match in, it was all down to the young chap (sort of). Though the hammered locals were ironically chanting ‘Okaka’ and humming the A-Team theme tune (in honour of his ridiculous Mr-T style mohican haircut), his introduction did actually make a difference; they suddenly started playing football, kept the ball for longer than three seconds and actually offered a threat to a Bordeux defence that had previously only had to deal with Mirko’s futile toiling after long balls that were at the same time hopeful and hopeless.

The goals were crackers too, especially the third, where a cracking cross-field ball was volleyed back across goal by Taddei straight into the onrushing Beast, who didn’t have to worry about actually controlling the ball, instead letting it bounce off his foot into the net. Great news all round then, apart from the fact we now have a incredibly tight group thanks to Chelsea’s non-performance in Romania (plus comedic injuries – Alex’s buttock problems, anyone?), and the realisation that Cluj are actually a pretty good side indeed.

Next up: the horrible Chelsea-Roma double bill. Will the Liquidator and Spangly Princess be able to not violently assault each other with hatchets, hammers, carving knives and spanners? Will Roma take a tanking at the Bridge that rivals their bumming at the hands of Man United? Will Roma pull their fingers out their arses and make sure they qualify alongside us? There will be all this and more folks. Don’t touch that dial.

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.