The World Cup is here – time for a cultural exchange

The World Cup is very nearly upon us, and if it isn’t one of the great opportunities for cultural exchange then I don’t know what is, so why not learn to coat off the officials, FIFA and above all, other nations with a string of obscenities a Livorno docker would be proud of? As someone who has spent two seasons in the Curva Sud I feel I am qualified to help any of you who end up outside an ice cream van on Wandsworth Common, or God forbid, watching Italy play in an Epsom church hall, dish out a volley of verbal abuse in Roman-style Italian. After all, there’s nothing more satisfying than swearing well in another language, so, like an oily Mediterranean footballer, let’s dive in!

The first thing to remember is, like in any other conservative society freezing in the shadow of Uncle Benny’s Death Star Cult, blasphemy is the most offensive form of swearing, and both big and clever. Therefore, you want to do lots of it, especially if surrounded by southerners, who will be so outraged they might set their donkeys on you. Remember, you’re striking out against an oppressive organisation that has fucked their whole culture up, whether they know it or not, so be sure to remind them that you’re basically trying to save them from their medieval savagery.

So, alongside your classic Italian insults/epithets, like:

  • Stronzo – twat
  • vaffanculo – fuck off, or go fuck yourself
  • vattene – go away, get lost, piss off, fuck off
  • Bastardo – work it out for yourself
  • Buffone – Buffoon
  • Pezzo di merda – Piece of shit

Mortacci tua (Roman only) – a curse on your dead ancestors, basically, but normally used like you would ‘fuck off’, or ‘fuck (or even ‘bollocks to’, for the Brits and Irish)him/her/them/you’

We also have any combination of Dio (God), Madonna (The Virgin Mary) and Gesù (Jesus)with an animal, specifically ‘cane’ (dog) or the pig-based ‘porco’/’maiale’. Like the following:

  • Porco Dio
  • Porca Madonna
  • Dio Cane (very popular in the Veneto, pronounced Dio can’)
  • Gesù maiale
  • Dio merda
  • Mannaggia (damn) a Dio

Bear in mind that ‘maiale’ almost always comes after the religious figure, but don’t be afraid to mix it up; the more outrageous the slur on the Creator’s good name, the better – we don’t want anyone to forget just how much of a cunt he is now, do we? Some of the hits of the last year from me and my aggressively, almost viciously anti-religion friend include:

  • Dio pedofilo
  • Dio caccola (snot)
  • dio emorroide (hemorrhoid)
  • dio diarrea (diarrhea)
  • mannaggia ai sandali di cristo (damn Jesus’ sandals)
  • porco il vaticano
  • mannaggia a tutti i santi del calendario (damn all the saints in the calander)
  • viva il colosseo (in honour of the Romans’ heroic slaying of Christians, of course)
  • Dio pissing
  • Madonna double entry
  • Dio Canio (an anti-God, anti-Lazio double whammy pun right there for you chaps)
  • Gesù scat
  • Dio dildo

Yes, you can mix up Anglo porn words, as they’re very rarely translated; ‘squirting’ becomes ‘lo squiiirrting’, for instance. Now, some basic football terms:

  • Fuorigioco – offside
  • Calcio di punizione – free-kick
  • Rigore – penalty
  • Fallo – foul
  • Fallo di mano – handball
  • Arbitro – referee
  • Pallone – ball
  • Porta – the goal
  • Ocassione – goal scoring chance, which you don’t miss, you eat (mangiare, magnare in Roman)
  • Il Fair Play – fair play, but you’ll only ever hear this on highlights shows from a sniggering, confused TV host; this is Italy, after all

These are the only ones you’ll need, as you’ll spend most of your time appealing for or against various decisions/non decisions, waving your hands around comically. That’s when you’re not disparaging another country’s cuisine, or employing casual racist abuse, in any case.

Right, now you have the epithets, blasphemy and the limited football vocabulary you need. Now for some quick general Italian pointers:

Essere – to be

  • io sono – I am
  • tu sei – you’re
  • lui/lei – he/she is
  • noi siamo – we’re
  • voi siete – you (plural) are
  • loro sono – They’re

Avere – to have

  • io ho – I have
  • tu hai – you have/you’ve/you’ve got
  • lui/lei ha – he/she has
  • noi abbiamo – we have
  • voi avete – you (plural) have
  • loro hanno – they have
  • Un/uno/una – a
  • Il (Er in Roman)/i/lo/gli(je in Roman)/la le – the
  • Ma – but
  • Cazzo – dick, but usually used as we use fuck
  • Che cazzo – What the fuck
  • Dai (daje in Roman) – come on, used exactly as we do in English
  • Ma dai/daje – Come off it

Right, now you have the tools to be as offensive as you like in Italian, so strap on your oversized shades, ripped spangly jeans, tight pink t-shirt and shit gold trainers, and give it some welly! I’ll start you off , but don’t forget to insert as much blasphemy as you possibly can. Best entry gets one of them special under-the-chin gesture that no-one does outside of American mafia films.

(Note for Italian speakers/readers: bonus points for correct usage of Roman style usage of ‘stare’ – che cazzo stai a fa’, etc)

  • Arbitrooo! vaffanculo porco dio, sei un pezzo di merda! MORTACCI TUA! – I respectfully but wholeheartedly disagree with your decisions, referee. God is a cunt, incidentally, and I hope your ancestors rot in hell.
  • Se semo magnati troppi gol, cristo cagnaccio! – We really have missed rather a lot of chances, haven’t we Franco? By the way, I heard that Jesus is a mangy mutt.
  • Mannaggia a Dio, arbitro sei uno stronzo, stai arbitrando solo per loro! Gesù felching – For fuck’s sake, our player has hit the deck like a sack of shit despite not being touched; where’s our free-kick? Jesus must like sucking his own jizz out of Mary Magdeline’s arsehole, after all.

Get to it, people.

Azionariato Popolare AS Roma (Part 3)

OK, so here is another section of quotes that I’ve translated from Walter Campanile’s various interviews, this time from the press conference itself. Again it must be said that if any sense at all is lost from the translation then sorry, but there is no malicious intent in any linguistic fuck ups I make. And in any case, this is mainly for my benefit, so screw you. If you want to get hot off the press Italian news then learn the bloody language yourself. Below is a more up-to-date vision of what they feel the organisation should be about, with the original Italian here, for those of you who wouldn’t mind helping me out a bit. Meanwhile, if you’re at all interested in the structure of the APASR then why not take a look at the informative slides from the conference?

In what concrete way do you want to contribute to the growth of Roma and how does the current owner feel about that?
Mario Sacchi of Envet: The objective of the association is to assist and support the club. It’s evident that we will have to invest in the club, as a minority, obviously.

Is there a representative of the club here? Was one invited? Was the project presented to the club?
(There are a couple of sentences here that I literally cannot make head nor tail of: how depressing – Ed). In Europe we have clubs that were born as sporting clubs in which the member is a ‘socio’ (a member in the true sense of the word – Ed) and they developed on this model. At Hamburg for example, they didn’t need an azionariato, but the association ‘Friends of Hamburg’ nourishes the fan base, helps in the life of the club and of the supporters, and it also brings together thousands of members. Arsenal isn’t in the hands of their fans, but a group has a minority interest that doesn’t change the life of Arsenal, but it gives consent to the participation from and the involvement of those who care about the club. Roma is undoubtedly the object of this project.

Walter Campanile: We invited everyone here today, representatives of Roma and of the institutions. Their non presence doesn’t bother me because as yet we haven’t done anything. I’m sure that the work that we do will eventually be appreciated. Already, with regards to the number of members, we have overtaken Arsenal. This, we still repeat, is only a point of departure. We only want to participate and contribute to the management of the club. To let us help Roma, only that. Like Ranieri’s Roma, we also have to work off the pitch one step at a time. A note to the fans: all fans demand maximum effort from their players, so we mustn’t hold back when there is the opportunity to do something concrete.

How come there are no representatives from Roma here?
There are some (It’s clear who they are; they didn’t make themselves known at the time – Ed). We  have already opened the channels of dialogue and have invited everyone. I’m available to go anywhere to talk about our project.

Is Angelini one of your members? (Note: you might remember from my first post on this subject that pharmaceutical magnate Francesco  Angelini has been wildly rumoured to be interested in buying the club. This has caused many to think that the APASR was a front for various high-profile people to buy it from the Sensis, of whom more later)
Walter Campanile: No.

Will the money collected from members go to the club’s transfer market budget?
By law the money cannot go in the pockets of our associates. Just to be clear there will be specific body that will decide how the money is spent, and it will be possible to verify that through the balance sheet. If come the second year you become disillusioned you will be able to leave and not have to pay the money again. Transparency is guaranteed.

As we saw in the previous post, the group want to contribute financially to the club, with a minority say in what happens, and with the ain – in the short-term at least – of being little more than a community hub for fans. There appears to be a lot of talk about socios, but the comparison with those clubs is moot, as they are owned by their own communities and critically, they elect the people who run the club. This isn’t to say what happens at these clubs is perfect; Lord knows you only have to put in the occasional cursory glance at Sid Lowe’s Spanish football articles to know that the political machinations at Real Madrid in particular can get pretty ugly, frankly I’d be hoping that whatever does become of this project stays as far away from the ugliness that is Real Madrid as possible.

What happens to any money invested however, is another discussion altogether. Last week Roma’s owner Rosella Sensi had a meeting with Italian bank Unicredit regarding Italpetroli’s €400million plus debt, of which €300million is owed to them. Let’s just say that the meeting didn’t go well. ‘While Roma are flying on the pitch and dreaming of the Scudetto, off it the future of the club remains in doubt’, says Il Tempo (which appears to be a subsidiary of Il Sole 24 Ore, who basically invented the story about APASR that I mentioned above – we’ll skip over that for the time being). Why? well, Unicredit are 49% shareholders in Italpetroli (the company that indirectly controls Roma, remember) and are calling for the cancellation of the debt repayment plan and an  injunction on 13 Sensi assets, for various business-y reasons, including not communicating the company’s net asset value (regarding the 2008 balance sheet) in time. In 2008 the group lost €33million, and if 2009’s losses add up to more than €17million they will have to reduce capital, and as the Sensi’s don’t have any other solutions, Unicredit are adamant that assets must be sold.

The paper finishes: ‘The alternative is a recapitalisation, in which the bank would be ready to participate, but it would probably not gain a majority consensus from the shareholders. When thinking about the sale of assets thoughts shouldn’t go to Rome, the jewel in the group’s crown, made even more appetising in the last few months by on the pitch results that will probably take them into the Champions League next year. If the Sensis do have to give up the club, pharmaceutical magnate Francesco Angelini remains a credible potential buyer, and will be following the story with interest.’

No mention of our boys and girls in the Azionariato Popolare AS Roma yet. Maybe in time.

Azionariato Popolare AS Roma (Part 2)

Ok, so the other day I said that I would be chucking some quotes up here from the press conference and hopefully from a chat with the man himself, Walter Campanile. Well he was in Brussels yesterday chatting with EU big wigs so there was no point trying to get a lengthy discussion going, especially when I’m going to want him to repeat 90% of his answers at least twice. However, I have managed to dig up some quotes of his from back on 24 November last year, when he spoke with a Roma fans site about how the structure of the trust is going to work (NOTE: please bear in mind that any translation may not be 100% accurate, or may lose some of its meaning; contrary to popular belief meaning is not replicated exactly in every language, so just deal with it. The full Italian version is here for those of you who are able to read the language or just fuddy duddy killjoys who want accurate sourcing and that.):

A what point are you in the project?

I’m wary of looking too far ahead. We haven’t yet made Roma fans aware of what the azionariato popolare might be when it comes to pass.

What do you mean?

There are those who believe it to be some kind of subscription scheme, but if it was like this those who live in Saudi Arabia or Argentina would not have any reason to participate. When would they ever see Roma at the Olimpico? Instead, through our project whoever is able to contribute economically will strengthen our club, and from everywhere in the world.

Ok, but in what timescale?

The azionariato popolare doesn’t exist in Italy, in the sense that there is no legislative frame which inspires it. Anyway, in this early phase we have worked to understand if the model used in other countries could be applicable here in Italy.

We imagine so.

Exactly. In fact, that’s what we found and what will be explained later. We also occupied ourselves identify the legal entity that will represent fans based in Rome. (Ed’s note: this bit here is the bit I’m least sure about, linguistically speaking, if anyone wants to offer me a better translation please do.)

Are you not thinking of having a board of trustees (again)?

Of course, but not right away. Our scope to start with will be to get the fans to take an active part in the running of the azionariato, and having a representative in the board will be the next move.

What’s the next stage?

Between December and January we will look to have 80 people from the world of AS Roma involved with us. It will be them, in February, who will form a Constituent Assembly that will busy itself with writing the trust charter, on which the fundamental principles of the azionariato popolare romanista will be written. A month after that, if we are on schedule, we will be able to form the legal structure that will deal with whoever the owner of Roma is.

What characteristics will it have?

It will be democratic, absolutely transparent and not for profit, just as Supporters Direct, the organization that works for Uefa and who assists trusts with the legal support of Cleary Gottlieb, suggested to us.

Then, you said, the rendezvouz with whoever owns the club in March.

We still need to find an interlocutor who will open the door for us.

Even if it’s the Sensis?

The project is independent. It’s not important to us who the owner is.

But if it’s the Sensis you might end up delivering some money in a closed envelope a family who financially are in substantial trouble.

I understand where it might go. Ours isn’t a collective like that of Sistina in the 60s. The management of funds won’t be a fan, not of the presidente of the club.

So you’re saying that it would be fine for you whoever owns the club. Even Angelini?

Absolutely. I repeat: we are happy to support whoever is disposed to help make Roma great again.

This interview (despite being a couple of months out of date) is interesting to me on a philosophical level: to me, surely the point of organising fans together like this is so that you can have a large, potentially majority say in what goes on at the club, rather than sort of hang around and talk to the owner, who will tell you to piss off if they don’t like what you have to say. Obviously benefits regarding unity of the fans, organising social night, tickets for foreign fans and creating an all round community for supporters of the club are all great and I heartily endorse them. Obviously it’s early days yet so what form the relationship with the club takes is still up for grabs, but personally I’d like to see a big enough groundswell of support that would eventually put the ownership and the running of the club into the hands of an elected body.

At the press conference they made plenty of allusions to Barca and the Spanish socio model, but that works on the principle of ownership, of a democracy that has real power, or at least as much real power as those running a football club can ever have (This is Italy mind you, where Rome’s mayor, the fascist Giovanni Alemanno made explicit reference to the authorities not letting Lazio get relegated, so maybe I’m underestimating that a bit.). Without that true stake in the club where is it going, and where does the money go once in the hands of the club?

I’ve got a few things still needing translating, including a video interview of Walter talking to a journo after the press conference and some of the question and answer session that was held after the presentation. We also have the results of the Sensi family’s meeting with Unicredit, which was yesterday, so all in all anyone who might be reading will have a bumper amount of content coming you way over the next week or so. After that? Well, who knows readers, who knows.

There are people who take it for some kind of subscription scheme.

Azionariato Popolare AS Roma

*Wipes away cobwebs*

A lot has changed since the last time I bothered to write anything for this godawful repository for my deteriorating brain. I now write every day for a pittance about celebrity crap, music, sport and video games, as well as do a weekly shift translating for La Gazzetta Dello Sport, and various other proofreading jobs. It pays the rent and keeps me in pizzas, so I’m not complaining, but recently the creative urge has been creeping up my spine and tickling the back of my brain, asking me why I know the intimate details of Jordan and Peter Andre’s divorce, and her subsequent marriage to a cross-dressing cage fighter and why I have done precisely nothing with the reams of stuff I have on Lodigiani, the meeting about the Tessera del Tifoso I took eight hours out of a beautiful summer’s day for and Azionariato Popolare AS Roma, which is the first real attempt in Italy for a football club run by the fans, for the fans, and which my own girlfriend is an important part of. Every now and again I get a metaphorical poke with a stick via a blog comment which arrives in my inbox, goading me to do something worthwhile with my time, anything that might give reason to halt the rapid disappearance of justification for the title of journalist with which I deign myself. Well you fucking win, ok?

This is why today I attended the official press conference that Azionariato Popolare AS Roma held to announce its presence to the world (well the Italian press at least), their vision for a brighter day in Italian football. It must also be said that aside from my own thoroughly selfish reasons for being there, I hold the idea and the people behind it in extremely high regard, and if in the long term they manage to organise Roma fans into playing a role in the democratic running of their club it will be one of biggest achivements in the history mankind. I say this as a man who has seen how hard it is for Italians to organise a meeting place and be there on time, so don’t take that lightly.

So a bit of background then. The Sensi family is currently finacially crippling the football club through their siphoning off of club money to service the €300million debt of their Italpetroli, as evidenced by the preposterously large €20million Liverpool paid for the summer transfer of Alberto ‘sicknote’ Aquilani. Usually a football club would be laughing all the way to the bank with that sort of money, but instead the fee magically disappeared into a huge black chasm. Anyone who has read The Beautiful Game? by David Conn will probably already be familiar with the sort of thing I’m talking about. Anyone tomorrow Roma president Rosella Sensi, Italpetroli and bank Unicredit will be meeting to discuss repayments of a debt that is nothing to do with the club. Got that? With this in mind APASR has sprung up, offering a different way of running a club in a country where local magnates ruling private fiefdoms is the common model, pumping in unsustainable millions while hiring and firing managers seemingly on a whim. It’s rallying call is partly for this sort of nonsense to end, but also for more fundamental change. As it says on their website (which has also been translated into English for the benefit of Roma’s worldwide fanbase):

Barcelona’s motto is ‘more than a club’, which helps explain their culture, and in thier own way, greatness. Maybe the moment has arrived to think of constructing our own future together for a Grande Roma, which could be an example in Italy and Europe and that could become, like Barcelona, more than a club.

As much as I am loath to praise Barca for their pompous slogan, their is little doubt that the socio model is the best way for a football club to be run if you’re interested in it being a force for social good.

The idea has certainly gained some traction, if the press conference was anything to go by. In fact not only were various Roma blogs reporting live from the scene, but big national newspapers like Il Messagero and La Repubblica were there (and have already produced stories for their respective online audiences), giving the movement a potentially huge boost. Having met Walter Campanile, the main man behind the scheme, and watched him deal confidently with Italy’s assembled hacks, I have to say he’s a very confident, convincing presence, prodding and cajoling any doubters, laying out the arguments and the structure of everything in detail. If he were less morally upright he’d do a fine job of selling you hooky clothes down the market, or encouraging pensioners to part with their savings because they had the cowboys in their bathroom. Mostly though, you can tell that he and his colleagues know they are right, and that they’re not about to give in to those who say ‘this can’t be done in Italy’.

It was standing room only today, partly due to the radical idea APASR is selling to the public, but also because of a furore kicked up by the press earlier in the month, when respected Naples-based business daily Il Sole 24 Ore claimed that the organisation was a front for a group of Italian celebrities who wanted to take the club from the Sensis without presenting any evidence, a story that was repeated also in La Repubblica. There had also been rumours doing the rounds that they were a front for medicinal drugs magnate Franco Angelini, which while raising the profile of the movement, presented them in an appalling light. Thankfully both of those were quickly swept out of the way.

Ah God it’s late, and in my head this post is already turning into bad facsimile of a Hunter S. Thompson screed, while the text remains resolutely tangent free (up until now at least). How much needs to be said about a press conference when the most important thing about today is an idea, one that needs pressing home and support from the wider fan base? All we’re looking at is a collection of suits and scruffily dressed photgraphers relaying the same quotes, when I’ve got access to better, original material at my fingertips. I’d already know whether we are looking at a new model of ownership or merely a union of fans that have the ear of the owners, loud but mostly powerless? Now that Roma are second in the league and doing well in the Coppa Italia and the Europa League, do the fans care enough to embrace radical change? In essence, is Roma doing well now a bad thing for the club long term?

Tomorrow we (Why I am writing this as though anyone is reading is anyone’s guess) will hopefully have some unique quotes from representives, as well as wonderfully translated stuff from all over the Italian press.

The Longest Day (of Football) – Part Two

As Sunday mornings go, I can think of better starts than a trudge along a muddy suburban lay-by, being glowered at by a group of sloping foreheaded locals, and being given directions by a man who could barely be bothered to pull his trousers up from around his ankles. Or asking for a cup of tea in a cafe and seeing the woman behind the counter put cold water in the teapot. It also transpires that people over here also like to play really shit music at ear drum-perforating volumes through their mobile phones while they’re sat on buses, and that the outer suburbs of Rome are pretty grim – or at least Borghesiana, where Lodigiani play, is. I didn’t notice last time because last time I was too busy paying €30 to get a cab there from the bottom of the metro line at Anagnina, and the cabbie regaled me with stories of feeling his arsehole twitch in the away end at Galatasary. It’s an odd area where the tentacles of Rome reach out into the Lazio hinterlands; part countryside, with its big houses, gardens and small olive fields, and part desolate suburban rat hole, with stained grey tower blocks, a residential workers’ suppository where natives and immigrants live side-by-side in less than perfect harmony. This is where the ‘Baby Gangs’ – the local equivalent of what the British press hatefully call ‘Hoodies’ – demand payment from immigrants for rights of passage down certain streets, or simply kick the shit out of them for a laugh. It’s the part of the city that tourists will never see unless they happen to be passing through on a bus; scruffy and bizarre during the day, it would be downright unsettling walking around there during when it’s dark.

It’s strange then, that such a run-down suburb be host to the swanky sporting complex of La Borghesiana that Lodigiani play at, a place so posh that the national team have trained there, as well as various big European club sides like my own source of frustration, Chelsea. God only knows what they must have thought of the surrounding neighbourhood. This time I brought Spangles along, seeing as she was curious to see what it was actually like hanging with some proper ultras, and as we trudged up through the main driveway for the hotel, which had been flooded by the enormous storm that kept me up half the previous night I couldn’t help but think what a romantic boyfriend I was. But if I wanted an ego boost – and let’s be honest here, who doesn’t? – I got one. As I strolled down towards the ‘terrace’ I was spotted by the ultras and got a whopping great cheer as though I was a returning hero, fresh from shitting in Cisco president’s mouth. Chants of my name rang out, as well as the classic ‘Come on [insert my first name here]’ in the swaying style of a 1970s home end. It was fucking ace. Arriving fashionably late was never so well rewarded.

Luckily for me though, despite turning up over half an hour late I hadn’t missed any action, and let’s be honest, I’m not here for the actual football. Which is just as well, as it’s not that good. Lodi do a good job of beating a team above them in the league 2-0, and there was much bouncing and singing, lighting of flares, exploding of bangers and waving of scarves. Once again it’s all good fun, and well worth the pain in the arse travel. Although at half-time it’s quite obvious that they find me amusing, asking me whether I’m in the National Front and being mocked for my lack of Italian. None of which bothers me all that much, but I’d like to be able to talk to these people past rudimentary greetings and rehearsed questions.

One of the weird characteristics that they have as a group though, that despite being a good laugh and able to take the piss out of themselves (‘This is the cutting edge of tifo!!’ cried Stefano as they ballsed up another chant), there are moments when they take themselves paradoxically seriously. About half way through the second half the ball was cleared over the fence and our heads, and the Lodi coach asked the guys if one of them could get the ball back for them. ‘We’re not ball boys’ was shouted back, ‘we’re busy supporting you guys.’ As though the act of supporting in itself is the most important thing they could do, and getting the ball back would ruin it completely. It’s the odd mixture of devotion, dedication and giving yourself for the team that is mixed with an elevate sense of self that runs right through the ultras movement.

‘Look guys, we let you onto the pitch so you can put up your banners, why can’t you co-operate with us?’

‘What do you mean let us on? We’d just climb the fence anyway. Employ some ball boys if you want them collected.’

The exchange gave you a complete idea of what each party perceives Lodi to be. On the one hand you’ve got the coach, who sees this for what it is; a new club, with amateur players and not a huge amount of resources, and you have the ultras, who see their club as what they remember from when they were professional, who should be dealing with these things themselves. It also seems to be a way of keeping their distance from the club as a whole, which is nigh-on impossible when your they’re this small.

This row has since found its way online, with the guys complaining about being treated as ball boys (‘there are only a few of us, and if we have to collect balls then we are one voice less’ – again with the self-aggrandising) and asking why they didn’t come over to clap them after the game. The president then replied, explaining why he thought that they should have helped them out, and a player told them that they were waiting for them to come into the dressing room after the game to celebrate as usual (which I suppose is a nice touch, if a little weird and contradictory). Meanwhile Simone pops up to tell them that ‘frankly we were only 1-0 up, and they were attacking. I thought it would be a good way to time waste.’

Anyway, straight after the game Simone gave us a lift to Subausgusta on the metro and travelled with us to the Olimpico, where Roma were playing Fiorentina. On the way I noticed something, something very odd indeed about our man Simone. Knowing that we were both English, he spent most of his time asking questions about English football, as he’s ‘sick for it’, apparently. But the inquisitiveness isn’t the odd thing, it’s the way he starts nearly every sentence by saying the name of a football team, usually a lower league one. So there would be a small silence, punctuated by him saying ‘Plymouth Argyle’ (pronounced phonetically), or ‘effe chee oo-nye-ted’ (work that one out if you can) and a chat about those clubs. I don’t know whether he wants a biscuit every time he gets one right but he’s certainly very earnest about it, and frankly it’s nice to be in a situation where someone else is the linguistic clown for once.

In any case, it turns out that I’ve become a bit of a personality down Lodi way; as I was perusing their fanzine at half-time with Roma still at 0-0, I noticed that not only had they taken the piss out of my propensity to say ‘si si’ an awful lot, but they’d put me in their hot or not column. And ladies and gents, I can tell you that I am most definitely hot, which is nice. I’m a bit flattered and perplexed, really, although it’s fairly obvious they think I’m a bit weird, and I imagine think I’m absolutely hilarious with my shite conversation. I’m just trying to imagine if some Italian reporter showed up at a Sunday League team I played for and started speaking in Macaroni English at everyone. Actually there’d be people there who could speak Italian, so that wouldn’t work. But you get my point.

Right yes, Roma. Well they played out yet another extremely tense match, with both sides creating some wonderful chances. In the end the bionic fatty… sorry Totti scored the only goal of the game, after a flowing move swept from one end of the pitch to the other, although the keeper should definitely have saved it, as you can see hear:

In fits and starts Roma played some really fantastic football, but the nervousness form the bad start is still there, both on the pitch and in the stands. There’s very much a sense that at any moment they could throw the game away at any moment, and winning 1-0 is simply not enough to ease the nerves. In fact if it hadn’t been for a wonderful save from Doni in injury time from a Gilardino header (with the Roma defence backing off so far they were practically in the Sud) then the fans’ fears would have been justified. But, three wins on the bounce is good, and Julio Baptiste is starting to look like a real player.

We bumped into Simone on the tram after the game, and he pointed out the various Lodigiani graffiti all over the walls near the Olimpico. ‘That’s all my work’, he said. ‘Do you like it?’

I answered the only way I know how. ‘Si si.’

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The Longest Day (of Football)

For over thirty years, there was a football club in Rome that plugged away in the lower divisions of the Italian league, in the shadows of the two Serie A giants. AS Lodigiani played at the Flaminio, a stadium not five minutes away from the Olimpico, now used to hosting international Rugby matches, and while they were clearly destined to go nowhere, they had a small but committed group of fans who followed them around the country. Within that group there were Ultras Lodigiani, the colour and noise of the fan base. When Lodigiani merged with another lower league club – Cisco Calcio Roma – in 2004, it was apparently ok with both sets of fans, and they started the 2004/05 season as AS Cisco Lodigiani. However, as often happens, one side turned out to be more equal than the other. Eventually they dropped Lodigiani from their name (despite keeping the rights to it) and reverted to AS Cisco Calcio Roma, taking Lodi’s founding date of 1972 and putting on their crest.

As you can imagine the fans of Lodigiani weren’t exactly happy about all this, especially the Ultras. Without a senior club for four years, they turned up at Lodi’s youth team games to sing and chant for their team. That all changed this year though, as their club reformed it’s first team and started playing in the seventh tier of Italian football, which is entirely amatuer. I’d been in touch with them via their website, basically because I thougt that there was a feature in it, and they were more than happy to have me along to watch a game with them.

I was supposed to go last week to an away game within easy reach of my flat, but I showed up at the ground at half two, only to be greeted by a bunch of fifteen year olds playing on the pitch and a woman at the bar telling me the game kicked off at midday. Not my smartest move. But it meant that I got to watch them at home instead this week, with home for Lodigiani a pitch in a very swanky hotel called La Borghesiana right on the outskirts of Rome, surrounded by pretty rough looking suburbs. Around the place were other pitches with kids having their weekly session of parents shouting at them, but the faint sound of singing and drumming drew me over the horizon. As I approach the ground I saw the guys, stood on a small metal temporary terrace, with huge banners in front of them that almost cover the fencing in front. It’s a classic ultra style, but more than a little incongruous when your ground is three steps high.

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As you can imagine, approaching a close-knit group of friends with whom I’d only spoken to via email, and who belong to a society who traditionally don’t like the press, was a bit daunting. But they turned out to be a good bunch of fellas, who enjoyed my comparison of them to AFC Wimbledon (‘Ah, si si, AFC Weemblidon!’) and were keen to explain the club’s current state to me and their feelings on Cisco, which added up to ‘we don’t even think about Cisco.’ As casual dismissals go, it sounded like the fake disinterest of a spurned lover who wasn’t quite over the heartache. ‘We’re third in the league,’ said Stefano, the main who I’d been in most contact with, at half-time. ‘but this is a terrible game of football. The seventh level of football isn’t very good usually.’ Unfortunately he was right.

Nevertheless, they wanted me to get me involved in the experience. They did this by handing me a flare and saying ‘Come on, get involved’ (or words to that affect), which I have to say, was pretty fucking ace. As was waving a scarf, bouncing up and down and generally acting the twat at what is essentially a park league match. It was great fun, and a close up look at what an ultras group is really about; a group of mates who care about their team putting effort into supporting them however they can, whether that be by singing, drumming, or plastering humungous pieces of card with slogans demanding justice for the dead Lazio ultra Gabriele Sandri. There also doesn’t seem to be any self conciousness about considering themselves the equals (or even betters) of the Fedayn in the Curva Sud, or Lazio’s Irriducibile, despite the fact only those on the substitutes bench can see what their pronouncements are. It doesn’t matter to them, if they were looking for attention there are far better places to be than a remote hotel in the Lazio countryside. What’s important is the believing in the message, and delivering it in the traditional ultra way, via home made banners and screaming it out at the top of your voice.

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The game? Oh that. They lost an absolutely dire contest (even for that level) 1-0, and provided exactly one moment of excitement. While chasing an equaliser with the tried and tested method of humping it forward into the mixer, the ball broke to an unnamed Lodi player six yards out, who somehow managed to hit the goalie in the face. The ball span off the post and up in the air, only for another unnamed Lodi player to bicycle kick it back against the same post from the same distance. There was barely time for a brief burst of ‘Que sara sara’ (I really must learn the words to that song) before the ref called time and the boys could put all their flags and banners away.

After the game I managed to sponge a lift back to the metro off the guy with the drum. His name is Simone and he’s from Cinecitta, an area in the south east of Rome that was once home to the Italian film industry, but is now an almost forgotten tourist attraction hemmed in by the expansion of the city in the 1960s. It’s most famous for being where Ben Hur and Cleaopatra were made, as well as Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns, but it still makes a few bob from American film and TV programme makers who want a spot of ‘authetic’ artistry. Simone is a short, quite stocky guy who’s also very pleasant and quite inquisitive, and we have a semi-stilted but quite interesting chat on the way back, mainly about football. Like most Italian football fans, he’s fairly knowledgable about the English game, although explaining that people from Liverpool were called scousers was a bit of a tricky one. ‘So everyone in England hates Liverpool as well?’ was possibly by favourite repsonse of the half hour journey. We started talking about the derby, which was that evening, and I asked him what he thought of the city’s two big clubs. ‘Oh, I’m a Roma fan, in the Curva Sud, although I never pay to get in.’ From what I could gather he’s not a fan of either the Roma ultras groups or the regulations that prohibit things like smoke bombs and flares, although I’m not sure what his specific beef is with the guys in the Sud.

Inbetween picking up his girlfriend, predicting the score for the derby and dropping me off at Subaugusta we exchange emails and talk about meeting up for the game next week. ‘We’re playing in a little village not far from, so come along if you want.’ I think I will as it happens, if not for the football then the chance to hang about with some different people and ruthlessly exploit them for an article or something. Cynical hack, that’s me.

The derby then. Well anyone who was already interested will know the score and the circumstances surrounding it. The game finished 1-0 to Roma of course, and the second half was one of the most fraught, ytense encounters I’ve ever been to. The atmosphere was garnished with a full plate of nerves, and as such the Sud never got going collectively; there was just too much riding on this game for Roma to get singing, espeically with Lazio were almost constantly on the attack. Even when down to ten men they were the better team going forward, and there were three proper heart in mouth moments, the worst of which was just after Baptista glanced home a superb header from a wonderful Totti cross. God knows who it was that missed from eight yards though, I could hardly see the other end of the pitch through the weed smoke. In any case, it was a collosal win for Roma, which was carried out almost in the shadow of the anniversary of Sandri’s death, commemorated by both sets of fans with a five minute absence of singing or flag waving. A sign of solidarity between fans, for good and bad reasons; the Boys group in the Sud put up a questionable banner, which read ‘Two curva, different colours, same values, same honour’. The fascists twats.

There was a one-legged guy who was sat in front of me, who when Roma scored, hopped backwards out of his seat to pile into a bunch of strangers, before hopping back into his seat with his arms in the air and his eyes shut, shouting ‘FORZA ROMA!’ It was the single most amazing thing I think I’ve ever seen at a football match, and at the end of the game he was almost in tears, while everyone else hugged, roared and headbutted the wall at the back of the Sud. I kind of stood there, clapping alone, feeling like a tiny bit of a dick.

You Make Us All Look Bad

An old friend of mine came to Rome for a couple of days with his girlfriend recently. The pair of them are coming over to live for a year after Christmas and they wanted to check the place out. As you do we went out a few times for a couple of beers and something to eat. Nominally a Celtic fan, he’s been living in Portsmouth for a while and has developed a bit of an affection for them, we found somewhere to watch the Charity Shield. It’s a nice ‘Irish’ pub that I’ve done some shifts for that is popular with Brits and Americans and shows pretty much any sport you can think of. So naturally it was full of Man United fans.

We sat near the only screen showing the match, which was alongside one showing the Tottenham-Roma friendly from White Hart Lane. ‘Oh good,’ I thought to myself. ‘I can keep one eye on my adopted local side while everyone else watches the Charity Shield.’ There were a couple of problems; one was Roma’s performance, which was less than great. Being hammered five nil by a side as mediocre as Tottenham is a pretty poor show, even if Spurs were a whole month ahead in their pre-season preparations and they had a few key players missing. But that paled into insignificance when faced with a much bigger issue; a Tottenham twat sitting immediately to our right. This spectacular bell end thought it was a good idea to dribble on loudly about the following things (I’ve cleaned the language up for those of a more sensitive disposition):

  1. This Tottenham team is most definitely superior to the one of north London rivals Arsenal, who I consider to be a bunch of lady’s genitalia.
  2. We are *this* close to being in the top four.
  3. This is our year.
  4. Our sulky centre-forward is infinitely more skillful than your less sulky centre-forward
  5. These nefarious Italians certainly don’t know how to play fair, do they chaps?
  6. It was jolly bad form of AC MIlan and Juventus to cheat like they did, maybe if they ban both clubs from every competition forever that would adequately compensate the other clubs.
  7. I don’t agree with that decision referee, and you can open your sphincter and place that ruling up there, where there is no sunlight.
  8. This pre-season friendly result proves that the italian league is essentially worthless, and that the Premier League is most definitely the very best in the world.
  9. CAAAAAAHHHHHHHHMMM OOOOOOOONNNN YOOOOOUUUUUU SPUUUUURRRRRSSSSS!

He was an absolute weapon, in other words. Right the way through both matches he sat on his stool while same thing came out of his mouth, leaning forward and squinting at no-one in particular in a way that said; ‘you know what I mean don’t you mate? It’s common sense innit?’ It’s how I like to imagine Christopher Hitchens writes his columns, only at least he doesn’t start every sentence with ‘I’ll tell you what though Kev,’ while waving his pint glass around like like he’s pointing at a blackboard. Although come to think of it, he might do. Anyway we’ve all been around pub experts like this before. Hell we’ve all probably been that pub expert before. Nevertheless this chap took the biscuit; he was loud, rude, obnoxious and ratarsed by half three in the afternoon.

The drunker he got, the more of a cliche he became; loud exaggerated cockney postering, pint glasses under his top as makeshift tits, repeatedly calling everyone a ‘mug’. Then later on, as my friend’s girlfriend came back from the cashpoint, he was was doing that sort of weird Pearly King strut that only a complete try-hard ever does. ‘Tell them they’re a pair of Pompey maaahhhgs’ he dribbled in her ear, like the fat Spurs supporting arsewipe he was. Then a slurred cry from the safety of another room.

‘Oi mate. I heard all Pompey fans go bald at around your age hur hur.’

‘I’m not Pompey.’

‘Oh.’

What is it about people like this? Why do they feel the need to express their phoney machismo by attempting to belittle complete strangers, or better yet, entire countries? What makes it more annoying is that he’s the sort of tool who people immediately think of when the term ‘English football fan’ gets chucked around. He’s the public face of thousands of people who love the game and don’t think it’s an convenient vessel for their prejudices, or an excuse to puff their chests out and throw tinly veiled and ultimately empty threats of violence around. It’s arseholes like him who stop me properly supporting England; the type of arse boil that leers at intimidated foriegn woman and chants ‘get your tits out for the lads’ in the safety of a pack of similar apes. He’ll be around somewhere tonight no doubt, booing the Czech national anthem and embarrassing his mates. I hope they lose, frankly.