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The history of football is a sad voyage from beauty to duty.
Thursday, May 18, 2006

Paranoia

The match-fixing scandal which has engulfed Italian football has stunned fans across Europe. It is an extraordinary tale involving wiretaps, illicit meetings and even allegations of locking referees in dressing rooms.

The passage below is taken from the book, A Season With Verona, by Tim Parks.

There is no people more ready to imagine a conspiracy than the Italians. No people could be more constantly on their guard against the stab in the back, more willing to blame an unhappy turn of events on a diabolical plot against them. Why?

You haven't been long in this country before you notice how people have a vocation for arranging themselves in groups and factions: families, clubs, unions, whatever. And the characteristic of all these groups, whether they have official status or not, is that one isn't so much a publicly enrolled member- that will get you nowhere- as an initiate in an exclusive society whose actual powers and range of influence are never clarified or declared. How powerful exactly is Gianni Agnelli? Could the professor I am attached to at the university swing a national selection commission to make me a full professor? How much clout does Pastorello have in the Football Federation? Nothing is clear.

Of course, none of this is peculiar to Italy. In any country there is a gap between formal boundaries and reality. But the peculiarity of Italy lies in the exact balance between rival versions of the world, the equal intensity of people's emotional commitment to private loyalties and moral commitment to public justice. Everyone wants their team to win at all costs and everyone earnestly wishes the world to be fair. It's not an easy state of mind to administrate.

'Anybody with false papers should be expelled from the country at once!' Pastorello leans across his desk to tell me. He's furious. 'It's a fraud! It's criminal!'

But the Federation has decided that before the sports world can proceed to sanction the offenders 'penal law must first take its course'. Which means we are talking about a decision in five or ten years' time. At which point it will be meaningless to say: Verona wouldn't have gone down if Inter, or Udinese or Verona, had been docked ten points. Procrastination, it turns out, offers the easiest compromise between intense commitment to fair rules and an equal determination to fight one's corner to the bitter end. The rules are always about to be reformed, in Italy. Things are about to be clarified, we promise, after the forthcoming event, which is of paramount importance to us. The cruel fight goes on.

Yet however paranoid some fans are about betrayals and suspect refereeing, this never prompts them to abandon the game. Rather, it intensifies their engagement, it makes them all the more eager to win against the odds. The more people are against us, the more players let us down, the sweeter the victory if we do scrape through.

posted by Trilby at 4:18 am
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This is a blog about a thirtysomething man who awoke one day to a startling epiphany. If you spend thirty years of your life playing, watching, listening, reading and debating football, then chances are, football is all that you will know.


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This blog is written by a thirtysomething man who awoke one day to a startling epiphany. If you spend thirty years of your life playing, watching, listening, reading and debating football, the chances are, football is all that you will know.


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