Straight from the dark heart of Italy
It’s all Luis Figo’s fault: not content with undermining confidence within the squad by spreading rumours that Jose Mourinho will dump the lot of them, he then goes and runs over a black cat on the eve of Inter’s title decider.
Black felines are deeply mistrusted in Italy due their association with witches or some other form of jiggery-pokery from the middle ages – jiggery-pokery which still seems to hold sway over a bewildering proportion of life in various parts of the country.
Apparently this particular moggy had been hanging around the club’s training facility for months and the Portuguese had taken it upon himself to end its wicked reign with the wheels of his SUV. (Given that Inter visited the Pope ahead of their Italian Cup semi-final against Lazio last week, His Holiness may wish to avoid crossing the street for a few days.)
Figo: "It just came running out into the middle of the road."
Someone else who should be lying low is Marco Materazzi.
We have already seen that the Matrix is very much of the ‘do whatever comes into your head’ school of thought so it was no surprise that when Inter were awarded a potentially title-winning penalty with 10 minutes of the game against Siena remaining, the slack-jawed clogger volunteered himself to grab the glory.
Julio Cruz was in fact the designated penalty-taker and with the game poised at 2-2 it needed the Argentine’s cool head to put a jittery afternoon to rest.
Instead, the big man grabbed the ball away from a visibly perplexed Cruz as the rest of the team found something else to do. And the rest as they say is history.
As former Arsenal 'great' Alex Manninger palmed away Materazzi's shot, the cameras immediately panned to a stern-faced Massimo Moratti in the stands who was seen to mouth something along the lines of: “That young fellow there has cost us this game.”
The crestfallen defender moped around the dressing room for nearly two hours after the final whistle before plucking up the courage to face a group of irate fans.
Marco takes over spot-kick duties... and misses
Meanwhile down in the capital, those gathered in the Olympic stadium were wondering just what was going on in the San Siro.
With AS Roma leading Atalanta 2-0, the afternoon had turned into no more than a training workout and even as Inter pressed the self-destruct button there was still a mixture of disbelief amongst the Giallorossi faithful.
It certainly transmitted itself to the players who almost came apart at the seams as they conceded a last-minute goal.
That was the cue for Francesco Totti to march down from high in the VIP area to pitch-side and relay the fact that yes the Romans were still in with a shout for the title.
Inter’s chance’s of becoming the biggest chokers in the history of Italian football are now in the hands of two former employees, Hector Cuper, whose Parma team face the leaders in the final game, and Walter Zenga’s Catania who take on Roma.
Cuper, of course, was in charge when Inter blew the title on the last day in 2002 and as omens go they don’t get any darker than that.
(Ed's note: Not least for Cuper, who's been given the heave-ho by Parma...)
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