Straight from the dark heart of Italy
RESULTS Sat Feb 27 Catania 4-0 Bari, Lazio 1-1 Fiorentina Sun Feb 28 Chievo 2-1 Cagliari, Genoa 3-4 Bologna, Juventus 0-2 Palermo, Livorno 1-2 Siena, Milan 3-1 Atalanta, Napoli 2-2 Roma, Parma 1-0 Sampdoria, Udinese 2-3 Inter Milan
After the faux bliss of the Champions League and Europa League in midweek, Italian football could get back to doing at what it does best: trawling up conspiracy theories. There hasn’t been a week go by recently without some club or other questioning the core values of the game. Are there dark forces still pulling the strings behind the scenes?
It is almost four years since Italy woke up to a reality to which many had turned a blind eye: that the game was as crooked as a mountain pass through the Dolomites. The stink from those pungent days of backhanders and one-eyed referees has never really gone away and you still get a whiff whenever a club feels hard done by.
The sistema (system) – that hidden mechanism that keeps the country turning over, for someone’s gain – would still seem to be well-oiled within the nation’s game, if one gives credence to some recent statements.
Of course, we have come to expect nothing less but a right old battering of Serie A from Jose Mourinho, who is still smarting from all those suspensions, fines and the general ticking-off administrated to the huffy one and his charges for their behaviour during the Sampdoria game.
Then, not content with accepting that his side had defeated one of the favourites for the Champions League, the Portuguese rounded on those who had called on him to abbassare i toni (which basically means “cool it a bit”) with all the criticism.
Rather than lighten up, he raised the spectre of Calciopoli to scare everyone and then stuck the boot in by uttering two words that are certain to turn any Italian pale: shame and family.
Everyone was expecting some fable from Mou’s lips, or least to settle down for a 10-minute diatribe, at the press conference after the Chelsea game when he started off with “Once upon a time..." followed by "...Italian football had the Calciopoli saga.”
From there on, he drew the battle lines and there was no doubting where he stood on Italy’s shady questionable activities: “From a Portuguese point of view, it was a shame for me and my family. I let my family eat with the money earned from football. I came to Italy an honest man and I will leave Italy as one.”
Bye then! And no doubt the English and Spanish press will be enquiring when to expect him and where: Madrid? Liverpool? Manchester?
Of course, our man was also alluding to a favoured recurring theme: that some unseen force does not want Inter to win the title. Fiorentina’s complaints that they should have been awarded a penalty against Milan, a game which of course the Nerazzurri’s closest rivals went on to win, also played some part in Jose’s sour attitude.
Although Inter have promised that they will do everything in their power not to cross swords with authority from now on, the siege mentality has been cemented for some time now.
Mourinho further reinforced the “them-against-us” attitude by taking all his suspended players along with the rest of the squad to Udine for Sunday’s game.
NEWS, Sun Feb 28: Suspension-hit Inter beat Udinese
It was certainly a useful motivational tool, as the coach and his banned players huddled up in the main stand at the Friuli stadium peering down on events on the pitch like a group of sullen judges – albeit judges attired in matching brown puffa-jackets.
The fact that most of the defence was either suspended or injured meant that Mourinho was forced to play a more attack-minded side that he'd normally choose.
After the initial shock of seeing Thiago Motta in the centre of defence and Inter going a goal down within the first two minutes had subsided, the visitors were actually quite entertaining to watch.
Well, they had to be to ensure the ball was kept as far away as possible from their backline. And to carry out that agreeable task they had Diego Milito, Wesley Sneijder, Goran Pandev and Mario Balotelli, who just gets better with every game.
Unlike wasteful AS Roma at Napoli, Inter managed to sustain their advantage until the final whistle and leave the north east a more contented bunch that we have seen for some time.
Of course at the full-time whistle Mourinho couldn't resist a provocative finger to his lips – which is how Inter should approach the rest of the campaign.
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Always enjoy your blog mate despite your hate for Juve - btw, Jose can say what he wants about calciopoli but we all remember - don't we? - that he was in charge of Porto during the cheating scandal in Portugal (just in case anyone forgets, news.bbc.co.uk/.../3643515.stm, for details).
Why does no-one remind Jose of this? Probably because we Italians are far too indifferent to Portugal and their football - but still, Jose ought to be quiet for a while, he was intimately - if ultimately unaffected - involved with that cheating scandal that made calciopoli look a bit provincial.
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