Straight from the dark heart of Italy
Support Italy! It’s the 150th year of unification, although you would hardly know it, evident by the apathy sweeping the country even with the prospect of a national holiday and an extra day off work on March 17th.
The organisers of this massive damp squib have been encouraging business and shops to hang a ‘Supporting Italy here’-emblazoned tricolour outside their premises, and in the sporting world the national anthem is being blasted out for every event from volleyball to the Italian Cup – with seemingly only the nation's rugby players actually up to speed with the words.
No matter that a sizable percentage of the population couldn’t care less about whether Italy is one country or not, the event is at least an excuse for some sort of party – and Italians, following their prime minister’s example, do like to have a good time.
So, to ensure the whole shindig doesn’t pass everyone by in the blink of an eye, Juventus have been drafted in to unite the country.
After all, Turin was the first capital of the fledging nation and is home to the first lady of Italian football, so who better to raise some interest in the landmark birthday than the country’s favourite/most hated club?
President Andrea Agnelli unveiled the commemorative shirt the team will wear against AC Milan on Saturday evening – the only difference from their normal attire is a tatty sticker reading 'Esperienza Italia 150th' glued to the chest.
You may have to squint to make out the badge of honour, but it has more to do with the associated symbolism of the Old Lady, whose ups and downs over her 114-year existence have been interwoven with that of a country that is more comfortable with a provincial identity than national unity.
Fittingly, the opposition are the government, in the guise of AC Berlusconi, who have never been known to hide their light under a bushel – and have woven "the world’s most titled club" into their shirts lest anyone forgets the jillions of trophies they have hoarded away while Juve have, of course, won the most league titles.
Sivlio was once famously quoted as saying, "When the world thinks of Italy, after pizza and the mafia, they think of Milan."
Hardly a glowing endorsement for what has been billed as Italy’s big unity match - the latest chapter in a rivalry that goes back to 1901, no less - and which brings into sharp focus two separate strands within the fabric of the country.
Juventus represent the old-style approach to life where business is done behind closed doors and a stoic demure is presented to the outside world, while Milan are the outside world: in your face, shouting to all who will listen, "Look at me and my amazing bling life."
It’s Charlie Sheen versus the Wall Street Bankers, and who would you root for? According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Massimo ‘Inter are the real Milanese’ Moratti will be supporting the suits – for obvious reasons.
However, on closer inspection of what he actually mumbled, there is no such heresy tumbling forth in the manner of "I am for Juve."
What he actually said was: "Milan have a duty to do well, but being closer to the top would give us further motivation. I will be supporting the team that plays better, but Juventus have all the motivation they need in facing Milan."
Reading between the lines, Mo’s backing his own club’s arch-nemesis down the A4 motorway as opposed to those closer to home. Who can blame him? Juve offer little or no threat in the title race, while Milan are five points clear at the top.
Even a draw would suit the Nerazzurri, who are at home to Genoa on Sunday and still have the derby in their locker. However, on past evidence a draw would seem unlikely. Juve-Milan fixtures are usually chock-full of goals, especially in Turin.
The Rossoneri ran out 3-0 winners last season, with Ronaldinho scoring twice and David Beckham playing his part as the irate home fans attempted to set light to the Olympic stadium so everyone missed the third goal.
The 2008-09 season was a 4-2 humdinger to Juve, while the year before that finished 3-2 to them too, so no one is putting their hard-earned Euros on a goalless draw – just as they will be not putting any store in the game uniting the peninsula.
Latest Italian Football News
Milan snatch Champions League spot late on
Moratti hints at change on Stramaccioni future
Fiorentina furious over Milan's 'gifted' penalty
Mazzarri quits Napoli after four seasons
Sampdoria put dampener on Juventus finale
He's here, he's there, he's...
The cost of Premier League away travel
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010