Straight from the dark heart of Italy
The run-in to the end of any season calls for cool heads, but there were few in evidence at Genoa on Sunday.
As if trailing Siena 4-0 with only 50 minutes played of what was a vital relegation encounter may have been bad enough, further humiliation was heaped upon the home players by their own fans in whar could be the moment that sends this proud club into freefall.
Not only did a section of the home support disrupt the match by throwing flares on to the pitch and climbing atop the protective covering above the tunnel, they then demanded those they deemed not worthy of wearing the shirt remove them.
The majority of the players duly obliged to do so, rolling over in submission much as they had done to the visiting team.
Team captain Marco Rossi had gone over to discuss the situation with the main ultras group, numbering 70-odd supporters, before trudging back to his team-mates to inform them they would have to de-robe.
There were a fair few long faces among the players as Rossi turned kit-man and gathered the sweat-soaked shirts, to parade them in front of the triumphant tormentors.
In that instant inside the Luigi Ferraris Stadium, it seemed the team bond was broken, and for many looking in from the outside it was a reflection of each player’s own character that they meekly succumbed to the demands of the masses.
However, there were two players who refused to hand over their work clothes: Giuseppe Sculli and Sebastien Frey.
The incredulous look Frey gave the ultras should be cherished by anyone who ever needs to stand up to a bully. “This is my shirt and I am not giving it to anyone,” was the French goalkeeper’s response as he stood in front of the stands.
Sculli is another who does not like to be messed with, and the midfielder marched right into the crowd to explain that he too was in no mood to show off his bare chest.
Although it was certainly a primal demonstration of breast beating, there was not a dry eye in the house as footballer and burly fan embraced across the fencing thus enabling the match to proceed without further incident.
No one had seen so few hold so many to ransom since, well, since Serbia had been in town. As with the events which lead to the Euro 2012 qualifier of October 2010 being abandoned, some may well ask where the officials and the forces of law and order were while the madness was unfolding.
While the police stood by and monitored the situation from a safe distance, gathering video evidence and blaming the Genoa players for bowing to the ultras’ demands, club president Enrico Preziosi was left equally impotent, taking his ire out on coach Alberto Malesani, sacking him for the second time in four months.
The team will be forced to play their remaining two ‘home’ matches at least 250km from Genoa and behind closed doors – which will probably be a welcome relief for the players.
Luigi De Canio has been handed the task of ensuring Genoa do not go the way of city rivals Sampdoria and drop down into Serie B. But after the events of Sunday, few would put their shirt on it.
There seems to be no depth to which Italian football will not plunge in order to maintain its position
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