Straight from the dark heart of Italy
There seems to be no depth to which Italian football will not plunge in order to maintain its position as Europe’s, if not the world’s, wackiest league.
We have had Genoa players forced to hand over their shirts on the orders of fans, the man-handling of the referee by Lazio goalkeeper Federico Marchetti and now Fiorentina coach Delio Rossi topping it all by delivering a couple of solid punches to one his own players.
Many a coach must have dreamt of taking their frustrations out on a player with a few well-aimed blows, but it is rare to see it actually happen, rarer still in the middle of a match.
Fiorentina were trailing Novara 2-0 in what was something of a relegation tussle when, with just over 30 minutes gone, home coach Rossi decided he had seen enough of what he perceived was under-performing from Adem Ljaijc and removed the striker from the fray.
Naturally the Serb did not take too kindly to being substituted so early in the game and sarcastically applauded the decision as he made his way to the bench. Unfortunately, Rossi’s frayed nerves snapped and the coach stormed over to first grab the player by the throat and then deliver a couple of right hooks.
Only the intervention of the technical staff (so that’s what they are there for…) saved the former Manchester United target from receiving the hiding of his life from a middle-aged man who had allowed the pressures of the moment to get to him.
There is an old saying in Italy that goes something along the lines of “when everyone else is losing their heads, you might as well join in.”
However, Rossi crossed a line from which there was no way back. By the end of the evening, club owner Andrea Della Valle had sacked his coach and promised further punishment for the player, as if the 20-year-old had not suffered enough humiliation.
The most bizarre moment came when Rossi exited the dugout to indicate to the referee that there was nothing to see here, as if he had done nothing more than lose his footing for a moment.
The officials had not seen the incident, otherwise Rossi would have been making the long walk to career ruin much sooner. Instead, he was still able to be in the dressing room at half-time, where he no doubt jolted the rest of the team into producing a two-goal comeback to earn a point which should be enough to keep the Viola in the top flight.
We will probably not see Rossi back in football for some time - certainly not in the next three months, with the Italian FA this morning confirming that as the length of his ban - but he is not the first coach to lose his head and attack one of his own players during the course of a game.
Back in the 1983-84 campaign, Pescara coach Tom Rosati slapped Vittorio Cozzella during a league match against Como. The striker took it on the chin, so to speak, and the following week the pair were seen joking away as if nothing had happened.
In fact, Cozzella admitted he had been a bit of an annoying sort and the episode had helped him develop into a more mature player.
It is doubtful Ljajic will be feeling quite so forgiving as he nurses a sore jaw and bruised ego this morning. For Rossi, this “Falling Down” moment will prove far more costly.
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