Cries of "Capello, Capello" rang
out briefly between news conferences at the England's Euro 2012
media centre on Thursday.
But the former England manager Fabio Capello, who resigned
in February, was not in the room.
It was a first sign, albeit tongue-in-cheek, of rising
tensions ahead of Sunday's quarter-final in Kiev where Italy
will play England.
Across the medieval squares and cobbled streets of Krakow,
the phoney war, played out in televised opinions, radio comment,
written words and silence, had begun.
The Italian media corps were visiting the headquarters of
their counterparts at the Football Association's (FA) England
media centre on the first floor of Andel's Hotel.
It was, for them, a very strange experience.
The previous day, the English media had descended on the
Italians' home from home, the Casa Azzurri, a warren of
blue-walled corridors, espresso bars and leather sofas.
There, at the right hour of the day and often afterwards,
pasta is offered to all visitors along with a warm welcome and
open access to players and coaches at news conferences.
The Italians also provide the services of an official
translator who repeats all questions and answers in English,
ensuring visitors are treated with respect as well as offered
But when Italy's media corps, accustomed to life in the
converted Rotunda Cultural Centre overlooking the famous field
of Blonia, tramped in the heat to visit England, it was all very
Where there were smiling 'ragazze' at the door, there were
men in uniform. Where there are plates of pasta, there were
Polish hotel canapes and where there is 'liberta' (freedom),
there are chains - at least hypothetically - of the sort that
John Milton opposed as he led calls for freedom of the press, in
England, four centuries ago.
Worse still, the English media team had nobody available to
speak Italian, let alone translate.
Even before goalkeeper Joe Hart sat down to begin
proceedings, a rumour began to spread.
Battle-hardened Italian reporters, unused to being told how
to do their jobs, were concerned by a suggestion that because of
an official embargo their reports would have to be delayed for
When a member of the FA staff made a swift announcement, in
English, to confirm their worst fears, there was consternation.
It was never quite uproar but the rising sound of confusion
and disbelief in a room filled with at least 200 representatives
of the media was tangible.
News management, by using embargoes, is used by the English
media to control the timing of stories and thus to favour the
needs of the London daily papers. It is a uniquely English
phenomenon at major football tournaments.
After an interval, as if a theatrical production was
re-starting, another English FA staff member appeared, this time
with an Italian reporter, Stefano Boldrini of Gazzetta dello
Sport, Italy's leading sports daily.
Speaking Italian, he confirmed the request that any stories
to be derived from the group interview with a second England
player were not to be published until Friday afternoon, the cue
for intensified incredulity.
"Capello, Capello" was the mocking cry that another Italian
had been employed abroad by the English FA, though undoubtedly
for nothing like the fees that had made the former coach a
While English journalists could read the published versions
of their unfettered reports from Wednesday's visit to Casa
Azzurri, their Italian counterparts were frowning in
The player duly arrived, talked and left.
"This is so strange, the way it is done," said one member of
the Italian press.
"If he says it here and now we send it here and now," he
added to demonstrate the ways of Italy and the outside world.
Not, however, the ways of the English in Krakow, of all
places, a medieval city where liberty, in every sense, has
always been, and remains, such a precious human currency.
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