It can be a hard time for football fans, those few summer weeks in-between the campaigns. Transfer gossip, friendlies and whatever you call the soccer at the Olympics are all well and good, but the Supercoppa showed what we’ve been really missing. Juventus and Napoli battled non-stop in Beijing, providing us with six goals, two red cards, controversy and the unusual sight of the losing team boycotting the victory ceremony. We’re back, folks!
Italian football is about so much more than just the sport itself and a friendly cannot stir the passions the way a competitive clash inevitably does. There was absolutely nothing friendly about the Super Cup. From the get-go there were crunching tackles and arguments breaking out all over the pitch. Cesare Prandelli tried to introduce a new approach to fair play during Euro 2012, urging his men not to complain to the referee or stir up tension with dissent. Juve and Napoli clearly didn’t get the memo, as having goal-line referees for the first time only served to provide two more people their players could moan at.
The Partenopei had every reason to be upset at the final whistle. They were in front twice, then saw two men sent off just before the end of normal time, followed by Walter Mazzarri. There are plenty of questions over what Goran Pandev actually said to get a straight red card, while Juan Camilo Zuniga could’ve avoided both bookings.
Even with the ever so slightly dubious penalty in favour of Mirko Vucinic, Napoli shouldn’t have gone so far as to boycott the trophy presentation. It’s a lack of class and sportsmanship that I’m afraid has become rather too common under Aurelio De Laurentiis. On the other hand, perhaps it was a good thing not to hear what the Napoli President had to say after this match. It would’ve been hard to translate without the aid of a lawyer and an advanced swearing dictionary.
Juve weren’t exactly better during the match, as they complained about every single decision, while Antonio Conte’s ban provided them with extra motivation. I have already said the Coach did not deserve to be charged with failing to report a potential fix to authorities, but even then the 10-month suspension is utterly futile. If he can continue to work with the team day by day in training, pick the starting XI and hold the pre-match team talk – as long as it’s not in the locker room – then what kind of a ban is it? Don’t expect me to believe modern technology won’t allow messages to filter down to Massimo Carrera from the stands, either... Add to that Siena defender Emanuele Pesoli chaining himself to the FIGC headquarters (with a parasol and a plastic chair) to protest his three-year ban in the betting trial. If he hadn't announced a hunger strike, I bet he would've had a picnic hamper. It looked like quite a pleasant, summery protest.
If the Supercoppa is a sign of things to come this season, then we’ve got a fiery campaign ahead of us and not necessarily in a good way. Handbags are fun, but it’s getting into hair-pulling and eye-gouging territory here.