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Monday August 20 2012
Feud for thought

With another Serie A campaign on the horizon, Giancarlo Rinaldi is expecting as much controversy as ever in the world of Italian football.

Since the pioneering days of Italian football, it has been a driving force of the game. Barely a week goes by when the word is not emblazoned across the front pages of the nation’s sports pages. And already, before a ball has been kicked this year, the Serie A season promises to be full of it – Polemica.

A quick look at the dictionary gives you a superficial understanding of its meaning. A feminine noun translated, variously, as polemic, controversy, dispute, argument or squabble. All of those definitions contain an element of its significance but none quite encapsulate its complete football context. You need to explore the catacombs of calcio to understand its full, symbolic resonance.

I can’t speak for the times before my birth but back when I was a boy it was all about Juventus against the rest of Italy. The Bianconeri were dominant and a spinning wheel of fortune threw up their adversaries for each season’s bitter dispute. Torino, Fiorentina, Roma, Inter and Milan all tried to kick out the walking stick from under La Vecchia Signora at one stage or another. It rarely worked and that only stoked the flames of the latest controversy.

In years to come, Polemica would acquire a new flavour when it split across the seismic fault-line of the nation’s north-south divide. Milan and Napoli came to symbolise two sides of a country of contrasts. The sale of Berlusconi’s tears outside the San Paolo stadium was one of the more humorous elements of that dispute. There were, sadly, plenty of more sinister aspects to the insults traded between Lombardy and Campania.

More recently, of course, it was Juventus and Inter who locked horns in a feud which reached its venomous peak with THAT penalty not conceded for a foul on Ronaldo. Calciopoli saw Roma replace the Bianconeri as arch-adversaries for the Nerazzurri. And then, last season, there were all the claims and counterclaims of conspiracy between Milan and Juve as a spiteful side-order to their title tussle. They could teach those Shakespearean witches from Macbeth a thing or two about keeping a cauldron boiling.

The pot has already started simmering for this year with the yawn-inducing will-they/won’t-they third Scudetto star debate in Turin. A ban for Antonio Conte added another splash of spice. Then Napoli’s no-show petulance after Italian football’s poisoned showcase in China stirred things up even further. Mix in the none-too-subtle sniping at Milan between Max Allegri and the club’s hierarchy and matters have often threatened to get out of hand before a proper match has been played.

The trouble is, of course, that everyone has an interest in keeping the fuel tanks of these feuds topped up. The fans blame the manager if their team fails to produce. The Coach then points the finger at his President for a lack of investment or support. And the club owner, in turn, insinuates that dark forces are at work in the League to ensure his side cannot succeed. It is kick-the-cat syndrome in reverse.

The end result of Polemica, is that nobody trusts anyone and every big clash is more foul-tempered than a grappa drinker finding his favourite bottle is empty. It also provides everyone involved in football with a perfect excuse when their team loses a match, gets knocked out of a competition or does not deliver on its season’s targets. Simply hatch open a conspiracy theory and you are absolved of any blame. It is calcio’s answer to going to confession.

There is, in truth, no easy antidote or cure to the ailment that afflicts the Italian game – and others. If there is a solution, a part of it probably lies in the dash of humour seen in the best banners still dotted around the grounds of Serie A. They take the mickey out of an adversary without having to descend to the cruel and crass jibes which seem to have become the order of the day.

Is it so difficult, after all, to admit that – at least on the odd occasion – the best team won but it was not yours? In the heat of a match it might not be possible to achieve that balanced view but, afterwards, would a more measured analysis really be so difficult? Why not try it out this season, instead of falling back on the same old insults and excuses? I for one am willing to give it a try, even if I am well aware that it will probably never catch on.

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Have your say...
A little bit of controversy never killed anyone... I say, let it be. Its the joy of Calcio, with so much passion, you need a vent...

I just hope these bribery/betting scandals stop. That hurts the credibility of Calcio. I hope the next player caught doing this is banned for life. FIGC needs to make a few examples to leave all this mess behind so that the beautiful game can move on.
on the 22nd August, 2012 at 3:25pm
It's interesting how other fans speak about Juve, Calciopoli or Scomessopoli, without even reading the original documents. They read just secondary articles about these pseudo-scandals and think they are in the place of suprem judges.
Frustrated little men, what can I do? You are forevere losers, not because you lose (because you can lose with dignity), but because you have a loser little man mentaliy. You need excuses for everything. If it will not be Juve, it will be something else.
Pathetic
on the 22nd August, 2012 at 2:17pm
Why do Juventus fans seem to think implicating others make them innocent?
on the 22nd August, 2012 at 10:20am
I just love to hate everything Juventus and their pathetic fans stand for , my blood is black & blue - FORZA INTER !!!
on the 22nd August, 2012 at 5:56am
It is funny to see how Juve fans now seem to have a strong desire to defend themselves and their club absolutely everywhere - even in totally random places like a blog post which is not accusing Juve of anything what so ever. If anything you all just prove Mr. Rinaldi's point.

Sometimes one would hope that people would keep just a tad calm. As A Napoli fan I for instance find their non-show after the Super Coppa childish and stupid.
on the 21st August, 2012 at 2:25pm
Great column. At times, the off-the-pitch madness fascinates me, but mostly it just makes me sad. If only the men in charge invested that time and energy in the teams, maybe all of Italian football would rise with them.
on the 21st August, 2012 at 1:57am
People ignore the facts about Calcopoli and the latest scandal and just abuse Juventus because they are Juventus. The new wiretaps proved Juventus were guilty of nothing more than ungentlemanly conduct whilst Inter were proved to have been guilty of sporting fraud. The FIGC tried to destroy Juventus in 2006 and are trying to do it again with their disgraceful treatment of Antonio Conte. We are back at the top of the Italian game and that's where we will stay until for the forseeable future.
on the 21st August, 2012 at 12:55am
The true reality is that La Signora is back fitter,hungrier and still as beautiful as ever despite all that's said and done against her by the FIGC and the conspiracy theorists who despise Juve.31 beckons come the seasons end and once again we will have to here the knockers bitch with complete envy.
on the 20th August, 2012 at 7:39pm
Every story needs a villian. As a Juve fan, let them hate and treat us as villians, while I add stars to my jeresy.
on the 20th August, 2012 at 6:11pm
People always criticise Italian football but you know what i say, i think other leagues match fix but the only difference is that the other leagues keep it quite but the Italian teams hate each other so much that they grass on each other just to get one up on each other.
on the 20th August, 2012 at 5:52pm
i am 43 years old have followed italian footbal all my life and have learnt one thing, when you become powerful people will hate you and wait for an error against you to crucify you, but this is life, opponents must unfortunately give in to the fact that when you are a force of 1/3rd of the population in italy alone you will eventually be the biggest and best in the end as this is the force of economics..
on the 20th August, 2012 at 5:39pm
Its true as soon as juve win the cry cheat rings out blah blah but still as yet no evidence to punish Juventus but there was for inter as they was convicted but they get a walk .it doesn't matter from juve point of view they are to strong their squad is deep with more to come in can't see anyone beating them this season, so the cries of cheats will be heard every week so us juve who are used to this bitterness shall just get on with it with another trophy or two at the end
on the 20th August, 2012 at 4:18pm
I love creating chaos.It makes me feel alive, invigorated. Could it be my Italian heritage? hmmm
on the 20th August, 2012 at 3:26pm
Sadia nailed it in one. Juve are the pantomine villans and with every victory people cry "cheat" with to this date no evidence..........
on the 20th August, 2012 at 3:14pm
The biggest controversy (imo) in Italian football was the post-Calciopoli discovery that Inter were also involved in things which would have seen them punished (if they'd come to light in 2006).
Inter fans should be thankful that their club was not punished as they would have missed out on those excellent Mourinho years.
on the 20th August, 2012 at 2:31pm
The danger is that people are now starting to tire of polemics and conspiracy, not to mention the summer scandals. If Calcio doesn't re-invent itself without all this crap, ours could go the route of Scottish football.
on the 20th August, 2012 at 12:59pm
You forgot to mention how inconsistent the FIGC are and the bad decisions they make (Calciopoli and the latest betting punishments for a start!) which adds to all of this...

This whole thing has got out of hand because of the poor handling of Calciopoli...
on the 20th August, 2012 at 12:52pm
A very good perspective on conspiracy in italian calcio. The problem is my dearest Sir, when one of those theories acquire the status of absolute truth, and there are real consequencies, and not just futile polemics.
Some paid a very high price for these "little men mentality", and frustrations.
on the 20th August, 2012 at 11:42am
I agree, it would be nice if people could just be friends- or am I just being naive?? Being a Juve supporter for many years I have seen controversy after controversy, But I do find that in Italy football is like Theatre and Juve are the pantomine villans.
on the 20th August, 2012 at 11:15am

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