“I have to be honest, it was all moving so quickly that I didn’t realise the ball had crossed the line. Mind you, even if I had realised, I certainly wouldn’t have told the referee!” Gianluigi Buffon probably didn’t expect his post-match comments to be taken so seriously after the most controversial of clashes between Milan and Juventus. But unfortunately, his words ended up being as divisive as the game itself.
Known in the sport for his honesty and cheerful spirit, the light hearted Juventus goalkeeper once again proved to be a danger in the mixed zone. While not being malicious, a legend of Italian football could have expressed himself in better terms as calcio fans were understandably hoping to hear different words.
Buffon certainly has a reputation for being ‘politically incorrect’. Looking at his career, he has been constantly criticised for comments and actions which have been far from the ones of a role model. But while being no saint, his genuine personality has never been doubted.
Whereas it is hard to find a journalist or a fan naïve enough to believe that the majority of Buffon’s colleagues would have done the contrary of what he said, there is also a clear feeling that the goalkeeper would have been better off not sharing his feelings.
Buffon clearly has a tendency for contradictions. Only two weeks ago, following the Juventus-Siena game, the Bianconeri goalkeeper told RaiSport: “If the referee comes to me asking if a corner should be given or not and then does the contrary of what I say, he is not serious enough so next time he encourages me to cheat. I wouldn’t lose my honour over a corner kick – against Udinese the referee asked me the same thing and I told him there was a corner for our opponents.”
Some may assume that Buffon is willing to confess the truth over a corner kick, but wouldn’t do the same if it was a goal like the one against Milan. And in a way, comparing views, it is exactly what the goalkeeper said.
Still, after his Milan-Juve comments, he is determined to stand strong by his point of view. “I would repeat my words again. If I had understood that the ball was over the line then I wouldn’t have said anything. I wouldn’t have buried my team. My conscience is clear. After all, I have set a good example on many other occasions.”
While extreme detractors have gone as far as saying that Cesare Prandelli should strip Buffon of the Italy captaincy, it seems pretty clear that Buffon’s comments were just the latest false step from a ‘keeper who is excellent between the posts but needs some guidance in the media environment.
In the words of a great Juventino such as Michel Platini: “Buffon has gone too far with his words and between Turin and Milan there should not be war. If the referee had asked him and he had said ‘no’, then that would have figured him to be a liar.”
In a way, it is undeniable that Buffon missed a chance to make a special act of good sportsmanship. Like Paolo Di Canio in the Premier League, he could have entered into the fair-play elite.But there is also an undeniable truth – Buffon is neither a liar nor a cheat. Honesty, on this occasion, simply dealt him the wrong cards.