Category Archives: Italy

Warner, Witchcraft and the 1974 World Cup Whipping Boys

It’s one of those moments that you remember; well, I do anyway. Not quite a ‘where were you when JFK…’ sort of thing, and certainly much less of an event on the world stage, but something that stuck in my mind. It’s a memory of a Haitian official, perhaps a trainer, a coach or similar; he may even have been a substitute I suppose. I’m not sure of his precise role and it matters little, but he had a bright red Haitian tracksuit on. And there he was staring into the camera in Wild-eyed disbelief, doing what I can only describe as overexcited star jumps, surrounded by similarly attired celebrating colleagues, with a look of joy that his face simply seemed incapable of containing. Continue reading →

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 Andy Selva – San Marino’s national hero!

On the first day of September 2017, as the autumnal chills were beginning to wrap their cold fingers around football fans watching their teams progress – or otherwise – through the qualifying programme, chasing a place in the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Michael O’Neill took his Northern Ireland team to the Stadio Olimpico di Serravalle in San Marino. They returned with a comfortable 0-3 victory. On the face of it, the result was probably one of the easiest to predict of the evening’s international fixtures across the globe.

San Marino are, after all, one of the weakest of the Fifa family members, being placed at 204 in the August 2017 rankings with only the British Virgin Islands, of the teams with any ranking at all, beneath them. Until Gibraltar were admitted into Uefa in 2013, they were also European football’s smallest competing country, as defined by population numbers. All that said though, there’s just the slightest of chances that perhaps the result may have been different had the home team been able to call on the services of their most capped player and top scorer. Unfortunately, the man in question was injured and unavailable. When you’re the only player in the history of your country’s footballing exploits to ever have scored a winning goal whilst wearing the national colours, you’re going to carry a little prestige with you, even if you are at the ripe old age of 41. Continue reading →

The man who broke Brazilian hearts and the world transfer record.

Juan Alberto Schiaffino was pretty much the embodiment of precisely what you would not expect a footballer to look like. Short and slender, with a pallor complexion, he could easily have passed for some someone in need of a good meal, rather than an outstanding athlete. Here was a player though that reached the very top of the football tree, and at the height of his powers, was deemed to be worth more money than any other player on the planet before him. Continue reading →

“Pertido deal Siglo” – Blue thunder and white lightning under a hot Mexican sun.

Italy v West Germany 1970

There’s a certain type of wisdom that only comes with age and the experience; of seeing many things; by observing quietly and absorbing; by understanding. Sitting in the suburb of Santa Úrsula in Mexico City, the Estadio Azteca is not only an imposing architectural edifice, it can also boast a rich history of hosting some of the most celebrated matches in the history of international football. Being the first venue to host two World Cup Finals, it’s fair to say that the old stadium has witnessed a fair bit of the ‘beautiful game’ with some of the rarest of talents ever to grace the international arena treading its turf. When the Azteca speaks of greatness therefore, it’s done with the authority of age and experience. It’s beholding on us all to listen. Continue reading →

Franco Baresi – “That’s exactly it. He was special.”

Franco Baresi - Hero of the Milam tifosi and perhaps the best defender ever to grace the beautiful game.

Franco Baresi – Hero of the Milam tifosi and perhaps the best defender ever to grace the beautiful game.

Describing the defender that he had played alongside for so many glorious years in the Rossoneri, backline, Paolo Maldini, in an interview with Jamie Carragher said: “That’s exactly it. He was special.” In that simple phrase, he encapsulated the aura and majesty of a player who graced the famous red and black as a ‘one club’ player. A hero of the tifosi on the Curva Sud at the Stadio Guiseppe Meazza San Siro in the Lombardian city of Milan and the man for whom AC Milan retired the number six shirt; the incomparable Franco Baresi. Continue reading →

Pak Doo-Ik: North Korea’s 1966 exploits and the fame, shame and rehabilitation of Middlesbrough’s favourite ‘Chollima.’

The goal that launched North Korea into world cup folklore. Pak Doo-Ik slides the ball past Albertossi in the Italian goal to give the North koreans a 1-0 victory over the Azzurri.

The goal that launched North Korea into World  Cup folklore. Pak Doo-Ik guides the ball past Albertossi in the Italian goal to give the North Koreans a 1-0 victory over the Azzurri.

Sometimes, you hear a fact, notice a name or log a date in your memory in the obscure hope that someday, you’ll be in a pub quiz team, or watching a television programme where someone will say something like, ‘Can anyone remember the name of the goal-scorer when North Korea beat Italy in the 1966 World Cup. And up you’ll jump, full of a confidence bordering on arrogance and say, “Yes, I do. Yes, I do!”  Continue reading →

Dark days in Lombardy as Milan clubs decline together.

The San Siro, home to both AC Milan and Internazionale. Like the stadium however, the fortunes of both clubs are starting to look a little the worse for wear.

The  imposing San Siro, home to both AC Milan and Internazionale. As with the stadium however, the fortunes of both clubs are starting to look a little the worse for wear.

Not only has the city of Milan been dominated by a succession of empires, with the Romans, Spanish and French all having claimed dominion over the capital of Lombardy, powerful families have also held sway there. The Viscontis were deemed ‘lords of Milan’ from the late thirteenth century through to the middle fifteenth, and the Sforza family later took up this control around the Renaissance period. Nothing is for ever though. Empires crumble and families wither, and a similar fate appears to have befallen the city’s two football clubs. Once dominant in Serie A with an imperial strut to their performances, both AC Milan and Internazionale appear to be in decline, and the Berlusconi and Moratti families whose respective ownership of the Milanese clubs has identified them over recent years, appear to be following a following a similar pattern. Continue reading →