Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Other Side of Juve

I have had many experiences with Juventini, and for the past two seasons, far too many of them have been negative. In fact, just the other day, after I had already planned this post, I was attacked yet again on Twitter. Juventini were supposed to be celebrating their win over Fiorentina, yet a couple of fans attacked me for something I had tweeted 3 weeks earlier (which, ironically was about being attacked by another Juventino.) This time, though, three other Juventini defended me. Juventini who are tired of the reputation their club and fans are getting. One such fan, who has been particularly tormented, being married to this loud-mouthed Milanista and having to hear about all of the abuse that's earned me, is Sposato al Nemico (which means “married to the enemy.”) In a world where Juventus is, for some, synonymous with scandal and corruption, he is a beacon of class and sportsmanship to me. So I sat down for a formal interview with him to hear about the other side of Juve. (Please excuse my nepotism, I am inherently lazy.)

A dramatic reenactment of my interview with my Juventino

So, you were born near Rome and your family have always been Romanisti. How did you become a Juventino?

I wanted to be different. And first I picked Lazio because they were the polar opposite. But Lazio sucked then and I wanted somebody good. So I picked the best team in Serie A. I was probably seven or eight years old, I ‘m not sure exactly.

What was it, do you think, that attracted you to the club?

Its storied history, its reputation. It was a classy team.

Who are your favorite players past and present?

Past players, probably Paolo Rossi and Dino Zoff, and more recently Del Piero and Pirlo, although I’ve been a fan of Pirlo since before he was a Juve player.


Do you remember what the club was like pre-Calciopoli?

It was the team to beat. It was Italy’s team. There were always a number of Italian players on the team, they featured prominently on the national team, and it was always at the top of the Serie A table.

And what would you say was the general feeling toward Juventus at that time?

I don’t know, I’ve never really cared much about what other people think. I know my family wasn’t happy about me picking Juve.

You have a keen eye for ref calls, and often make the right calls faster than the refs on the pitch. What do you think about the ref calls and Juve?

I think refs do the best they can to be fair and sometimes it might seem like there is favoritism, but it’s just that randomness sometimes favors one side or the other. If you flip a coin enough times, you’re going to come up with a string of heads. It doesn’t mean that the coin favors heads. Ideally, refs wouldn’t make mistakes. But they’re only human. So you have to accept the calls that go for you as well as the ones against you.

What changes in the club or its fans do you think there were as a result of Calciopoli?

As a result of getting relegated, we lost a lot of talent, so we had a couple of discouraging and demoralizing years as performances suffered.

Had Juventus ever been relegated before?

No. Juventus and Inter were the only two teams that had never been relegated. And Moratti made sure that there was only one left.

Do you think public opinion of Juventus improved or worsened as a result of Calciopoli?

Definitely worsened. The scandal and the judgment justified fans of other clubs to continue with their accusations and derogatory insults.

2006 represented the best and worst of calcio

Have you noticed any differences in Juventus as a club or its fans since Calciopoli?

I think all of the controversy has put Juve and its fans under a microscope when it comes to their actions. I think it’s also caused many supporters to be more defensive than they might have been before. Whereas before, they were always the top team in the country, now they’re fighting for respect.

Juve have had the most fines for fan behavior this season and have had numerous bans amongst the players and managers. How does it feel to be associated with poor behavior from the club or its fans?

I don’t approve of racist behavior in any context. I don’t understand fans who celebrate their victories by victimizing others, whether it’s the team they beat, or fans of teams that weren’t even involved. It reflects poorly on such a prestigious club, and one that deserves respect and not hate. Respect can’t be won, it has to be earned, and behavior that warrants fines only promotes further hatred. The club has been more aggressive in defending itself too, and I think that it’s not necessary.

I have been told by people claiming to be “classy” Juventini that they have a right to behave badly because of the club being punished so severely by Calciopoli. Do you agree with this claim?

No. We’re better than that.

This is the Old Lady of legends

Do you think Juventus fans are any better or any worse than other club’s fans?

I don’t think you can generalize a whole club’s fandom. One might argue that there are pockets of fans that behave very poorly. And certainly, the fines this year might indicate that we’re behaving worse than other clubs. I think the club should be more vocal in denouncing the poor behavior and doing its utmost to rid itself of the stigma.

How hard is it being married to a Milanista when rivalries turn sour?

It’s very hard. It makes it nearly impossible to enjoy my team’s successes. It would be nice to hear something else besides complaints about it.

How does it feel when your wife is attacked by fans of your club?

It’s unacceptable. Nobody deserves be attacked like that. It makes me angry that fellow fans would stoop to such behavior against anyone, especially my wife.

Anything else you want to say to my Milan friends?

Don’t expect another win in April. We’re coming to tear you apart. (but I’ll still respect you in the morning.)

Hopefully you can see now how I could possibly be married to a Juventino. They are not all the way that they are portrayed by rival fans and the media, they do not all behave as badly as so many of their fans, and even their team and coaches sometimes do. Being married to a Juventino has taught me to respect the team, to see things through the eyes of a Juventino, but with the balance of the outside views of a rival club, too. Maybe everyone should watch a game with a rival club’s fan, it might increase understanding and decrease the hatred. It hasn’t changed my sense of rivalry or lessened my support for my club in any way, just helps me to be more balanced in my views. I could never use the derogatory terms others use for the club, even after being subject to so much personal hatred from people who claim to be fans of the club. It truly is a storied club, and one I respect immensely for its accomplishments past and present.

As for Sposato al Nemico, he has more class than I do, and he always shows impeccable sportsmanship, even during Smacktalk Week™. He represents the other side of Juve, a quiet, respectful side, who simply love their club, it’s players, and the beautiful game. How many of these types of fans are out there? It’s hard to know. I’d like to believe they are the quiet majority, but their louder counterparts have me questioning that anymore. Regardless of what happens, I can take solace in knowing that I got one of the best ones.

Good luck to Juve today vs. Celtic in the Champions League

A very special thanks to Sposato al Nemico for being my victim for this interview, and for putting up with me in general. You may recognize him from his clever and witty comments here, or from my seemingly abusive comments toward him. What you may not know is that he is also my personal IT guy, and the one who nagged me into blogging about Milan in the first place. Grazie amore mio.

This post inspired by the heroics of my Juventini friends

Our next match is
Milan vs. Parma
Friday, February 15 • 20:45 CET (2:45 EST)