Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Tale of Two Cousins


With the world famous Derby della Madonnina coming up on Sunday, it seemed appropriate to share a little history lesson on the darker side of Milan. Both Inter and AC Milan are called “i Cugini” or “the cousins” because they were once both part of the same club. But Inter split off due to a disagreement, and for their petulance have been the lesser of the two clubs historically since then. They’ve even resorted to criminal activity just to try to keep up with the good side of Milan, making the Derby an even more heated contest. As with all dysfunctional families, this family gathering is more than just a tale of two cousins.

Literally a family affair

It was 1908 when Inter decided to split off from Milan Cricket and Football Club. They wanted to bring foreign players into the club, whereas Milan featured exclusively Italian players at the time. In an attempt to sound even more pompous than their traditional fan base, they called themselves “Internazionale Milan.” Inter fans, who have been traditionally upper middle class or “bauscia,” the “new rich,” freak out if you don’t call their club Internazionale. But their club is barely worth the effort of the five letters in Inter. Meanwhile, the working class have traditionally supported Milan, hence their nickname “casciavit,” Milanese dialect for “screwdriver.”

It wasn’t always that way. The clubs had a healthy, almost brotherly rivalry. This in spite of the fact that Inter chose a grass snake or “biscione” as their mascot. You see, there are serpents entwined in the history of Milan in the various crests and banners, but they are like vipers. Real snakes, with real venom. I mean, seriously, who is afraid of a grass snake? It’s like a worm with scales. Which kind of describes Inter since 2006.

Like father and son

But I digress. Inter were traditionally one of the top clubs in Serie A. In the late 1920’s, their welcoming of foreigners freaked out the fascist leaders, so they were forced to merge with another club and go by a different name until the end of World War II. After that, they are best known for the years under coach Helenio Herrera, the years known as “Grande Inter.” Those years were the most successful on the pitch, with the titles all won honestly, to my knowledge.

Fast forward to the 1980’s, when Milan were embroiled in a match fixing scandal, which saw them relegated in the 1980-81 season. They won Serie B, but were unable to stay in Serie A the following season, being relegated again for the 1982-83 season. Winning Serie B again, they came back stronger and finished 6th. It was not long after this that one Silvio Berlusconi bought the club to save it from bankruptcy, and the rest is history. One of the most titled clubs in the world, all won on the pitch.

One of the most famous Derby images

I point this out, because Inter make a big deal out of being the only club to have never been relegated from Serie A. That is largely due to the criminal behavior of their former owner, Massimo Moratti and the former President of Inter, Giacinto Facchetti. You see, Inter had been terrible from the 1990’s on. This, despite Moratti purchasing the club in 1995 and making record-breaking transfer fees for players like Ronaldo and Vieri. They just sucked. And no matter what he did, no matter what he spent, they couldn’t win anything. In fact, it was in the Spring 2001 Derby that Milan humiliated them 6-0, their worst ever Derby defeat.

Not coincidentally, when Facchetti was elected president, things started to change. The club was wiretapping all of the other clubs’ conversations with referees and their designees. But they wisely only turned over the recordings of the other clubs when they went to the authorities in the Calciopoli scandal of 2006. So every other club that they recorded suffered a points deduction or worse, but not Inter. Juventus, for example, were relegated for the first and only time in their history, although it has since been proven that they should not have been, while both Milan and Inter should have been. But Milan did at least suffer a points deduction, while Inter suffered nothing. And they orchestrated the whole thing, taking down all of Serie A. In fact they gloated, bought great players at rock bottom prices from Juve as they were going down to Serie B. Then they accepted the paper Scudetto of 2005-06 gleefully, despite actually having finished third that season behind both Juve and Milan. And, with their rivals crippled or in Serie B, they went on to "win" four more titles, and even the treble one year. Disgusting. Worse still, when the truth came out, Moratti refused to waive the statute of limitations and accept the justice his team deserved. (Although Juventus have a lawsuit now, and the league are considering returning their 2005-06 Scudetto.) All of Serie A have never been the same since.

"Waaaaahhh... my club can only win by cheating..."

This is why I lost all respect for Inter. Glorified worms with scales is probably too good of a name for them, an insult to worms and scales. It was also in 2004 that one Roberto Mancini was hired on as coach. He couldn’t win anything of his own accord until he had a title handed to him and his management had proverbially beaten their opponents with crowbars and absolved themselves of any wrongdoing. In fact, Massimo Moratti recently said in an interview that the paper Scudetto is his favorite. Of course it is, he and his minions did all of the work for it – wiretapping, obstructing justice – those things are far more satisfying than having a team that can win of their own accord on the pitch. And that crime spree is the sole reason for Inter’s recent success, it’s plain for all to see. Just look at Mancini’s top scorer from his first Scudetto won “on the pitch”: it was one Zlatan Ibrahimovic, poached on the cheap from Juventus with one hand as they were knocked down to Serie B with the other. This, suddenly, after they could win nothing for 25 years. Disgusting. I’m embarrassed they are considered family.

After playing for both sides, Ibra knew just what to do with a worm with scales

So there is the tale of two cousins - the dysfunctional, criminal one, and the one who has actually paid for its wrongdoing. And now maybe you’ll understand why I hate them so much. It’s not a sporting rivalry for me anymore, it’s a battle of good vs. evil. Even more so with the arrogant but limited in skills Mancini at the helm again. Maybe Thohir legitimately bought his team of stars this year, but he, too, claims the 2005-06 Scudetto is theirs fair and square. So despite the good guys being outmanned in talent, I am praying for some superhero feats to take down those villains. I don’t need the 6-0 shellacking we gave them when they were honest and just sucked. A 1-0 victory would be more than enough for me. It’s always a moral victory in this family feud, the dysfunctional tale of two cousins.


This post inspired by the music of John Williams’ Main Title (from “Superman”)


Our next match is
il Derby della Madonnina
Inter vs. Milan
Sunday, September 13 • 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)