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What the Hell, Italy?



I don’t even know where to begin. I guess let’s start with the elephant in the universe: Italy is not going to the World Cup this year. Why? On the surface, it seems they struggle with finding a good coach, appropriate callups, not enough talent, not enough youth, etc. But it goes so much deeper than that. There is an infrastructure that was created by the actual dinosaurs who lived in the area now known as Italy that has not been updated since. And there is a culture of suspicion, intolerance, and corruption that is even older than those dinosaurs. Calciopoli was both a product of and disastrous result of a complete lack of accountability and integrity, not only within football, but in the country and within the culture. The same culture that brought so much to the world in the form of art, architecture, fashion, amazing food and wine, and other things is also one of the ugliest when it comes to sportsmanship, character, and basic human decency. What the hell, Italy?

Not my captain

When a Captain Was Actually a Captain
Juventus were about to be eliminated from this year’s Champions League, and the referee gave Real Madrid a penalty. Whether or not it should have been a penalty is a different discussion, but what happened afterwards was despicable. Buffon, wearing his captain’s armband, launched a verbal assault on the referee, who showed him a red card. Chiellini made gestures towards Real Madrid insinuating that they had bought the refs. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Buffon’s postmatch comments were shocking, showing not only a complete lack of respect for the referees, but also seemingly a lack of knowledge of what their job is. When he wasn’t saying the ref had a trash can for a heart or questioning the referee’s competence, he implied that this ref’s job was to make restitution for his perceived errors made by the ref in the other leg of this round and to take into consideration the emotional state of Buffon, seeing as how it could be his last Champions League match. NO. These are not only not what refs do, but specifically what they are not supposed to do. And as a veteran of the game, he should have known better.

Well to make matters worse, when a captain says those things publicly, the seedy underbelly of the team’s fanbase goes to work. They made death threats not only to the referee, but also to his wife, who had nothing to do with any of this. (Oh, and Buffon has already inspired copycat comments.) If Buffon could have just exercised some common decency, those fans making the threats never would have had the impetus to act so horribly. It would have been bad enough if it were some just some random brute player. But this was the captain, not only of Juventus, but of the Italian national team. One of the most respected players in the world. Not only that, but neither Buffon nor Chiellini received any reprimands or punishment for their behaviors. Nor have they apologized. Buffon still concedes, even well after the heat of the moment, that he was right, as do 99% of all Juventus fans. Even with the death threats. Even Gatttuso, who is most famous for trying to strangle Joe Jordan as a player (as well as many other indiscretions,) said that Buffon would apologize when he calmed down. But he hasn’t. And no one at his club has asked him to, apparently. What the hell, Italy?

Why aren't more fans held accountable?

When Fans Attack
When Roma went to Anfield to play Liverpool, their club actually laid flowers at the monument honoring the 96 who died in the Hillsborough disaster. Very classy. Unfortunately, a few of their fans were not only not classy, but actually barbaric in attacking some Liverpool supporters. One Liverpool supporter was severely injured and actually left for dead, now fighting for his life in a coma in a hospital. A Roma club in Ireland immediately went to work raising money for his family and healthcare costs. Roma condemned the violence and the attacker, and have shown support for the victim through social media and even training in special shirts yesterday. They even helped organize a summit between Italian and English police and the clubs to try to prevent more violence in the second leg in Rome. But the Italian officials have not been so classy. They accused Liverpool police of not doing their jobs, absolving themselves of any responsibility. What’s the most disturbing is that no one is addressing the fans. While the two fans who attacked this man have been arrested without bail, what about the legions of others? The Italian police claim they warned the Liverpool police about these Roma fans being considered “dangerous.” Why were they allowed to travel at all? How many people have to die or be beaten to within an inch of their life before we address the actual problem? What the hell, Italy?

A cause to die for, only it's the women who are dying

Don’t Hit Girls
Italy’s violence against women statistics are staggering. Despite a decline in homicides in general, the murder rate of women has actually increased. An EU study shows that 19% of women who are married or with a partner will be the victim of violence from their partner. That is one in five. It’s so bad, they had to go to the kids to try to educate people. And since that didn’t work, they used Serie A to try to raise awareness. That’s right, the lipstick smudges on the cheeks of players ten days ago were supposed to stop men from beating and killing their partners. But their culture of pervasive sexism, violence, and lack of accountability is unlikely to change because of either of these campaigns. Even Gattuso has famously said on multiple occasions that women have no place in football. What the hell, Italy?

Territorial Incrimination
If you are a club other than Napoli, chances are you will be fined for Territorial Discrimination. What is that, you ask? It is a law that Italians have made to protect people from discrimination based on where they are from – insults about their city or area, etc. Non-sporting behavior that doesn’t belong in football. It makes sense. Only it is only ever applied to opponents of Napoli, whose citizens cannot tell the difference between chants about their city and chants about their club, apparently. And neither can the Lega Serie A. Both Milan and Fiorentina have been fined €10.000 for Territorial Discrimination in recent weeks, with no investigation. Meanwhile, Napoli Ultras personally attacked Donnarumma, leaving graffiti near his home. But no arrests for vandalism, no charges, no fines to the club. Nothing. The mayor of Napoli had some harsh accusations after the result of the Derby d’Italia, but there will be no repercussions for him. Both of these acts are far more intentional and hateful than whatever songs were sung by fans at a sporting event. And they are more public, more far-reaching, as well, with social and conventional media. But Territorial Discrimination only goes one way, which gives Neapolitans free reign and puts a lot of money in the FIGC’s pockets from all of the other clubs. What the hell, Italy?

A targeted and unpunished crime... but if it had been aimed at Napoli....

Racism Doesn’t Count
The same week Fiorentina were fined for chants against Napoli, all three of the observers from the FIGC heard racist chants from Inter’s Curva Nord against Juve’s Matuidi. The irony there being that if Inter were charged, it would invoke a suspended sentence for… wait for it… Territorial Discrimination. But in Serie A, it’s only racism if a certain percentage of the fans are participating in it. Territorial Discrimination, now that has no limitations. But racism, which is far more insidious and impactful on the players and the game, can only be punished if someone is willing to say there were enough perpetrators. Because Italians are far more protective of their territories (which you can move away from) than they are of a person’s race or nationality (which can’t be changed.) What the hell, Italy?

Respect
There is no respect in Italy. Not for the refs, not for reality. I speak, of course, of Inter. The same club that orchestrated Calciopoli and its lack of justice, conveniently hiding the fact that they were the worst at colluding with the referees, a fact courts finally acknowledge now that the statute of limitations is up. They continually have the audacity to accuse Juve of stealing things, while they actually wave their paper Scudetto around, which of course was actually literally stolen, as well as the treble and other titles they only won by crippling all of their opponents and “stealing” their best players. Most recently, ahead of the Derby d’Italia this weekend, they announced five minutes of silence for “all those robbed by Juventus over the years.” Their fans chanted “Ladri,” which means “thieves” in Italian. Not only is this insanely hypocritical, it’s highly unsporting for a team which purports to be able to win things of their own accord.

Not only factually incorrect, but hypocritical and unsporting

But their accusations against Juve have a deeper, darker implication. If Juve have “stolen,” then that means the referees helped them. So every time they shout “Ladri,” they are also implying that the Italian Referee Association is also crooked. How do they get away with repeatedly making such unfounded and damaging accusations? That said, it’s probably not a shock that everyone from Inter to Napoli to the myriad pundits have gratuitously lambasted Orsato for his performance in that match, publicly undermining him and all referees. So much so that Orsato and his family have received death threats and their home is under police surveillance. Which is so wrong, because his decisions cannot be overturned even if he wanted to. But they are allowed to be verbally overturned and undermined by people who work for Inter, people who get paid to talk about football, etc. There is no respect for the referee anymore, despite the addition of GLT and VAR. And because of that unchecked, hateful climate Orsato and his family fear for their lives. Football is supposed to be a game, not a matter of life and death.

And speaking of life and death, Orsato is not the only one living in fear after that match. Inter defender Davide Santon and his partner have also received death threats because of his performance against Juve. As his partner said, “It’s not okay.” What the hell, Italy?

Not worth killing for

There is no respect for the rules or for those who apply them anymore in Italy. Fans are increasingly abusive and violent, with virtually no repercussions for them. Without any accountability, the problems grow as exponentially as the posts go viral. Football is just another medium to promote things that other people in other countries already know. Many of the countries who actually did qualify for the World Cup know that protecting people should come before protecting territories. And that showing tolerance and respect is not only sporting, but also a basic tenet that decent human beings subscribe to. This summer, Italy will be sorely missed in Russia. And I wish they would take the opportunity to address their deep-seeded issues and lack of accountability or integrity, at least in football. But most likely, they’ll be busy blaming someone else for their failures. What the hell, Italy?


This post inspired by the music of Oingo Boingo’s “No Spill Blood”


Our next match is
Serie A Week 36
Milan vs. Verona
Saturday, May 5 • 18:00 CEST (12noon EDT)