Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The current situation in Italian Soccer.

Over last weekend, yet another sad chapter was written into Italian soccer history as a Sicilian police officer was murdered outside Catania's Angelo Massimino Stadium while several groups rioted after Palermo won 2-1 over rivals, Catania. Most are referring to those who rioted as supporters or fans. I won’t because I really don’t feel that those who riot after a loss are fans or supporters of anything. Not in Europe and not in the USA. The students who riot after their basketball team loses, they aren’t fans, they are just idiots who cannot truly make the difference between right and wrong and have no true outlet for their disappointment.

Italian soccer is at probably the lowest it has been for a while. The leagues were rocked by a match fixing scandal last season, a couple of years ago a Champions League Semi-Final between Inter Milan and AC Milan was halted due to flares being thrown on the pitch, some striking the players and costing Inter a chance at the final. These are just two of the most recent negative headlines that Italy has seen in the last couple of years.

A lot of people are asking what is to be done about the current problems. Italy is currently under a “two week hiatus” from all soccer, but nobody thinks it will last. Serie B clubs are already talking about having matches this weekend and everyone is shooting down the thoughts of having matches in empty stadiums.

I think that the problem facing Italian soccer right now is Italian soccer itself. The Italian FA (or whatever they call themselves) have fucked up time after time after time in instances where they should have shown that they had backbones and that they were in charge. After the Champions League match I mention above, was Inter really punished? UEFA granted AC Milan the 3-1 victory and they moved on to meet Liverpool in the final, but did Inter really get any type of punishment?

After the match fixing scandal, Juventus was stripped of it’s two last Serie A championships and was relegated to Serie B, but along with the other clubs that were found guilty, they had most of their points granted back and now lead Serie B and look to be returning to Serie A next year and ready to start bringing in high priced replacements. AC Milan were given point deductions for this season, but they weren’t deducted enough when all of the appeals came through and they still made it to the lucrative Champions League, where they have made it to the round of 16 and stand to at least bringing $20 million from their part in the tournament. How have either of these two clubs been punished, in any way that will set an example for the rest of the league? They haven’t.

The problem here lies at the root of the focus, the Italian soccer. Italian soccer needs to reinvent itself and they need to do it fast. The entire environment is in such a state of chaos that I doubt if anyone over there even really knows who is in charge. Those who think that they are in charge needs to step up and take action, and this time they need to take action that sticks and without any type of appeal or reprieve. The type of action would be so harsh, it would shake everything related to Italian soccer to its core and cause everyone to take a good long hard look at how they behave and how they operate, when it comes to Italian soccer. I think a lot of people need to be punished.

First off, I would deduct 20 points from both Palermo & Catania. Deducting 3 points here, 6 points there will not be any type of concern for either club. 20 points will give them such a drop in the standings that their seasons would be over. Catania would go from 30 points to 10, and would most likely relegate them back to Serie B. Palermo would drop down to 13th, which I still feel would be too high for them. This would be a perfect way for the Italian FA to show the rest of the clubs in all levels, that they need to get their own houses under control. It would also be a great way to show the fans, “Don’t fuck with the soccer.” The match itself was suspended for several minutes because of smoke bombs thrown during the game. If you fuck with our soccer, we will punish the clubs that you claim to support.

Second, I would force all Italian clubs in Serie A & B to play the next 10 matches in empty stadiums and without any television coverage. This would affect the ownerships of the clubs; the people who I really think run Italian soccer. When they can’t get the gate revenues or the TV revenues, something tells me that they will start to make some changes in how they operate their clubs and who they really allow to associate with their clubs. The type of change that is needed must start from the top.

Third, the Italian FA must approve and suggest to the Italian judiciary that they begin to outlaw certain fans from gathering anywhere near the stadiums on match day. England confiscates the Passports of known hooligans which prevents them from traveling during the World Cup, why can’t the Italian police impose a type of house arrest for those fans who are known to be the ones who cause the problems? I can’t imagine it is that hard to do.

Fourth, the Italian FA would withdraw AC Milan, Inter Milan and Roma from the Champions League. The Italian FA should also self impose a 5 year ban on Italian clubs from participating in the Champions League or the UEFA Cup. England was banned for how many years? I think it is time for Italy to get a time out.

Sadly I think that none of these type of suggestions implemented, or really anything “real” will happen in Italy and either this weekend or next weekend, it will be business as usual and we will see something else happen in about 6 or 8 months down the line. Because of this, I think that something needs to be done higher up the food chain. Namely, I think that UEFA needs to step up and show that it the Italian FA won’t take care of its house, UEFA will.

UEFA should, if nothing really happens, ban all Italian clubs from European football tournaments for the next 10 years. No more Champions League and its huge cash royalties. No more UEFA Cup or anything that is not a domestic match. They should also fail to recognize any type of league champions from Italy for the next 10 years.

Once UEFA does that, they should ban any Italian national team from taking part in any UEFA sanctioned match for the next 5 years. That would mean that it would ban Italy from taking part in the EURO 2008 tournament as well as costing them the first year of qualifying for EURO 2012. I also believe that it would cost Italy its chance at making the 2010 World Cup, so it would not be able to defend its championship.

Sadly again, none of this will ever happen and we will most likely see Italy taking part in the European Championships in 2008, like everything is ok.

Harsh situations require harsh reactions. The only way there will ever be any type of change in Italy, is if the environment for the entire country is changed. Once the real supporters and fans are made to suffer, they will then stand up and make sure that the small numbers of assholes who cause the problems don’t have the chance to do anything.

Civilized societies are ones that can stand up and tell themselves, “No, you are not going to do that.” Those people who can police themselves are those who show that they deserve the right to be able to enjoy the things in life that they cherish. Once all Italian citizens show that they are mature and civilized enough to attend a sporting event; a frigging game, and not throw flares at the players, or throw batteries at the referees and just watch the players do what they get paid to do…then they should not be allowed to do that with the rest of the civilized world. Until that day comes, they should be put in the corner and given a time out.



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