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Gianluigi Buffon and the tell-tale ball

2nd March, 2012

Poor Gigi Buffon.

If we still lived in that age before the camera’s unforgetting eye hovered over and around every major footballing event, the Italy captain’s decision not to mention to the referee, during Juventus’s match against AC Milan on the 25th of February, that Sulley Muntari’s header had sent the ball at least a ruler’s length over his goal-line might have served to trouble his conscience alone. Had the truth that a goal had in fact been scored not been broadcast with near instantaneousness, thanks to the miracle of the instant replay  to an audience of millions around the world, the secret might have remained between the two people closest to the incident, namely Mr Buffon himself and the would-be goalscorer Mr Muntari. All right, Arturo Vidal (see the following paragraph) would surely have known too, but the Luxury Player is sure that the Juventus midfielder is more than capable of keeping his own counsel.

As things stand the unlucky Buffon has found himself at the centre of a maelstrom of controversy, not for his claim that he hadn’t seen the ball cross the line, but rather for stating that he would not have told the referee had he known. The Luxury Player likes to imagine a world in which Muntari’s goal escaped not only the attention of the referee, his excellently positioned assistant, and Mr Buffon’s team mate Arturo Vidal, who appeared to have taken on the role of goal-line official at the moment the goal was scored, but also the gaze of the onpeering video cameras.

There would have been no need for national team manager Cesare Prandelli to account for the discrepancy between his decisions to leave Mario Balotelli and Daniele De Rossi out of Italian squads as punishment for on-field infractions and his vocal support of Buffon since Saturday’s incident, despite the Juventus goalkeeper’s refusal to temper his stance.  Indeed, this is the same Cesare Prandelli who suggested that Roma’s manager Luis Enrique had been in the right to drop De Rossi for last Sunday’s match against Atalanta, due to the midfielder’s late arrival for a team meeting. (The Luxury Player, initially perplexed by this decision, has finally arrived at the conclusion that tardiness is indeed a greater sin than dishonesty.)

Of course Buffon would have had none of the torrent of words of comfort from footballers past and present, including the former Juventus midfielder and current UEFA president Michel Platini, who suggested that as the referee hadn’t asked Buffon, the whole debate was academic (a remark that may have initially caused Buffon some discomfort given his relationship with educational materials). Instead of all that support, Gianluigi Buffon would have had to bear the guilt alone. Perhaps he would have lived hearing sound of head striking ball wherever he went, and seeing Sulley Muntari wheel away in delight to celebrate his goal. Every minute of every day this vision would repeat itself, with the thud of head against ball obscuring all other sounds, until, in a manner reminiscent of the behaviour of the unnamed narrator of Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, a delirious Buffon collapsed at the feet of Italian football’s authorities and unburdened his conscience.

Then again, perhaps not.

The Luxury Player has probably just been spoilt by this year’s African Cup of Nations, a tournament so devoid of attempts to hoodwink the referee that it seemed to belong to a parallel world. Now that this blog’s eyes are returning to the distinctly of-this-earth realpolitik of European football, a period of adjustment may be required.

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