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.
A brief guide for commentary teams serving a primarily British audience
Make no attempt to learn the correct pronunciation of player’s name. If a player’s name begins with the combination of M or N plus another consonant, insert a vowel sound between the two letters to render the name more euphonic to European ears and remember that it is to be generally considered that African vowel sounds ape those of RP British English. Thus Zambian goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene should be known as Kennedy M’uhwiini (to rhyme with S’uhweeney). Moreover, the letter U at the end of all African names must remain silent, which is why Ugo Ehiogu and Peter Ndlovu are known as Ugo Ehiogg and Peter Ndluvv respectively. Note that Ndluvv is the one case in which an initial N may be followed directly by a consonant.
You will presume that the national squads with the most players in the United Kingdom, and particularly in England, if you yourself are English, must naturally be amongst the favourites. You will for example assume this year that the Ivory Coast are shoo-ins for the African Cup of Nations trophy because they are led by (the English club) Chelsea’s Didier Drogba, and also count amongst their ranks (the English club) Manchester City’s highly influential midfielder Yaya Touré and his elder brother and club teammate Kolo. You Read more…
‘What’s nice about Mainz is that they always try to play football’, said the co-commentator with the odd intonation, not long after Andreas Ivanschitz had accepted Bayern Munich defender’s Jerome Boateng’s charitable offering of a fabulously deep one-man defensive line to stay onside and put the team from Rhineland-Pfalz in central western Germany ahead on Sunday. The Luxury Player has never shied away from stating the blindingly blatant, and was of the opinion that Mainz owed their lead to a very sensible decision to play football and not, say, basketball, which would have seen them starting with a measly five players, all of whom would have been soon sent off for persistently handling the ball.
The funny thing is that playing football did upset Bayern this past weekend. Mainz, far from scaling anew the heights reached last season, were languishing near the bottom of the table at kick-off, but chose nevertheless not to be cowed by the might of Bayern. Bayern of course had just lost only their second match of the season, against Borussia Dortmund one week earlier, which would have seen them keen to return to winning ways, but were perhaps physically weakened by the exertions of their midweek Champions League victory over Valencia. More damaging to their chances were arguable the absences of Bastian Schweinsteiger in midfield and Arjen Robben in attack coupled with the presence of the aforementioned 19th century novelist Jerome K. Jerome Boateng on the right side of defence, who at times this campaign has seemed determined prove that his football can be as chortle-inducing as his writing. Read more…
These are the introductory paragraphs of an article of mine originally published on the pages of Les Rosbifs, a website which looks at the fortunes of Englishmen plying their trade and seeking their fortunes beyond their home shores. The entire text can be found here.
At the end of the 1991-92 Serie A season, a cursory glance at the league table and goalscoring chart would have offered little in the way of surprise. Milan had won the league, eight points clear of Juventus in second place. Those two teams also provided the top two goalscorers, Marco van Basten and Roberto Baggio respectively. The goalscoring chart was in fact decorated with the names of some of the best marksmen of the era; Careca, Gabriel Batistuta, Karl-Heinz Riedle, Gianfranco Zola, Beppe Signori and Gianluca Vialli all featured on it. And with just one goal less than Zola and the same tally as Signori and Vialli was the name of one of the most highly regarded players of the previous year’s World Cup: David Platt. The same David Platt, who had been wanted by Juventus and ended up at a Bari team that had made the climb up from Serie B just two years earlier and were now, despite their star’s best efforts, returning to the second tier of Italian football.
Platt’s transfer to Bari almost didn’t go through. Having just finished the season two places above the relegation zone with Aston Villa, Platt understandably had reservations about joining a club that had reached no better than the equivalent position in Italy’s top flight. Platt was growing accustomed to scaling football’s heights. He and Villa had ended the 1989-90 campaign in 2nd place and earned a spot in the squad for Italia ’90, where England had reached the semi-finals. That Italy had been the stage on which Platt had offered irrefutable proof of his talents before a global audience with his dynamic performances and three goals, including one against the hosts in the third-place play-off, would not have been lost on the man himself. Platt had gone on to prove his worth against Italian opposition once more that year, scoring in Aston Villa’s 2-3 aggregate defeat to Internazionale in the 2nd round of the 1990-91 UEFA Cup. If there was any one country outside Britain where his stock was high enough to secure him a contract at a club with European pedigree, surely that country was Italy. Fully cognisant of both his worth as a footballer and the brevity of his chosen career, Platt worked to have a clause guaranteeing him the right to join another Italian club at season’s end inserted into his contract. Thus, after a period of protracted negotiations, Platt eventually completed his moved to Bari in the summer of 1991, confident that in a year’s time he would be lining up alongside and not merely against Serie A’s elite.
It’s a big Saturday for followers of four of Italy’s most celebrated clubs, with Serie A’s northern ruling triumvirate of Juventus, Internazionale and AC Milan as well as central pretenders Roma pairing off against each other. Most media attention seems to be devoted to the match between Inter and Juventus in Milan, a confrontation rather understatedly described as the ‘Derby d’Italia’. Given that Inter have failed to score more than a single goal in a game for the whole of October and that all season Juventus have conceded more than that number on only one occasion, it seems likely that the Bianconeri‘s defence will come up trumps on this occasion. At this admittedly early stage of the season though, Inter will be playing not just to spite their rivals from Turin but to restore some credency to their title challenge. Inter, 16th in the 20-team table, have exactly half the number of points of league leaders Juventus, and a defeat would threaten to cut them irrecoverably adrift from the rest of the scudetto chasing pack.
Inter’s task will be made no easier by the likely return of Gianluigi Buffon to the starting line-up. The Lombard team’s own number one, Júlio César, was injured in the midweek draw with Atalanta and will play no part in this match against Juve. Though considering the remarkable diminution of the Brazilian’s aura of invincibility since his howler for his country against the Netherlands in the semi-finals of last year’s World Cup, it remains unclear how much confidence his team have in him. Also absent will be Thiago Motta, whose authority in the centre of the park and leap at set pieces will be missed. Read more…