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Balaclavas mask friendly faces

The Zapatistas are no strangers to casual kickabouts in serious boots, such as this match in Mexico City. (www.jornada.unam.mx)
Oventic, Mexico, 17 August 2005 | In another example of politics making strange bedfellows, Milan club Internazionale and the ragtag group of advocates for Indian rights, the Zapatistas of Chiapas (formally called the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, or EZLN), have agreed to play a pair of friendlies. Details remain sketchy, perhaps an inevitability given the profile of the Zapatista leader, Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, the nom de guerre of the academic whom Mexican officials identify as Rafael Sebastián Guillén Vicente, a former philosophy professor. Subcomandante Marcos made his first public appearance in four years on 6 August, causing journalists to remark on his visible paunch (Hugh Dellios, "Masked Rebel Leader Has a New Cause in Mexico," Chicago Tribune, 14 August). More important, Marcos's reappearance, the group's renewed commitment to peaceful change, the flirtations with Inter Milan—one of the wealthiest European clubs, backed by oil baron Mássimo Moratti—and the selection of a new Zapatista mascot (a chicken, dressed as a penguin) appear to form part of a larger intent to lift the group's profile before presidential elections in July 2006 (Danna Harman, "It Will All Be Made Clear in the Next Zapatista Memo," Christian Science Monitor, 2 August).

"Pingui," on server patrol. Marcos writes, "We are all like pingui, forcing ourselves to rise up and make our way in Mexico, in Latin America and the world."

The Zapatistas are ever conscious of public relations, demonstrated by the sophistication of their Centro de Medios Independientes and accompanying website. The site, in fact, has published the correspondence between Marcos and Moratti. In a rambling, amusing message, Marcos suggests two games—a tie—played in Italy and at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) ground in Mexico City ("Marcos: Let the Games Begin," 25 May):

I have been unanimously designated Head Coach and put in charge of Intergalactic Relations for the zapatista football team (well, in truth no one else wanted to accept the job). . . . [I]n order to differentiate ourselves from the objectification of women which is promoted at football games and in commercials, the EZLN would ask the national lesbian-gay community, especially transvestites and transsexuals, to organize themselves and to amuse the respectable with ingenious pirouettes during the games in Mexico. That way, in addition to prompting TV censorship, scandalizing the ultra-right and disconcerting the Inter ranks, they would raise the morale and spirits of our team.

Moratti, in equally eloquent fashion, ripostes:

We will play. We will play our game, and I thank you for that. It will be a great match. Perhaps in a field, like we did as children, perhaps surrounded by giant trees. Or in a stadium, in the capital or on a rectangle drawn out in chalk on the earth, with the dust rising up until it makes us cough. Exhausted, but happy.

Caught up in the fantasy, Marcos demonstrates why he has helped make the 11-year-old indigenous-rights movement a cause célèbre in Europe and the Americas. He suggests Diego Maradona as referee with former Argentine international and writer Jorge Valdano as an assistant; Uruguayan authors Eduardo Galeano and Mario Benedetti would offer commentary. Valdano, for his part, has agreed, and the star of Mexico's women's team, Maribel Domínguez, has said she would play for EZLN—presumably sans balaclava. "If there's an opportunity to be there it is a good cause," she told La Jornada, the leftist paper that backs the Zapatistas (Abril Del Rio, "Maribel Domínguez alinearía con el EZLN, 'gustosa por la paz,' " 3 June). "I think it would mean a lot toward peace in the country, and that is most important." The match idea has grown out of such noble motives and from the initial interest of Inter captain Javier Zanetti, who persuaded the club to pool changing-room fines for donations that came to €5,000. "Our team doesn't just play on PlayStations and computers," said Inter manager Bruno Bartolozzi. Like Moratti, Bartolozzi can also reach rhetorical heights: "Soccer is like the fight of resistance—full of surprises."

Flare for campanilismo

Turin, Italy, 13 April 2005 | The fierce devotion (campanilismo) that calcio supporters give to their home side showed in last night's Champions League derby between Internazionale and AC Milan. The match

Flares rain down at the San Siro. One struck AC Milan's Brazilian goalkeeper Dida, who had to be substituted. (ANSA)
had to be abandoned after 73 minutes when Inter-backing ultras on the San Siro's Curva Nord hurled more than 30 red flares toward the AC Milan goal box, ending what International Herald Tribune correspondent Peter Berlin called a night of "ritualized and choreographed confrontation" (" 'Ultras' Hurt Inter Milan and Tarnish a City," 14 April). The ultras' action was to protest a disallowed Inter goal and to demonstrate frustration at the nerazzurri's long-foiled trophy quest. Some 85 police were injured in the previous weekend's slate of Italian league matches, prompting one writer to notice that the only peaceful weekends in Italian football occur when a pope is mourned. (For more background on the Milan derby, see Roberto Gotta, "Divided by Loyalties," ESPNSoccernet.com, 5 April.)

Some of the worst incidents occurred at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday in Rome.
Link to Liverpool Echo's dispatch on forgiveness
Turin mayor Sergio Chiamparino likes the Echo. (Liverpool Echo)
Lazio hosted Livorno with both sides, again, playing out ritualized hatreds. Banners proclaimed Rome's alleged Fascist leanings. Livorno, with its ties to the Communist Party and Che Guevara, seemed to bring out the worst in their hosts (see the report by Ian Hawkey, "Political Football," The Times [U.K.], 3 April). The unruliness has accentuated anxiety before another Champions League fixture tonight, the second leg of Juventus and Liverpool in Turin (see the earlier entry on Heysel). Liverpudlians' efforts at atonement appear to have been helpful, despite the crude response from some Juve hard-liners. Nevertheless, anti-terrorist DIGOS forces will be deployed; Liverpool fans have been asked to put their shirts and songs aside for the night. Tony Barrett of the Liverpool Echo writes that Turin—where the majority supports second-division side Torino—feels its own remorse in the Heysel aftermath. Jean-Philippe Leclaire, author of Le Heysel: Une tragédie européenne, tells Barrett: "There is shame that the game actually took place while 39 fans lay dead. There is shame that Juve paraded the European Cup around the Heysel Stadium. And there is shame that when the team returned to Turin more than 10,000 people lined the streets to welcome them" ("Now Is the Time to Forgive").

John Paul II: one who saves

Vatican City, 2 April 2005 | Karol Wojtyla, nicknamed "Lolek," had a checkered background as goalkeeper for a synagogue team in his

Real Madrid visits the pontiff in summer 2002. "Surmounting differences of cultures and ideologies, sports offers an ideal occasion for . . . building the desired civilization of love," said John Paul. (Zenit.org)
hometown Wadowice, Poland. "From age zero, we used to play together—marbles and soccer," neighbor and friend Yosef Bienenstock, a Jew, said of the boy who would be pope (Deborah Sontag, "Boyhood Pals in Poland, Ready for the Reunion," New York Times, 22 March 2000), "but the soccer ball was made of rags. In soccer, his ability wasn't the greatest." Yet he has been called "the most athletic pontiff in history," a committed swimmer, skier, hiker. Many have commented on the tremendous work rate demonstrated during his travels. He remained a football fan, scheduling his installation Mass in 1978 around Serie A matches. He received all referees prior to the 1990 World Cup finals in Italy and, in January of this year, granted an audience to KS Cracovia of Krakow in the team's 100th-anniversary year. John Paul's interest in football even inspired satire from The Commentary Box in the U.K. ("Papal World Cup Bid Expected," 13 November 2000): "Poland's failure to win the World Cup in '74 sent John Paul into a period of soul-searching. Eventually he was to cast off his tracksuit and don the robes of the highest office of the Papal state, but his love of the beautiful game has never waned."

Remembering John Paul at the Cracovia stadium. (www.cracovia.pl)

Update: With John Paul's funeral on 8 April, more remembrances have surfaced. UEFA.com recalls the pontiff's lifelong support of MKS Cracovia SSA and reports how Krakow's three teams—Cracovia, Wisla Kraków and KS Hutnik Kraków—joined at a Mass at the Cracovia stadium (Maciej Iwanski, " 'Reconciliation for the Pope' "). Supporters have also cleaned walls of graffiti slurring rival clubs. In his "Keeper's Blog," Peter Chapman of the Financial Times calls John Paul the "Cracow Cat." He sees in the pontiff a goalkeeper's persona, demonstrated even in boyhood: "[H]e volunteered to play in goal, a position shunned by those who seek membership of that larger, safe and largely anonymous community out on the field."

Turin 2006: 'The past here is present'

Turin, Italy, 10 February 2005 | One year to the start of the 2006 Winter Olympics, memories linger of what remains a defining moment in Turin sport history. That is the 4 May 1949

Banner headlines in La Stampa convey the tragic news.
crash of a Fiat G-212 airplane into the Superga hill near a 300-year-old basilica. On board were 18 players for "Il Grande Torino," Italian champions in 1943, '46, '47 and '48. "We lost an expression of our excellence," says former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, as Alan Abrahamson of the Los Angeles Times delves into the lingering pathos ("Redefining Moment"). Turin, now in the upper echelon of Italy's Serie B, historically has represented the local working class versus a nationwide base of support for Juventus, the bianconeri. In the aftermath of the tragedy, writes Paul Dietschy ("The Superga Disaster and the Death of the 'Great Torino,' " Soccer & Society 5 [summer 2004]), the club developed a new breed of tifo (fan), more activist and involved in perpetuating the memory of the great Turin side lost in the disaster.

Update: "We're hoping for an Olympics that doesn't fear soccer," says Giancarlo Padovan of the Turin daily Tuttosport (Andrew Dampf, "Turin 2006: Overall Readiness Receives High Marks but Smaller Problems Remain," Associated Press, 15 September 2005). Serie A matches will continue during the Games from 10–26 February, prompting concern that Italians will be distracted. A ceremony to mark passing of the 150-day threshold before the Games was delayed in deference to UEFA's Champions League schedule. "Italy is a very particular, vertical country," says Padovan. "Three-quarters of Italy doesn't know what snow is."

Some 'Glam' Alternatives to Replica Kit
We have neglected fashion for too long here at the Global Game. Today's weekend package in the Financial Times helps us rectify that oversight. First is a report on Neil Barrett,

Someone named Flo loves the Gunners. An item from Katie Walker's Vedette collection.
a British designer selected to create the new kit for Italy at the upcoming European Championships (Damian Foxe, "Best Man for the Italian Job"). Barrett will work on the team's full wardrobe: playing and training gear as well as casual and formal wear. He is also tasked with creating 12 full retail collections for Puma, under the marketing header "96 Hours." Italian media, as with the Azzurri, will be looking for results from Barrett. "In Italy, more so even than in England, football is a religion," the designer says.

Katie Walker has launched a second football-themed collection, these items exclusively for women (Edwina Ings-Chambers, "Football Fever Gets the Feminine Touch"). Although she will soon be working with Juventus of Turin, Walker's line concentrates on clothing for Arsenal and Chelsea supporters. These are relatively high-end products, with T-shirts retailing for £50 and cashmere team scarves at £500. Bikinis cost £100. Items for the two clubs are distinctive, with the Chelsea line, according to Walker, emphasizing the "glam" element, "very China White very Rod Stewart's girlfriend." Models at fashion shows are told "to prance around like they go everywhere in a helicopter" (see Fashion UK's interview). Wearers of Arsenal items, in contrast, will be "much tougher, cooler." Viewed at a certain angle, the Arsenal dress reads "I Love Arse."

Part of Walker's inspiration was research she discovered on Sheffield fans from the late 1970s and early '80s. The author, for his Ph.D., focused on supporters' obsession with clothing. Walker says:

He was talking about one boy on an industrial estate who was walking along looking for work and he looks on the other side of the street and he sees someone with a new thing like a pair of Kickers, and he said that it just made his heart leap. It was one of the most important days of his life, he was so passionate about what he'd seen and that so appealed to me because I thought that this is a fashion movement that doesn't come from magazines or celebrities, it is a fashion movement that is on the street.


Gentle Giant to the End
The shocking aspect of the football career of John Charles, who has died at 72, is that he was never cautioned. John Charles, 1931–2004Second-most surprising, perhaps, is that he was voted Juventus's greatest player, ahead of Frenchmen Zinedine Zidane and Michel Platini (Rob Hughes, "A Gentle Giant to the Very End," International Herald Tribune, 23 February). His gentle demeanor and 6-foot-2, 200-lb. frame earned him the moniker "Il Gigante Buono" (gentle giant), and, indeed, Charles was revered in Italy, perhaps more so than in his native Wales or among supporters of Leeds United, for whom he also played. At Juventus from 1957 to 1962—a period in which the "black and white" won three championships and two Italian cups—Charles came to represent a special interval, according to daily La Stampa:

Those were formidable years. Italians were driving Vespas as the economy boomed and television became the national pastime. Rome hosted the Olympics as Fellini shot La Dolce Vita. The darkness of the war and its aftermath was, if not forgotten, at least finally absorbed. And those three beautiful men in black and white stripes, (Giampiero) Boniperti, (Omar) Sivori and Charles, epitomised a generation finally ready to look forward, not back. (Translated and quoted in Gabriele Marcotti, "Italy Mourns Beloved Charles," The Times [U.K.], 23 February)

"If I have to knock them down to play well," Charles wrote in his autobiography, cited by Hughes, "I don't want to play this game. Players have to realize the public do not pay good money to see pettiness and childishness." Sadly, Charles has become at least the fourth footballer of prominence to have died recently and to have suffered from Alzheimer's (Peter Chapman, "Deadly Ball Situation," Financial Times, 12 February). The others are Sunderland's Bob Stokoe; Scotland's manager at the 1978 World Cup finals, Ally MacLeod; and Leonidas da Silva (see 27 January 2004 gleanings entry). As part of his suggestions that football might bear responsibility for these players' dementia, Chapman writes, "As central defenders Charles and Stokoe were prolific headers of the ball. Charles would sometimes play the first half of a game upfront, nod in a couple, then retreat for the second half to keep the opposition out." But, as far as we know, the link between football and dementia in later life has not been proven.

  • Rome | 28 January 2004 . . . To commemorate the 59th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and to Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel. Click for more information.counter racist images associated with Italy's ultras, athletes, journalists and politicians participated in the Partita della Memoria (Match of memory) Tuesday at Rome's Stadio Olimpico. Sylvia Poggioli of National Public Radio filed a report ("Europe Marks Holocaust amid Rise in Anti-Semitism"). The origins of Tuesday's match were rooted, Poggioli says, in a 1998 incident at the same venue, where ultras, targeting rival supporters, held up a banner reading, "Auschwitz Is Your Country—The Ovens Are Your Homes." Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel was guest of honor at the match, for which 20,000 tickets were sold. Funds will go toward constructing a Shoah museum in Rome. Beforehand, Wiesel lamented continued anti-Semitism across Europe: "We have antennas. That's all that we have. . . . Our antennas tell us that there is a moral danger to humanity today." See Rome newspaper La Repubblica for a review of Remembrance Day events in Italy (" "Voi siete arrivati all'inferno': Un grido per non dimenticare," 27 January).
  • Verona, Italy | 19 January 2004 . . . With the Parmalat crisis in view (see 26 December 2003 entry below), Click for more information on Parks's book about Hellas Veronanovelist Tim Parks writes of the historic influence of Italian barons—dating to Florentine magnate Lorenzo de' Medici—over finance and, now, over calcio ("Now That's Italian!" Wall Street Journal, p. A12). Author of A Season with Verona: Travels around Italy in Search of Illusion, National Character and . . . Goals! Parks of course refers to Parmalat's Calisto Tanzi (Parma), Silvio Berlusconi (AC Milan), Vittorio Cecchi Gori (Fiorentina), Gianni Agnelli (Juventus) and Sergio Cragnotti (Lazio). Most intriguing, though, is the relationship between Tanzi and Gianbattista Pastorello, former sporting director at Parma and, in 1998, the buyer of Hellas Verona, the side that Parks pursued for his 450-page narrative. After Pastorello's move,

    Parma and Verona proceeded to swap a number of players. In May 2001 the Verona team went to Parma absolutely desperate for a win to save them from relegation into the less profitable Serie B. Out of 16 away games that season Verona had lost 14 and drawn two. Since I have been a season ticket holder at Verona for many years, I was on the bus with the fans going to the crucial game. They were amazingly confident. "2–1 to us," they said. "It's been fixed." Mr. Tanzi would never, they thought, allow his team to play against his own money. And 2–1 it was, Verona scoring in the dying minutes while Parma's excellent defense stood by.

  • Parma, Italy | 26 December 2003 . . . Former Parmalat Finanziaria SpA president Calisto Tanzi Tanzi, with his beloved AC Parma in the background (AP Photo)served as benefactor for the local Roman Catholic cathedral and for Parma Calcio AC, UEFA Cup champions in 1999 and recent celebrants of a 90th anniversary. But, of course, as Parmalat faces bankruptcy and with Tanzi already having resigned (on 15 December), supporters of the Serie A club sense a reckoning (Alessandra Galloni and Deborah Ball, "Downfall of Chief of Parmalat Hurts a Lot in Parma," Wall Street Journal, pp. A1, A8; link is for WSJ online subscribers only):

    At the soccer team's 90th-birthday celebration last Friday—the very day Parmalat admitted it had faked a more than $4 billion bank account—hundreds of fans gathered in the main piazza to root on the team—and Mr. Tanzi. "He put our team on the map," said Paolo Medioli, head of the team's national fan club, raising a plastic glass of prosecco sparkling wine. "He will always stay in our hearts."

    Tanzi is also lauded for his modest lifestyle, consisting of "casa, chiesa e fabbrica" (home, church and factory). For more background on AC Parma, see Roberto Gotta's recent review ("Trouble in Food Valley," ESPNSoccernet.com, 17 December).

  • Turin, Italy | 19 December 2003 . . . Authorities excused former Juventus playmaker and current FIFA player of the year Zinedine Zidane from a court appearance in the ongoing case against club officials and a pharmacist accused of giving players illegal substances in the mid-1990s (Ben Lyttleton, "Brazil, Where Poor Fans Are Snubbed by the Beautiful Game," Scotland on Sunday, 28 December; see second item). Filippo Inzaghi, Roberto Baggio and Angelo Peruzzi, Sample creatine packaginghowever, were called to testify. Zidane already had said at a preliminary hearing that he had taken creatine, a dietary supplement, and "perfusions of a product whose name I don't know—I think it was vitamins and sugars." He also said that he took an antidepressant intravenously "to eliminate fatigue." Turin prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello, himself a Juventus supporter, told Le Monde that he expects the case to be concluded by next summer ("Zinédine Zidane est convoqué à Turin au procès de la Juventus," 8 December). . . . Regarding Zidane and his player-of-the-year award, we like FIFA's treatment ("A Day with Zinédine Zidane," 17 December). When Ronaldo asks for chewing gum, Zidane has a pack on hand—another assist! [For an update on the Juve drugs situation, with Zidane acknowledging past use of Esafosfina, Neoton, Samyr, creatine and Voltaren, see Ralph Rogers, "Juve Case Must Prompt Review," Financial Times, 27 January 2004].
  • Sydney, Rome and New York | 6 December 2003 . . . Frank Farina, coach of Australia's "Socceroos," seems resigned to the Aussies' fate after FIFA confirmed that an Oceania team could only earn a 2006 World Cup finals slot in a playoff with a South American side—the same setup as in 2002, when Australia lost the slot in a playoff against The cover of "Tutte le barzellette su Totti raccolte da me"Uruguay (Michael Cockerill, "Draw Completes the Shafting of Oceania," Sydney Morning Herald). Farina says he will push Oceania officials to lobby FIFA for the home advantage in the eventual playoff's second leg. "We're talking crumbs," Farina said, "but that's what we've got left." . . . We had no idea that AS Roma's Francesco Totti has earned a clown's reputation for his malapropisms; so writes the Washington Post in an article that focuses on Totti's latest project, his best-selling book, Tutte le barzellette su Totti raccolte da me (All the jokes about Totti collected by me). Rome-based correspondent Daniel Williams writes:

    Legend has it that Totti began kicking a ball in his crib at nine months. He began playing organized soccer at age 5. He moved through four youth teams before hooking up with Roma at 17. Lazio, Roma's arch rival, wanted to sign him, but that would be like Caesar playing for the Gauls. Totti once scored a goal against Lazio and unveiled a T-shirt inscribed with the words, "Lazio, I've given you a laxative again." . . .

    The Financial Times's Simon Kuper lounges with National Basketball Association commissioner David Stern, who jokes about football's lack of profitability as compared to basketball. Seemingly lacking in Stern's analysis, however, is that he contrasts a single professional organization with a social movement, as football encompasses multifarious forms that will always find cultural expression outside any business model. No doubt that basketball has grassroots appeal—in our view, the game takes its highest form at the amateur and university levels (men's and women's)—but Stern, at least in Kuper's article, views basketball solely within a corporate context.

  • Milan | 4 November 2003 . . . European Union commissioners are set to examine the so-called football savior law, "Silvio, silver and gold won't bring back the beat of a heart grown cold" (B. Dylan)passed to help Silvio Berlusconi's AC Milan and other Italian clubs struggling with burdensome debt. The EU could decide to veto the law, according to today's Financial Times (Fred Kapner, "Italy's 'Saviour' Laws Face Probes," p. 16). The result would be "the bankruptcy of Italian football," says Lecce president Rico Semeraro. Berlusconi, incidentally, is profiled by Jane Kramer in the current New Yorker ("All He Surveys," 10 November 2003, 95–105). . . . Speaking of the current New Yorker, memoirist Tara Bahrampour uses football to set the scene for her sketch of expatriate Iranians in Los Angeles—or, "Irangeles" ("Persia on the Pacific," 10 November 2003, 52–60). Parshaw Dorriz, now a high school senior, found himself inspired by Iran's 2-1 victory over the United States in the 1998 World Cup finals:

    It was the first time I'd seen Iranians all rooting for the same thing instead of arguing about "the Shah did this," "the mullahs did that." I saw a sense of unity, and I felt like this was something important. | back to top