Tuesday 10 May 2011

Placards, Songs, and Diplomacy in Milan

Diplomacy, Ambrosini style
I suppose it was inevitable.

In an article I wrote over the weekend--while lolling in the glow of Milan's eighteenth Scudetto--I alluded to Massimo Ambrosini's less than ambassadorial moment atop the Champions League 2007 celebration bus.  A picture of that moment shows Ambrosini holding up a banner which reads, "Lo Scudetto mettilo nel culo" (stick the Scudetto up your ass).

 The message, delivered with the subtlety of Claudio Gentile, was directed towards Inter, who had won the Scudetto that year in a Serie A drastically conditioned by the Calcipoli verdicts. Inter started eight points ahead of Milan, who were penalized for their part in the scandal, while Lazio and Fiorentina also suffered a points penalty.  Juventus were condemned to play in Serie B, and their 2006 Scudetto was awarded to Inter.

Non-Inter fans, especially of Milan and Juventus, deride the credentials of that Scudetto, and not completely without justification.  Inter's proclamations that they finally won a clean Scudetto, also a claim not completely without justification, contributed to the swelling resentment.  To Inter's credit, they rendered all such discussions inane by winning the Scudetto three years in a row, with last year's treble their coronation.

Nevertheless, the story later became that Ambrosini had been handed the banner by a fan, and Adriano Galliani did indeed apologize to Inter owner Massimo Moratti in the hysterical aftermath.  But it is hard to believe that he didn't allow himself a snicker or two in private.

Memories of that incident have been revived by Gennaro Gattuso singing (don't laugh like Bernardo Corradi, Francesco Totti and Alessandro Del Piero did at Gattuso's attempt to reprise Adriano Celentano's Azzurro here at 0:39) with some Milan fans at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.  The lyrics were similarly vulgar to the infamous banner of 2007, and just as eloquent: "Leonardo uomo di merda."

The fall-out after the release of that footage (see below this article) is the subject of passionate debate today.  Leonardo has asked Gattuso to clarify his position.  Widely reviled FIGC prosecutor Stefano Palazzi, the same man who worked for the federation during Calciopoli, is going to watch footage of the incident before deciding whether to open legal proceedings against Gattuso.  He may find after watching the footage that he has a stronger case for banning Gattuso from ever sitting astride anything in his underwear.

Presently, however, I can help the bemused Leonardo: no matter what he said to you in private (and Leonardo practically claims that Gattuso gave him the blessing to go Inter), a player who has strained his larynx for Milan about as much as Tiziano Crudelli will always resent someone who defected to the other side.  Admittedly, Leonardo had reasons to leave for Inter, but to expect Gattuso not to crow about Milan's Scudetto is almost pathologically sanguine.

For an urbane man like Leonardo, Gattuso's behaviour must be boorish, but it is moments like the one Gattuso provided which democratize football, bringing otherwise inaccessible heroes into the politically incorrect world of the Curva, where they can at last renounce platitudes for a few moments.

Not everyone is as stately as Paolo Maldini or Javier Zanetti.  Indeed, there have been moments in Gattuso's career that have deserved opprobrium.  His behaviour towards Totteham's Joe Jordan just this season springs to mind.  However, if the extent of his insult to Leonardo is singing about him as fecal matter, then the Inter coach should treat the song with the contempt with which it treats him.

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