Thursday, November 17, 2005

CS Vernazza 3: Foce-Magra Ameglia 1

During our visit to the Cinque Terre area of Italy and going on the theory that fill-in-the-blanks match posters never steer us wrong, Becca and I (with my parents gamely in tow) decided to attend Vernazza's end of the season calcio (Italian for football) championship match vs. Foce-Magra Ameglia (catchy name, isn't it?). Of course since Vernazza itself is tiny and doesn't have much in terms of actual flat ground, we had to get on the train and head to Levanto, home of CS Vernazza's pitch (about a ten minute train ride). Despite the poster telling us what train we could catch, we decided to head off early and have lunch in Levanto (picnicking on the boardwalk, basking in the sun and gazing out to sea) before the match. Thankfully, I decided to keep a running diary. Same rules apply as before, though this time Vernazza=V and Foce-Magra Ameglia is FMA. Here we go...

Pregame notes:
-Becca taking a glimpse through the fence and uttering "I think the field is concrete." We actually did walk in to see the players warming up on a gravel/sand mix that was grey. Ouch.
-3 euros for tickets. After our ubercheap experience in Czechoslovakia, we were a bit leery about the relatively high price but decided to plow ahead. Special Finals pricing perhaps? Thankfully those tickets did guarantee us sweet midfield seats made of...
-Cement. Thankfully we'd packed our coats (made smashing cushions).
-13 people in attendance 5 minutes before match time. Must be a pretty big deal this final...
-FMA looks to be in a different league. About twice the size as V and they're actually running drills (as opposed to V who seems to just be kicking the ball back and forth in the little corner of shade)
-The Ref comes running out with the teams to start the match. He's 5 ft. tall, has a rat tail/mullet hairdo going and is wearing a complete day-glo yellow kit. Guess he'll be easy to find in the gravel...

1'- First collision. It's got to hurt like the dickens to be taken down in the gravel. Not quite the bounce one gets, even on AstroTurf.

4'- Bad effort by V #11. Of course, he looks like he just got out of bed. Maybe he did though he still would have had the 15 minutes the ref started the match late by, eliciting the first "sacco di merda" from a V fan.

11'- Linesman on the far side calls offsides. Only notable because he did it from the wrong half of the field...

14'- First Yellow Card (YC) of the match. V #2 for dissent. Didn't look like he said much but the yellow came out. Tough to make out against the ref highlighter uniform though.

18'- GOAL! V #11 flicks a cross that rolls along the entire goal mouth before going in. Goalie didn't move. Somehow I think that's not going on the "Goalkeeping for Beginners" tape anytime soon. 1-0

20'- And with the goal, it's officially getting chippy. Shoving, words, late tackles. Ref may need to get a handle on this one before it's the Italian football equivalent of "Slap Shot". Also "sacco di merda" #2 from the V fan after a late tackle.

23'- Corner for FMA taken about a foot in front of the local pole vault pit. Man, even FK Slavoj didn't have to share the field with someone...

27'- GOAL! V #8 dives (again) about 25 yds out, earning a FK. V #10 takes it and inexplicably scores. I think the ball rolled the last five yds on the ground. Not quite Juninho but the home fans are happy... 2-0

29'- Becca's scouting report on the FMA goalie: Inept. At least he's making the hat he's wearing look good.

32'- Chippiness continues. After a particularly bad tackle, ref tries to get the two players to kiss and make up. No dice. Gets derailed in his further peace keeping efforts by the V keeper who lets him know that the two coaches are now going at it on the sideline. We're beginning to wonder if coaches can get send off...

37'- Really bad offsides (10 yds or so) by V #11. Hate to tell him that the green jersey doesn't blend in so well with the gravel.

39'- YC, V #4. The only yellow in the match for an actual foul. The fouler tries actually tries to shake hands with the FMA player only to get his hand slapped away. Yikes!

42'- FMA free kick goes sailing onto the track. Bails out V who can't seem to the needed four guys in their wall on any free kick, eliciting the chant "quattro! quattro!" from the players, the bench, the fans, the ball boys, you name it.

44'- ANOTHER YC, this time on V #9 for a valid complaint on an unpaid advantage call.

45'- YC V #5 for dissent. Evidently you can't say anything to Mr. Napoleon Complex without getting a yellow.

Halftime: 2-0 Vernazza and at least four yellow cards. Don't they realize they're winning? Will someone get a red from the ref just for shrugging their shoulders? Also of note: attendance for the big match is now up to 40ish. You can feel the electricity in the air...

46'- GOAL! FMA #10 untouched in the V box for a header goal. I'm guessing someone got the hair dryer treatment at halftime... 2-1

50'- FMA is dominating play right now and getting every call known to man. I know Italy is the home of match fixing. Wonder if at this level it involves a case of Chianti and some smokes? Or maybe a pedicure for Mr. Rattail?

53'- V #5 gets hurt clearing the ball. FMA #11 does the sporting thing and drags him across the gravel off the field. What a sportsman!

56'- Talk between the two sets of fans is getting animated, including a "sacco di merda" not directed at the ref. Guess who's currently doing their best Switzerland impression right now?

57'- Crowd thankfully redirects their vile toward the ref for yet another yellow for dissent. This time FMA #4 is the victim.

58'- Yellow card for FMA #6. Maybe they forgot to throw in the free perm for the ref as part of the deal.

60'- The linesmen to this point have been hilarious to watch. The far one hasn't moved the entire match and the other one is covering 5 yds on each side of the midfield when he isn't too busy mocking the opposing players when they whine about a foul call. After some quality deduction work and given the fact that they don't have any uniforms, we're pretty sure they are fans from each side. I think my brother's old youth football matches (aka the bumblebee years) even had real linesmen. Still thinking about the logistics of this when...

61'- The FMA coach obstructs/tackles V #4 by the sideline while he's going for the ball. No call from the ref. Becca ponders whether a coach can get a red card. Not sure but this match is getting much more entertaining by the minute.

64'- V#11 gets stepped on and goes down injured. Of course the ref only notices this after a very large V fan clad in an army sweater trods onto the field and make him aware of the issue "arbieto! arbieto!"

66'- Yellow Card #2/Red Card for V #4. You'd figured after getting taken down by the opposing coach you might have the ability to say something to the ref. Evidently not. Gets sent off at which point he completely loses it and goes for a piece of the ref. Only 7-8 teammate, a few spectators hanging out on the track and a torn jersey kept him from crushing rat boy. Wonder if V will be able to hang on a man down at this point. Certainly not looking good since V# 4 had been playing quite well to this point.

70'- FMA #10 fires one off the post. Really not looking good for V but if they can push it to penalty kicks Lurch from FMA hasn't stopped a real shot all day. Keep getting distracted by Army clad V fan doing some free lance assistant coaching on our sideline. V linesman gives FMA player crap for complaining about a call. This is going to be an interesting last 20 minutes.

75'- V #13 gets hurt. Problem is he just came on as the last sub. Thankfully in the grand tradition of Roy Hobbs he's able to continue, even picking up a Yellow a few minutes later. And yes, I realize I'm making my sports metaphors at this point.

80'- Three nice saves in succession by V #1. Him and V#10 are the only reason they're staying in the lead.

87'- V fans start yelling "arbito finito!" (ref, end it!). Fantastic suggestion. Thankfully before that happens...

88'- V #16 does an Oscar worthy dive in the box, earning a Penalty Kick. As V #10 looks to end the game, a three ring circus ensues:

Ring #1
Players start pushing and shoving, mouthing off and the like. Probably discussing what they all did to deserve such a wanker for a ref. I wonder aloud whether the ref has a secure enough ride home at this point. Order is starting to be restored when...

Ring #2
A V player points out that the FMA manager just booted the extra ball out of the stadium and into a housing complex behind the stadium. This gets the V bench up and suddenly the ref is off to try to cut off a full scale rumble between the managers. V's coach is pissed b/c the ball is probably his. These things cost euros you know! The ref at this point has completely lost control of both managers and coaches (except for V #10 who in true goal scorer form is waiting patently at the spot). Just when we think it can't get any worse...

Ring #3
The FMA linesman, the same one who hadn't moved an inch all match, runs onto the field yelling all the way. He approaches the ref and starts whacking him with his linesman flag. Add in the fact that the man looks to be in his mid 60's and even the fans up in the stands are in high spirits at this point. A joint "sacco di merda" is uttered by the fans and we're just waiting for the match to be called.

90'- Somehow, the ref is able to a) toss the linesman, replacing him with one of FMA's subs b) organize the coaches again so they aren't at each others throats and c) restore order on the field long enough for V #10 to nicely put away the kick and the game. 3-1

90+'- Not much to speak of since two minutes of injury time is called in about 10 seconds. And with that, the Vernazza fans go home champions!

Wish there was more to add but the description doesn't come close to conveying the levels of absurdity in this match. Final highlight was evidently my mom and dad ran into the few of the players that night celebrating their win through the streets. Gotta love small town calcio!


1 comment:

Steven said...

I think you've missed your calling as a sports writer... I do read occasional hilarious posts on NBA-related websites, but this one was a great laugh from beginning to end... I could almost visualize the game happening in real time !!! Enjoy the rest of your travels !