Thursday, 24 June 2010

28 Years Later

I don't know Slovakia except for what I saw of it on television and having admired some of its moves. I observe that they almost beat the New Zealanders, and cannot rule out that they might thwart us too. I shall therefore emulate a Catholic friend of mine whose name I am not going to mention since he is numbered amongst one of Italy's foremost literary figures.

Whenever I invite him to dine with me, this Catholic friend looks at me with the utmost contempt, for I have fallen victim to the temptations of gluttony. He turns down the dish I order almost with disdain. As I proceed to embrace my sin with great abandon, I can see that he's happy because he has mortified his flesh. Choosing a path of wise abstinence, he hasn't sinned: he is therefore in a perfect state of grace. I wolf down my meal and I can see my friend looking at me with an occasional air of curiosity. In the meantime, he nibbles on his dish, that is decidedly less appetising, and when he can't take it any longer he exclaims: "I see you like it, it looks good." And I, concealing my inner delight: "Yeah, it's not bad. You can taste some if you like." My Catholic friend tastes the dish and glances at me with hate: "Bastard!" he cries, "You could have told me it was such a delicacy!"

I pass him my plate and he helps himself, drooling like an ordinary glutton. Thus he manages to be happy twice: he mortified his flesh, he triumphed over his desire, and then he surrendered to the tastiness of the food.

So for my part what I'm going to do here is paraphrase
ser Francesco Guicciardini, and proclaim after my long experience that "if you put your trust in the Italians, you shall always be disappointed". From the team that Lippi assembled for this World Cup I never expected nor I do expect now anything good. I doubt we shall manage to beat Slovakia: I cannot in fact rule out that we might lose, causing the pundits to exclaim that we have met a new Korea.

This way I shall have mortified my desire to cheer for the team and I might be happy to have made such an inauspicious prediction, if it proves correct. If on the other hand we should manage (God knows how) to win, the patriotic supporter in me shall rejoice! I shall then take the game and comment on it with the prettiest possible arguments, lauding my shorts-wearing mates and swear on the intrinsic qualities of our footballing kind, and on the unfailingly bright destiny of our beloved national squad.

(Translated and adapted from an excerpt from Gianni Brera's article for La Repubblica on the eve of the last game of the first phase of the 1982 World Cup, between Italy and Cameroon. The game ended 1-1 and Italy progressed to the second stage.)


  1. I'm pleased to see it isn't only English hacks who pursue that 'double pleasure' strategy - bemoan the quality of the squad, say they've got no chance at all ... but then celebrate if they do go on to win. Except the English hacks lack Brera's honesty and reflexivity ...

  2. Yes, I thought you might enjoy that :-)

    Brera is something of a legendary journalist. However I was shocked to read the paragraph before the text I excerpted here, in which he managed to use the n-word and make an appallingly racist rape jape. One doesn't always feel like we live in more enlightened times, but occasionally, yes.