A Season with Verona: Travels Around Italy in Search of Illusion, National Character, and...Goals!
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After 20 years of living in Italy, Tim Parks, whom Joseph Brodsky, has called "the nest British author working today," spent a full year following the fortunes-and misfortunes-of the Verona football-oops! Soccer-club. Here is his rollicking report. Fro Udine to Catania, from San Siro to the Olimpico, traveling with the fans and the players from the tip to the toe of Italy, Tim Parks offers a highly personal account of his relationship with a country, its people, and its national sport. The fans, as always are accused of vulgarity, racism, and violence. The police are ambiguous, the journeys exhausting, the referees unforgivable, the anecdotes hilarious. In a world stripped of idealism and increasingly bereft of religion, Parks suggests that soccer offers a new and fiercely ironic way of engaging with the sacred.
question. The boys indulge in racist chants, they define their group by its exclusion of all outsiders, it’s a declared if sometimes pantomime hatred of all surrounding cities, teams and regions. ‘Vicentino infame, per te ci sono le lame,’ someone writes when a Vicenza fan dares to send a message to the Hellas Wall. ‘Vicentino disgrace, for you the mace.’ This might just be fun, I reflect, but then someone else wrote: ‘If Pastorello buys a black, we’ll kill him. I’ll shred my season ticket. We’ll
gestures. He suffers as much, no, more than you do. And, like the experienced fan on the terraces, he combines complete partisanship – he really wants Verona to win – with a determinedly objective vision of the game. He never pretends the team is playing better than it is. He doesn’t imagine there’s a penalty every time a Verona player falls over in the box. In this he is the exact opposite of the standard Italian commentator on public radio who pretends he is impartial but then constantly
the other. For exactly two seconds, he stopped moaning to say hello to me. Then he began again. ‘Why why why? Deficiente! Idiot. Perotti’s a fool. Oh please. Please! But why does he always play this formation. Why can’t Mazzola stop the ball. Why is he playing. Useless. You’re useless. Where’s Italiano? Why does he change the team every fucking game? Oh Christ, pass, pass, Dio boia, pass!’ Immediately I arrived, Ferron saved brilliantly from Hubner who had broken through the defence and was
midfield was already weak with captain Leo Colucci out injured. The second half will be hell. All the more so because there’s another drama going on that no one on the terraces knows about. The players return. Inter have brought on the massive Christian Vieri, his debut after a long injury. He promptly elbows his defender, Apolloni, in the face. The referee sees it, sends Apolloni off to have the blood looked at, does not give a yellow card. Vieri then hits the bar from one of perhaps a score of
the barracks, the Arena suggested that Pastorello hadn’t known, he’d been tricked by those dastardly Neapolitans. Others thought the shrewd Pastorello knew all too well and got the player on the cheap, since no other club in Serie A would want the man. But whatever the truth of the matter, this was one decision Pastorello got absolutely right. Today, with every minute of the game that passes, Oddo is looking like the best defender and the best attacker Verona have on the pitch. Cooler than the