Friday, March 7, 2008

ten miles a minute totti

This week's Guardian Unlimited Football Weekly [Extra] is a marvellous listen. Fernando Duarte provides a great overview of the situation at the Zico-coached Fenerbahce, and has a gold star moment when he describes their gameplan as playing "with the knife between their teeth - like pirates." Bitter Hoops fan Kevin McCarra has a diatribe against Milan so ripe, it could come have come from a French guard in Monty Python & The Holy Grail.

Perhaps best of all, the podcasters indulge in a moment of unadulaterated contempt for Graeme Souness and Sky's coverage of the Real-Roma game. "If he was that good, he'd have gone to a big club long ago," Souness said about Francesco Totti last year, to an embarrassed Ruud Gullit. Last night, after Roma's victory, he was apparently heard to remark, "Totti? Was he even playing?"

If Souness was as lazy a player as he is a pundit I presume he'd never have had a job at Sky in the first place. Football is mired in incompetence, and nowhere more so than in its television coverage.

I suppose Totti is more susceptible to questions regarding his motives for staying on at Roma than the likes of del Piero & Maldini have been -- unlike them, his loyalty can be more easily interpreted as a lack of ambition. But there are players who are upholders of tradition, and there are those who are trailblazers. I think Maradona at Napoli is probably a much better comparison to make. At the very least, both players at the height of their influence have been abhorred, the way Maldini [understandably] and del Piero [much less so] have never been. Power and its exercise are delicate, delicate things, and I don't think anyone who has been the sort of symbol and galvanising force Totti has been to Roma has been able to do so without attracting considerable attention to their own flawed individualism. It takes all sorts: history is about the Agamemnons of the world, but there would be no poetry without Achilles.

Perhaps that's too whimsical [or old-fashioned]. Certainly, given how up close and in our faces our footballing idols are, I don't think his detractors are entirely to blame if he reminds them more of Brad Pitt flexing his entitlement muscles than an actual demigod. I think that, at the very least, without Totti's committment to Roma, they would not have two of Italy's most talented players nail their colours as firmly to the Giallorosso mast as they have now. de Rossi & Aquilani seem to be the future of the club, and without Totti and his tribal loyalty, they might never have had a reference point.

And I'm certainly hoping that Donadoni admits that playing a Roma-centric midfield in his first team at Euro 2008 might actually yield better results than his overreliance on the Ambro-Pirlo-Gattuso triad, as things stand. Then again, fragile as Pirlo looks, he doesn't seem to pull a muscle every time he turns over in his sleep, which is what poor 'berto does. He was as beautiful on Wednesday night, from what I saw of the highlights, as Andrea was not.


Good news for fans of the vintage Italy Offside - "wor" Martha - even she who taught me that bit of Geordie-speak - has established herself at Colpo di Testa, where she already has an excellent essay on Manuel Rui Costa up. Welcome back!


Martha said...

Isn't the usual line about Totti that he's tended to fade when he put(s) on the Italy shirt, so it's easy for lazy pundits to write him off? (Then, of course, there's the whole egomaniac thing, but the English have never had problems with that trait in the past, so that can't possibly be Souey's excuse.)

With regard to DDR and Aquilani, Totti's definitely the most recent example for them of a Roma tying himself to the club forever and ever, but surely he's not the first? It's hard for me to believe that De Rossi's devotion to the club wouldn't have a precedent had Totti either never existed or gone off to Real as a long lad. SP?

[And thank you for the link and the kind words, wor Roswitha! You are the wind beneath my blogging wings.]

roswitha said...

It really can't be Souness' excuse that he's studied Totti closely at ANYTHING, Azzurri or Roma. I don't think Totti's been half as guilty of underperforming as del Piero, for example [wait, is my bias showing too much?] but he does tend to get picked on a hell of a lot more, doesn't he?

The bandiera/captain/loyalty thing: am I wrong in thinking that this is the sort of thing that requires some sort of tradition? I'm not saying that footballers can't be loyal or honourable without precedent, but it seems to me that the more firmly tradition entrenches itself, the more it's likely to be perpetrated. Maybe someone other than Totti would have come along, if he'd decided to go and set up his petrol pump instead of be a footballer. But he's what they got, and from what I know of the history of Roma, he's a pretty special event.

roswitha said...

When I said tradition I was thinking of continuity, really.

And pshaw, you know I'm a fan. [Now write more!]