Wednesday, March 28, 2007

project objectify: the mid-level club that could

World Cup, what World Cup. Allow me, instead, to return to the cruelly neglected Project Objectify, this time to celebrate the overflow of hawtness from one of Italy's least annoying football clubs, the entire squad of ACF Fiorentina.

Florence is one of the birthplaces of football. We do know for certain that it is where the especial obsession of millions of Italians (and a few others) began. Your particular favourite brand of it, especially if you aren't Italian, is likely to spring from Turin, whose biggest contribution to world culture after FIAT is currently kicking around in Serie B, or Milan, which is - well, the less said the better, or Rome, where Lazio and Roma make for what is perhaps the most exciting, often disturbing, rift in football loyalties in Europe.

Fiorentina, in the meanwhile, are those big gormless dudes who never elbow in anywhere on the big prizes or the big controversies.

Of course, all of this changed over the last season. Poised on the brink of an entry into the Champions' League, the team also immediately balanced out all the good karma by earning itself a massive fifteen-point penalty in the rigging scandal that went on all through Italy's summer o' love at the World Cup. By the end of the scandals and muckracking, it was pretty much devastation. Everyone thought they would be lucky to escape relegation. Certainly they didn't seem to have much going for them when the season began. A massive, talented striker whose astounding goal record over the last season appeared to intimidate precisely no one, a moody, unpredictable strike partner who'd famously been thrown out of Chelsea for hitting the coke, and a bunch of good-looking youngsters with no experience.

Sad story?

Let's look at these ones instead. At the Italy-England U-21 game in the new Wembley, the unquestionable stars of the show were the dreadfully cute and dreadfully dangerous Riccardo Montolivo, whose entry into the Azzurri proper seems to be a matter of time (and very little time, if they know what's good for them) and Gianpaolo Pazzini, the tiny hat-trick scorer and funny face-maker who had all of Italy heave a sigh of relief at the sudden brightness of the national team's strike prospects. We could look at Sebastien Frey, possibly the best goalkeeper available to France today, not even excepting Gregory Coupet. We could look at Reginaldo, who has quietly been demolishing defences in Serie A while the Big Clubs fall over themselves looking for more famous and expensive Brazilians.

We could look at Adrian Mutu and Luca Toni, who get paid less than half of what Inter Milan pays its strikers and manage to perform almost every bit as well. Scowly, temperamental young Mutu, who at one point seemed to give up on his career every other month, is actually having a brilliant season. Luca Toni is football's most spectacular late bloomer, a man who once scored thirty-one goals in a league where netting fifteen is a huge accomplishment. Or Tomas Ujfalusi, who -- well, who recently got himself kicked off the Czech team for bringing in his birthday with beer and prostitutes. But as we were saying.

All super. All Fiorentina. All hanging rather spiffily together.

A sense of non-entitlement virtually unknown to every other big club in Italy must have something to do with it. (As must sensible salary caps.) Fiorentina have fought back from negative fifteen to sixth place, looking fitter and leaner than most clubs sitting ahead of them in the league table. Might they make it to a Champions' League spot again? I hope they do. I can't think of a worthier Medium-Size-But-Almost-There Club.

And they wear purple. Come on, how can you not love a team that goes out in bright shining violet jerseys and slices up the opposition anyhow? And they're coached by the super-smart Cesare Prandelli. He may not wear Armani as well as Jose Mourinho does, but he used to be able to get Alberto Gilardino to score. How's that for talent.

Spammistic adoration for an ex-cokehead and a man who almost left football to be a truck driver? Why, you must have my evil twin Crosswitha in mind.

ETA: Toni, Toni, Tonigoooooooooool. * massive grin *

current musix: amadou et mariam - senegal fast food. i <3 this song.

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