Thursday 22 March 2018

Parma demise another nail in childhood coffin

Captain Fabio Cannavaro holds the trophy as Parma players celebrate winning the UEFA Cup in 1999. Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images
Captain Fabio Cannavaro holds the trophy as Parma players celebrate winning the UEFA Cup in 1999. Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images
Aidan O'Hara

Aidan O'Hara

The beauty of Italian football in the late Eighties and into the Nineties wasn't just that it had most of the best players in the world, but how evenly those players were scattered throughout the league.

It meant that any child of that era could watch the one-hour Monday night highlights package on RTE2 or Gazzetta on a Saturday morning after Kabaddi and TransWorld Sport on Channel 4, pick a team and be hooked.

The Milan of Frank Rijkaard, Marco Van Basten and Ruud Gullit, among others, were the supreme team of that and many other generations but you could also have chosen Inter of Andreas Brehme, Lothar Matthaus and Jurgen Klinsmann or, in the early years, Napoli with Diego Maradona and Careca.

Maybe you happened to catch Genoa on a particularly good day for Tomas Skuhravy or Enzo Francescoli and Luís Oliveira at Cagliari; Roma had Rudi Voller and Aldair, Lazio had Beppe Signori with his two-step penalty technique and boots that were allegedly two sizes too small for him which made for better control and touch, not to mention a few kids with deformed toes from trying the same thing.


It might have been Sampdoria with the genius of Roberto Mancini in partnership with Gianluca Vialli and Attilio Lombardo; Juventus were never far away with Antonio Conte, Pierluigi Casiraghi and Roberto Baggio while their fantastic shirts and Gabriel Batistuta always made Fiorentina worth watching.

Mine was Parma with Lorenzo Minotti oozing class from centre-back, Thomas Brolin before he put on the weight scheming in midfield and Alessandro Melli up front, all of whom played in the successful European Cup Winners' Cup team of 1993.

Bankrolled by Parmalat, the club set about either producing or signing some of Italy's finest players in the form of Gianluigi Buffon, Dino Baggio, Gianfranco Zola, Fabio Cannavaro, Antonio Bennarivo and Enrico Chiesa. Their influx from overseas was even more impressive with Nestor Sensini around for years as the likes of Lilian Thuram, Juan Sebastien Veron, Hernan Crespo, Faustino Asprilla and Hristo Stoichkov all arriving to wear the white jersey.

The UEFA Cup victory of 1999 was the high point with a starting team so good it is worth repeating: Buffon, Sensini, Thuram, Cannavaro, Fuser, Vanoli, Dino Baggio, Boghossian, Veron, Crespo and Chiesa. Asprilla, Stefano Fiore and Abel Balbo were the three players they brought off the bench.

On Saturday, reminiscing was about all their supporters had to cling to as news emerged that Parma wouldn't be able to fulfil their Serie A fixture against Udinese because they didn't have the money for stewards or security in their home ground. Bankruptcy now beckons.

The financial collapse of Parmalat in the early 2000s took away the cash supply, ended over a decade of the club playing in Europe and forced them into administration before they were relegated before making it back into Serie A.

All of that happened in the space of a couple of years but this season has crammed in even more drama.

Neither the players nor staff - including manager Roberto Donadoni - have been paid since July; they have had three owners already this season and last week team vehicles were seized by the inland revenue due to unpaid taxes.

"We have cold showers because there is no electricity, so the players keep getting ill. We don't even have guarantees for cleaning staff in the locker rooms," said Crespo, now youth team coach at the club.

"We are falling apart. We want to continue going forward, because we love this club and these lads, but it hurts to see the situation this training ground has been reduced to."

Their demise has mirrored that of Italian football which has had just four representatives from the last 30 Champions League finalists - albeit with three winners in Milan (2003, 2007) and Inter (2010).

The Europa League is even worse with Parma, staggeringly, the last team to represent Italy in the final with their victory over Marseille. By comparison, Spain has had eight teams from the last 30 finalists in that time period.

It's a shift in power which now sees them with as many representatives in the last 16 of the Champions League as the Swiss league. With the 'Calciopoli' scandal among others, the league has reaped what they have sown but, for anybody glued to their televisions on Saturdays and Sundays in the Nineties, there can only be sadness and memories.


A great Brazilian cause without the Brazilian flair

There was precious little Brazilian flair on display in UCD on Saturday but, hopefully, a small part of the country will benefit from it.

To borrow a line from Rick Reilly, the great, the near-great and the reprobate of Irish media gathered for the inaugural media five-a-side tournament in the caged astro pitches of the college.

At times, it was closer to cage fighting and although football wasn't the winner - that was the Indo who beat the Irish Sun 4-2 in the final - approximately €1,500 was raised which made the exertion and increasingly stiffening muscles of the 11 organisations who took part all worthwhile.

These things require organisation and, for that, PSG Sponsorship and Daniel McDonnell of this parish are to be applauded as well as St Pat's midfielder James Chambers who gave up his time to be a fair, and much-needed, referee for the semi-finals and final.

The money raised will go to the Irish Cancer Society and to 'Fight for a Favela' in Brazil, a community project run by a Corkman Conor Hartnett helping disadvantaged kids in a Rio favela through medium of sport.

The website has full details of their work which helps children who grow up in the most abject poverty to have an outlet and, hopefully, a chance.


Tweets of the week


Gaizka Mendieta (@GaizkaMendieta6): Let's see people talking about divers, normally referring 2 foreigners say now about Rooney. Haven't heard anything on TV yet. #PNEvMUFC - The former Spanish international must not have heard Kevin Kilbane, who risked his BBC punditry future by criticising the England captain.


Kevin Davies (@Kevin__Davies): Sore hand today think my partner in crime Joe Garner landed on it! - The Preston striker's hand is in a bad way - although there's no reports on how Garner's foot fared.


Lukas Podolski (@Podolski10): Happy Chinese New Year. Good luck in the year of "Yang(sheep/goat/ram)":) #poldi #china #fans - New country, same mad hashtags from the Inter Milan striker.


Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5): When someone is so clinical from the penalty spot just free up the ball & relax! A wins a win don't matter who scores! - The QPR defender attempts to bring some sense to the Balotelli debate - unlike the Liverpool captain.


Joey Barton (@Joey7Barton): Someone somewhere trying to make Henderson, heir to Gerrard's throne. It will end in tears. He isn't and will never be capable. Not many are - QPR's second most prolific tweeter also has his say on another club's affairs, with something that isn't exactly criticism, but is a long way from praise.


Joey Barton (@Joey7Barton): My actions towards Huddlestone were certainly not malicious, it was a stupid reaction to being barged but I can appreciate it wasn't right. - Take note Jordan Henderson - this is what a captain does, get sent off in the name of protecting a team-mate.


Jose Enrique (@JeSanchez23): If this is no penalty I don't know which one it is...... - Liverpool defender not happy that the clear foul on Raheem Sterling wasn't given as a penalty. The answer probably lies in the two Southampton didn't get earlier.


The question nobody asked

Did possession equal points in the Premier League?

Possession statistics seem to have become important in recent years but, in this weekend's Premier League games, it meant little.

Of the 10 games, only two of the teams - Hull and Man City - who held the upper hand in terms of possession managed to convert that into the three points. Chelsea (60pc), Sunderland (63pc), Everton (59pc) and Tottenham (65pc) could only manage a point from their games but it was the six teams who lost who will feel most hard done by.

Aston Villa (52pc) and Crystal Palace (54pc) were both denied draws late in the game, while Everton (59pc) and Spurs (65pc) could only manage 2-2 draws. Manchester United had equal highest possession of the weekend (65pc) but lost to Swansea, while Southampton (61pc) fell to a 2-0 defeat to Liverpool.


The net you should have done

Swansea to beat Manchester United, 16/5

Swansea haven't been in good form while United had just one defeat in 19, yet despite this United haven't been playing well.

On the opening day of the season, Swansea punished them and did so again on Saturday to quadruple the money of anyone who backed them.

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