Friday, June 30, 2006

Canada not part of the G8?

I’ve read some pretty wild and crazy things on Canada on behalf of Italian journalists in all these years that I’ve been living in Italy. Some examples? That we have “states” (instead of provinces), or that the capitol of Québec is Montréal (it's Québec City the last time I looked), or that Pamela Anderson Lee is American (wasn’t she born in Vancouver?). Here’s something from today’s Corriere della Sera, Italy’s no. 1 national newspaper, on the upcoming G8 Summit in Russia (I worked at the totally disastrous one in Genoa in 2001): It talks about the G8 Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Moscow and mentions the presence of the US, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan (plus Russia), the EU and Austria (as rotating president of the EU). But there’s no mention whatsoever of Canada!!!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Same old tricks...

So FIFA’s up to its old and nauseating tricks (once) again: Ghana-USA, June 22, 2006 in Nuremberg. At the 45th minute of the first half the U.S. “committed” a foul on Ghana’s Pimpong in their own penalty area. Referee Merk didn’t bat an eye and immediately awarded the pk to Ghana, which was scored by former Udinese player Appiah. Ghana was now 2-1 against the poor and ingenious Yanks. Italian tv journalists yesterday said that the foul was “exaggerated” whereas “La Repubblica” (a major Italian daily) said in its sports coverage of the game that Merk had basically “invented” the pk. In the meantime, back in Ghana government leaders had asked all gold mine companies to halt their operations for 90 minutes. Why? So that electricity consumption throughout the country of 20 million could be preserved for those Ghanaians who were watching on tv their national team send home the Americans. That was the impact on the country BEFORE Ghana’s victory. One can only imagine the impact now that the national team has advanced in the event! One also has to imagine what Ghana’s victory has done for the entire African psyche. After all, if Ghana were to possibly win the World Cup, how would a Senegalese or Zimbabwean feel? Would they be happier if Ghana were to win, or would they be happier if Argentina were to win? After that the (mostly) white world has sacked, raped and colonised throughout the ages poor Africa, I would only presume that a bit of nationalism would entice Africans in general to cheer on for Ghana for the duration of the tournament and certainly NOT Italy (who committed one or two nasty things in northern Africa during World War II!) nor Germany. One last reason behind Ghana advancing: to stir up enthusiasm amongst Africans for the next World Cup, which coincidently will be in…South Africa!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Do Italians prefer fishing over surfing the Net?

Some rather alarming stats yesterday from “Eurostat”, an EU statistical institute on Italians and the use of PCs. It appears that in the year 2006 A.D., not exactly the Dark Ages, many Italians prefer using the Net for fishing purposes rather than the one used normally with computers. Here are some startling figures on the “Old Europe” and computer use :
-Only 59% of Italians know how to click on a mouse (not the one with four legs but the plastic object which is usually connected directly to a PC);
-87% of Italians over the age of 55 don’t know how to use a PC;
-Only 28% of youths between the ages of 16 and 24 know how to use a PC (Greece is worse with 65% that don’t know how to use one);
-62% of Italians who are unemployed and who perhaps need to know inside-out a PC for eventually finding a job don’t know how to use one (on an average basis the figure drops to 39% in the EU);
-64% of Italian women don’t know how to use a computer compared to 54% of Italian men;
-Last (but never least), 62% of Italians have never hooked up to the Net, expect perhaps the one used for going fishing.

Pretty scary stats, indeed.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A “sexual” Oval Office in Italy too?

We’ve had a massive soccer scandal which is still unresolved. That’s not enough though as Italy’s now being also hit by a “royal” scandal. It involves Prince Vittorio Emanuele of the Savoy family. He, his wife and son had broken Italians’ balls to want to return to their “so-called” beloved Italy (they had been prevented from doing so after that Vittorio Emanuele’s father had been forced into exile some 60 years ago). The good’ol Prince has had his phone under surveillance and is currently involved in prostitution matters and some money laundering at a casino in Switzerland, just over the border with Italy. That’s not the only hot news. The other is that Gianfranco Fini’s personal assistant (the former Italian Foreign Affairs’ Minister and the current president of the National Alliance party) has been charged with asking sexual favours from an aspiring tv starlet. Apparently, sex between the two (she for career purposes at RAI, the state-run tv network in Italy) took place at the Foreign Affairs’ Ministry. Today’s papers also talk about sex having taken place at Palazzo Chigi, the seat of the Italian government. So much for Clinton, Lewinsky and the Oval Office!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The marching band of the Carabinieri

A few pictures of the marching band of the Carabinieri, the Italian para-military police (which is part of the Italian army). This picture was shot right outside of the Vatican walls in Rome. Just some of the interesting scenes which occur when you’re walking around Rome (picture by M. Rimati).

Sports and Geniuses

A statue in EUR which reads: “The genius of sports” (picture by M. Rimati).

The U.S. a pushover?

On June 9th I had “Veneto Views”, the official bulletin of the U.S. Embassy in Rome (I used to work there in the 1990s), put an article on the start of the World Cup (I also write on the concert scene in Italy). Here’s part of the article:

“…On the one hand, the U.S. did very well at the 2002 World Cup in Japan/Korea as it placed 8th in the overall standings. On the other hand, Italy, only a three-time winner of the event, came in at an embarrassing 15th position. Personally, I have been preaching for close to 20 years that if the Americans start copying what their female counterparts have so far done, then the rest of the soccer world will have much to worry about. Along with Germany, the U.S. is presently regarded as the strongest female soccer team in the world: two World Cup titles, two Olympic gold medals and one Olympic silver medal”.

I think last night we had a taste of what Donovan and the boys can come up with when they get their act together. God only knows what the U.S. will come up with against the Ghanaians on June 22nd!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Will the Italians be left in their gitch tonight?

We have a saying in Italian which translates (literally) into: “Being left in one’s underwear”. It means for example when you lose everything at the casino. You’re only left with your underwear on. This is the ad which is around Rome and Italy. D&G is the Italian national team’s official “dresser”, including the players’ underwear. From right to left we’ve got Gattuso, then Zambrotta sitting to the left, then team captain Cannavaro behind him and then Pirlo on the bench with his legs spread. I don’t know who the guy standing in the back is. I wonder if the Americans tonight will leave the Italians (literally) in their underwear (picture by M. Rimati)!

Have a drink on me!

A fellow enjoying a nice cool beer near the Trastevere part of Rome (picture by M. Rimati).

Friday, June 16, 2006

Old tricks again for FIFA?

Is FIFA up to its old tricks again? “Which tricks”?, may you very well ask. Oh, the ones we’ve seen many, many times in past World Cup editions, you know, players getting red-carded and thrown out just towards the end of a match, as in the case of the Germany-Poland match the other night. At the 75th minute a Polish player brought down Klose in a foul which—-modestly speaking-—I don’t think would have been called in a normal championship match. Well, it’d be called but the player wouldn’t necessarily be thrown out. Instead the poor Pole was and, well, what happened shortly after at the 91st minute? Germany’s Neuville scored to sink and pretty well send Poland back to Warsaw. Ditto in the Argentina-Serbia Montenegro match. With Argentina leading 3-0 at the 41st minute of the first half, what does Italy’s ref Roberto Rosetti come up with? He red-cards Serbia’s Kezman! Crespo then comes through with his own goal at the 78th followed by Tevez and finally the great Messi at the 88th minute.

The ways of FIFA are certainly infinite and (always) mysterious…

Watch out for those plumbers and their “tools”!

From Rome’s local news: looks like some urban legends surrounding plumbers and housewives/homemakers may after all be true. A voluptuous forty year-old female Brazilian resident in Rome called up a plumber for some minor repair work. After a short while, passer-bys saw her jumping out of her ground floor window, screaming and running down the street in a state of panic. She wasn’t the only one running as right behind her was also the plumber, but with his pants around his ankles! Police were called in and found in his toolbox not only wrenches and screwdrivers but also a fake pistol. Evidently, it looks like plumbing wasn’t his only “profession”.

Cambodian mother-in-laws anyone?

As we get closer and closer to the final stages of the World Cup in Germany, people around the world are beginning to slightly go bonkers. One example comes today from Cambodia (as reported by BBC this morning). It looks like folks in that Asian country are slightly going overboard with bets. The prime minister/president of the country has asked his fellow compatriots to not bet their cows, bikes, fridges and what not on the games. I ask: what would Cambodians be betting if Cambodia were at the event, their mother-in-laws?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Italy attracts big-time viewers

Some stats in from the Italians sports papers today: approximately 23,400,000 Italians (out of a total population of 57 million people) were glued to their tv sets for Italy-Ghana the other day (including me). Not a bad figure which even surpasses some of the games for the Italia’90 World Cup. This is no doubt due to two factors: number one, and probably THE most important reason, is that the Italian soccer team was playing, and during a World Cup event, that always brings the entire country to a quasi-standstill. The other reason is that Italy for the last two months or so has been rocked by a massive soccer scandal which has hit FA presidents, refs, top Serie A teams, coaches, managers, players, sports journalists you name it, they’re involved in the scandal. Italians in general are perhaps a wee bit nauseated by the entire scandal and so just want to get back to the basics: to watch good Italian-style soccer. Minus 3 days and counting for Italy’s second match against the U.S. on Saturday!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Mussolini and his Third Rome

Another one of Mussolini’s historic sayings on the façade of a building in the EUR neighbourhood of Rome. This one says: “The third Rome will spread itself atop of other hills along the banks of the holy river right up to the beaches of the Tyrrhenian Sea” (picture by M. Rimati).

Where’s George Clooney when you need him?

This in yesterday from one of Italy’s main dailies. Some folks down in the Torre del Greco area (Naples), known also for its high-density concentration of Camorra members (one of the four mafias in Italy), literally went on a rampage and proceeded to destroy the local hospital there. Both staff members and patients were practically terrorised by a group of people who got into a major scuffle over futile matters. Police and Carabineri (Italian paramilitary police) were called in to subdue the rather ferocious crowd. I recall when years ago police were called to the reception area of the San Camillo hospital in Rome. Why? Because out of ten wickets, only two or three were open, and people there with broken legs and what not had to stand for hours in order to be visited (hospitals, especially in Rome, often lack sufficient chairs in reception areas). The police eventually had to be called in. Coming from Canada, I’ve always associated the police with more tragic events, such as accidents, robberies and what not. Rarely was the police called at the emergency ward of a Canadian hospital. As far as Torre del Greco is concerned, where’s George Clooney and his ER squad when you need him most?

Victoire for Italy!

A rather good start for Italy yesterday as it beat Ghana 2-0 at the World Cup. As Pirlo and Iaquinta scored I immediately turned off the volume in order to hear the loud cheers and the horns go off in my neighbourhood. The noise will certainly increase if Italy beats the U.S. on Saturday. Speaking of which, a pity for the Americans as they lost to the Czechs. No doubt an interesting match on Saturday as the Americans will face the highly motivated Italians (quite possibly both Gattuso and Zambrotta will be in the match). In other news, that old “mad dog” of international politics, Libya’s Col. Ghedaffi, has thundered against FIFA, accusing it of slavery and of encouraging racism in soccer fans worldwide (I can sort of attest to that as on more than one occasion in Italian stadia I’ve heard Italians imitate monkeys whenever a black player touches the ball). Is he perhaps jealous that the 2010 World Cup didn’t go to his Libya but rather to South Africa?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Game Day for Italy (or D-Day for Italy?)

Big game today for Italy as it faces Ghana in its first match of the German World Cup. Most of the country (Italy) will come to a standstill tonight at 9 pm local time. On my way to work this morning horn and Italian flag hawkers were already at work setting up their tiny tables and hoping to make some big bucks during Italy’s three qualifying matches. During its daily coverage this morning of the World Cup, BBC reported that the Italians are somewhat “worried” about the Ghanaians. Whereas Nesta and Totti are in, Gattuso and Zambrotta are out. Regarding Roma’s captain Totti, BBC said that he may only play one half as he’s at 70% of his capacity after his foot injury a few weeks ago in the Serie A. The other big match is USA-Czech Republic. Let us imagine the following scenario: Italy loses and the U.S. wins in today’s match against the Czechs! The showdown for the Italy-U.S. match will certainly be a heart-stopper!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

I now Inglish veri good!

Let’s talk today about the rather appalling way that Italians speak foreign languages, especially English. The other day some stats came out. Apparently, only 1/3 of Italians say they know foreign languages. Many instead state that they couldn’t care less to learn other languages. And in many cases, the average Italian only knows English (written English is quite often a total disaster). Other languages are entirely unknown. Some of the greatest “linguists” are the Italian journalists themselves. Just today a female journalist in “La Repubblica” ended her article by saying “Happy End”. Other winners have been: the “sexy” shops that carpet Rome and the rest of Italy. I’ve always wondered if the shop itself is sexy or does it sell articles for sex (therefore, it should be a “sex” shop); “no-stop” hours for Italian shops. I’ve also seen it written as “no stop”. Few though write “non-stop” (as in “non-stop action movies”); the “lifting” is one of my all-times favourites. This came up awhile ago when Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s former Prime Minister, underwent a “face-lift”; “brain train”. Yes, trains that are brains, or vice-versa! This actually came up in relation to good Italian researchers who leave Italy for green pastures, mostly in the U.S. They obviously should have written “brain drain”; “car pole”. Yes, cars that are poles. The American tradition of packing many people in single cars (as in California) as a way to reduce pollution and save on gas has actually been written that way, instead of “car pool”. If there are other bloopers, I’ll definitely let the reader know (or is it “now”?)!

Roman Forum

A view of the Coliseum and the Roman Forum in the background (picture by M. Rimati).

Saturday, June 10, 2006

White Wedding

A nice place to have your picture taken on your wedding day, right in front of Rome’s Coliseum (picture by M. Rimati).

Friday, June 09, 2006

No pit-bull?

This posting comes just three days before Italy’s all-important opening match against Ghana at the 2006 World Cup. Head coach Marcello Lippi should be a wee bit worried as Milan’s midfielder Gennaro Gattuso is out for a few days. Gattuso is affectionately called Italy’s “pit-bulls”. He comes from the school of “take no prisoners”. Juventus’s Zambrotta is still out too. Should be an interesting match as most of the country will come to a standstill on Monday night. Yyesterday, Lippi at the first official press conference at Italy’s training camp in Germany told reporters to concentrate more on Italy’s presence at the World Cup than on what is currently going on in Italy vis-à-vis the soccer scandal which has involved many important managers and refs.

Further to my posting on violence the other day, many years ago, almost 20, during a Roma-Lazio derby, someone snuck into the Olympic Stadium a small missile(!!). The idiot fired it off, it crossed length-wise the entire stadium and landed (literally) in the eye socket of a poor Lazio fan, killing him (naturally) on the spot. I think the stadium now has a special plaque in the poor fellow’s honour. A terrorist couldn’t have done better that day!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Soccer = brotherly love?

The following statement is from FIFA’s e-mail on June 6th, 2006:

“United Nations Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan and FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter join forces for peace and development. In a joint message welcoming the opening of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan and FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter make an appeal for peace, tolerance and development. Their message is addressed to the whole world as it comes together in Munich to witness the start of the world’s biggest sporting event. Last January, the FIFA President welcomed Kofi A. Annan to FIFA headquarters for a discussion centred around their shared objectives. The two men talked about how sport in general and football in particular can play a key role in development all around the world. Football is a sport that transcends social, cultural and religious divides. Quite simply, football is universal, which is why this unique opportunity to join forces to make the world a better place must be taken”.

I’ve been on its mailing list for several years now. Soccer can bring people together in a peaceful manner? What INCREDIBLE b.s. I can’t think of many sports in the world (not even wrestling, if we can call it a sport) that quite often triggers in people so much hatred and violence. Hatred and violence? In 1964 the worst recorded hooligan-related soccer tragedy in modern times occurred in Lima when no fewer than 318 people died at a Peru-Argentina match. Cases of soccer violence go back to 1908 in Hungary to Bermuda in 1980 to Egypt in 1966 to Yugoslavia in 1955 and 1982 (and pretty well all points in between). Does anyone for example remember the atrocious Heysel tragedy in 1985 involving (mostly) Juventus and Liverpool fans? Hasn’t England had a few major disasters involving fires in the stands? And the 2000 European championship in Belgium/Holland, wasn’t a poor Belgian police officer completely beaten to a pulp by hooligans (I think he’s still in a pretty bad condition)? Let’s take a look at some of the fun things that have happened in Italy’s stadia during the Serie A soccer championship. Years ago a fan in Genoa was knifed to death by a Milan fan. The Italian FA was so “perturbed” that the following Sunday it had—for the first time in its history—suspended the Italian championship. Then there was the case of the poor Fiorentina fan (Dr. Socrates’s former club) who while on a train was practically doused with fire by opposing fans with a Molotov cocktail. He miraculously survived but sustained severe burns on most of his body. Then there are the inevitable burned cars and injured people during Rome’s Roma vs. Lazio derbies. And finally, there is the quasi-comical case just a few years ago in Milan’s San Siro stadium: someone snuck in a scooter on one of the stadium’s three tiers. Fans then launched it below from one tier to the other. Had it hit someone on the head it would have certainly killed him/her. I myself have witnessed up close some of these hooligans. Collectively speaking, they’re pretty dangerous. One explanation for the violence surrounding soccer comes from Eric Dunning over at the University of Leicester (UK):

“A plausible reason why hooliganism is so much more frequent in conjunction with soccer than any other sport might appear at first glance to be the fact that, given its relative lack of overt violence, compare with rugby and American football, soccer provides fewer opportunities for spectators to experience violence vicariously, hence, allowing them less chance cathartically to release aggressive feelings”.

God only knows what hooligans (and not only them) will have in store for us in Germany during the World Cup!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Nesta and Zambrotta worry Lippi

The great World Cup soccer circus is about to take off in Germany in just three days’ time. Italy, awash with the usual polemics regarding its own soccer scandal (several heads have rolled in the last few weeks, including the president of the Italian FA, Franco Carraro), isn’t going into the event in the most positive way. Some players such as Milan and Juve’s defensemen Nesta and Zambrotta respectively appear to have a physical problem or two. This is rather worrying for head coach (and Paul Newman look alike) Marcello Lippi. On the one hand, it would appear that Zambrotta will miss Italy’s inaugural match against Ghana (which won decidedly the other day in a friendly match, thus worrying the Italians a wee bit. N.B. Ghana’s Muntari plays for Italian club Udinese, not the only Ghanian player by the way in the Italian Serie A). Nesta on the other hand is carrying around a nasty leg injury from the last days of the Italian championship. Both are important stand-ins for the great Paolo Maldini who left a few years ago the national team. In the meantime, Italian journalists have this odd way of analyzing Italy’s participation at World Cup events: they’ll come out and say that when Enzo Bearzot (head coach of the 1982 world champions) lost in a friendly match in 1981 against Chile, Italy then went on to win that World Cup. That way of thinking obviously doesn’t always work though. The ref of Italy’s first match is by the way a Brazilian. Let us hope that he won’t be as nasty as Ecuador’s Byron Moreno who four years ago red-carded Totti in the match against Korea!!

Monday, June 05, 2006

My shoes please!

Some of the wonderful things one finds outside of Rome’s garbage bins. I wonder where the owner is (picture by M. Rimati)?

Friday, June 02, 2006


The building in the picture is located in the EUR neighbourhood of Rome. The area was intended for the universal exhibit wanted by Mussolini during the Second World War. The event was canned because of it. It’s a nice area of the city with wide open spaces and large buildings. This one is also called the “Squared Coliseum” and is typical of the architecture of that period. The saying high above on the building, typical of the Mussolini period, says the following:

“A nation of poets, artists, heroes, saints, thinkers, scientists, navigators and transmigrates”.

Not too sure on the word “saints” though…