Friday, March 07, 2008

Kill the ref (literally!)

Well, just how many times have we all heard in North American sports the saying, “Kill the ref” or “Ah, com’on ref, he wasn’t off-side!!? Sure, thousands of times. But what’s now happening in the fun and whacky world of Italian soccer is rather unbelievable.

Italy’s Pierluigi Collina, deemed after the 2002 World Cup THE best ref in the world, is now the head of the Italian ref’s association. Well, for the last few months the poor sod has been going around with a police escort as crazies out there have sent him via the mail bullets as a “warning” that his refs aren’t doing their job properly (and no doubt many of these crazies are probably Juventus fans). Not only that, but just the other day, the ref of a Juventus-Naples match was kidnapped by irate fans. Well, almost. I say almost because the “Keystone Copish” fellows who went to kidnap him ended up kidnapping his look-alike and NOT the real McCoy (someone who was very similar to the real ref)! Once they noticed the mistake they made the poor look-alike was immediately released.

But the nightmare hasn’t ended there for the real objective in question. No siree. The real quasi-kidnapped ref for two weeks has had to leave his hometown of Genoa and has gone in seclusion for fear of REALLY being kidnapped!

A ref’s association member, which counts only 32,000 referees in Italy (including the minor leagues where quite often refs are beaten up by rowdy fans), stated today that things will certainly worsen if something is not done about the violence against refs. The situation of Italian sports shows (99% of them talk exclusively about soccer) doesn’t help matters much either: unlike rugby, many of these shows literally will bring viewers to the exasperation point as they’ll repeatedly show and analyse the same foul or off-side a zillion times. I say, “Why the hell not just concentrate on the bloody match itself rather than talking endlessly if Del Piero was tripped in the pk area or not”?

But alas, as with politics, Italians absolutely adore talking and talking and talking endlessly about their favourite national pastime, soccer. The result is that the Italian state (ie, all us taxpayers) now have to ALSO pay cops in order to defend refs (as though we don’t pay enough each weekend for stadium security!). Somewhat ridiculous, I must say (not that Italy doesn’t have MORE serious problems to contend with, like the mafia).