Thursday, March 25, 2010

Oh Saint Silvio, where would we be without you?

On March 20th, Rome once (again) saw another so-called massive demonstration at the historical Piazza San Giovanni, only about 400 metres from where I live in Rome, in favour of our “Great” Leader, Silvio Berlusconi, and his Freedom Party.

Seeing that it was a nice day, we decided to go for a walk as we had to also see an art exhibit in the heart of Rome on Via del Corso. As we went by the square, around 3.30 pm, we found it rather odd that there weren’t a lot of people. As we began heading towards the Colosseum, a human “wave” of his faithful followers—including many ministers of his current cabinet—began literally flocking towards the square! They had met at the Circus Maximus and with another large group that met on the other side of San Giovanni, eventually joined forces at 5:00 pm for the arrival of the “Great” Leader himself (who also stated rather arrogantly that his government intends to find a cure for cancer “within 3 years”!). People said that about 1 million people showed up when there were probably not more than 300,000 people. Rome was though quite chaotic as there was Silvio's demonstration, another pro-water demonstrantion the very same day, the Rome-Udinese soccer match that night and Rome's marathon on Sunday!

And yes, as one can see by the pics (all by M. Rimati), they came in all shapes and sizes and with a multitude of colourful signs as well. All that was pretty-well missing that day was a with long hair and a long white robe and carrying a cross in Silvio’s honour!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Way to go Canada!

As I told my friend Danielle in Vancouver, I must admit that this morning, March 1st, as I was watching (and keeping my fingers crossed) BBC Sports at 9:45 am, I had a tear or two as the GREAT news had just trickled in that Canada had just won gold in no doubt a heart attack-style men’s final (been through a few of those with men’s World Cup soccer finals)!

I was actually going to stay up to watch it, but the match would have been aired on Italian tv at 1.30 am Monday morning, so I hit the sack. Indeed a mistake as no doubt I missed one helluva match! Nice to see also the sea of Canadian flags in Vancouver before and after the match (made my day here in Udine, that’s for sure!). And no doubt all those wonderful old and great players that I grew up with in Canada (Bobby Orr, Bobby Hull—who had even played in Winnipeg—Wayne Gretsky, etc.) must have been exceptionally proud of those fine young Crazy Canucks (Crosby’s only 22???).

At age 50+ the memory is still good as this victory brought me back to that drafting class at Grant Park High School in Winnipeg. It was only 38 years ago when we all had our ears glued to the radios as we listened to Paul Henderson’s famous goal against the Russkies in the Canada Cup final! No doubt Crosby’s goal is right up there with Henderson in the minds of Canadians everywhere, and not only in Canada.

What unfortunately started off as a small disaster with the Georgian’s death and the poor weather conditions ended at least on a positive note. Nice to see that my fellow high schoolmate, Neil Young, bid adieu to the closing ceremonies (I say fellow schoolmate because we both attended in Winnipeg Kelvin High School, me albeit a few years later)!

There is though unquestionably one man out there who would certainly like to beat his you-know-what out of sheer desperation (or beat the you-know-what of several athletes)! America’s goalkeeper? No, Gianni Petrucci, the president of Italy’s National Olympic Committee. Just the other day he said that he was “anguished” because of Italy’s VERY dismal performance at these Games, so dismal that Italy managed only 1 gold medal out of a total of a mere 5 medals won (the others being 1 silver and 3 bronze).

Overall, Italy placed 16th in the medal standings, right behind Poland and ahead of that other world powerhouse (!!) of international sports, Belarus!

Petrucci’s final grade for the Italian expedition? A mere 5.5 out of 10 (actually, the man’s been too generous)!

In all of this, as a soccer aficionado, especially of the women’s game (I will probably head to Germany next year for the Women’s World Cup), I’m hoping that Italy’s Carolina Morace (the most famous female soccer player in Italy), former head coach of the Italian national women’s team and currently Canada’s national head coach, not only took in the Games but that some of the organization ($117 million dollars spent over 5 years for the “Own The Podium” programme?), enthusiasm and Canadian gung-ho-style when it comes at least to hockey (both the female and male versions), has in some way brushed off on her in a positive way, seeing that her performance, at least in 5 years at the helm of Italy’s women’s national team, was deemed a small “disaster” by Italian sports journalists. I’ve been told that as a FIFA Ambassador for the women’s game, Canada is hoping that Morace will not only win the World Cup but will also convince the powers-that-be over at FIFA to grant Canada the women’s event in 2015. The ball is now, figuratively-speaking, in Carolina’s court…

Our only consolation here in Italy in all of this is in about 4 months’ time when the country will come to a standstill with the men’s World Cup in South Africa. Will head coach Marcello Lippi be able to equal former head coach Vittorio Pozzo who in the 1930s managed to win back-to-back titles for Italy (1934 in Italy and 1938 in France)? Tough competition indeed with Italy’s great, great Fabio Capello at the helm of the English squad. Stay tuned for South Africa 2010!