The moment before

Saturday we returned from five days in the Bay of Naples (which will eventually generate several posts). After stopping at Tivoli on the way back to visit two monumental garden-villa complexes (yet another post), we arrived in Perugia just an hour before Simon was due to be at Don Bosco for his soccer game that day. We were all tired and a bit creaky and cranky as we shuffled down to the fields for the game.

Not knowing whether or not Simon would make it, the coach hadn’t put him on the team sheet, but various defections in the squad (for illness, birthday, etc.) meant he had a chance to play. The opponent was Nestor Calcio, a tough opponent who had beaten Passignano 12-1 (and Passignano had beaten Don Bosco 5-0!). With Don Bosco near the bottom of the table (see below), it looked to be a tough afternoon. After a barrage of shots from Nestor, including three off the post or crossbar, and a great many complaints from the visiting parents about offside calls, Don Bosco went ahead thanks to a beautifully taken strike by our right winger, Jordy. At halftime, Simon went in to play his usual right-sided defensive midfield spot, but soon Nestor had taken the lead thanks to a long-range blast and a free kick that bounced in front of our keeper, fooling him.

As the game passed into added time and still hung in the balance, Don Bosco won a free kick on the right side. Pushing the entire squad into the box in hopes of an equalizer at the very end of the match, coach Titoli asked Simon to take the free kick, from about 40 meters out. Here’s what happened:

The few weeks before, Simon had been a bit frustrated in practice at not being able to get the ball in the air like he wanted on shots. This time, however, he got the three things right that have to happen for a good free kick: 1) clear the initial defenders; 2) send the ball in with velocity and spin; and 3) drop the ball close to the six-yard line, which forces the keeper to come out of his goal to defend it; this makes him vulnerable. Although the keeper adjusted and awkwardly parried the ball, the ensuing scramble resulted in the foul that drew the penalty (‘rigore‘ in Italian). The match ended 2-2. Parents and players of the opposing side continued to protest the referee’s calls (one player on their bench was even red-carded and sent off). A hard-won result. So now the table looks like this (PT = points; G = games played; V = games won; P = games tied; N = games lost; RF = goals for; RS = goals against); Saturday, the team plays at Ventinella.


Weekly updates for Simon’s team can be found here. There’s also an extended account of the match (in Italian) by the coach. In Italy, a soccer coach is called a ‘Mister‘, dating back to the days when an English doctor and Italian textile worker brought the game to Genoa and Torino; here’s a guide to Italian terminology for calcio.

In the coach’s account, he says of Simon: “Foss fa la legna, recupera palla e la gioca…,” which literally says “Foss gathers firewood, recovers the ball and the play.” But what it means is: “Foss works hard, gets back the ball, and settles down the play.” Italian idioms can be fun.