On April 14, we went to watch the last real chance for Castel Rigone to climb their way into a play-out place for Serie C next season. It was another Don Bosco outing, but this time instead of a hundred people, there were about twenty. Several of Jakob’s teammates stood around the edges of the pitch as ball-boys. At first Jakob wanted to join them, but then, when the rain came, the heavy rain, he was glad he hadn’t.
The rain seemed like a sign that it wasn’t meant to be, a cruel natural inevitability that belied the team’s efforts on the field and the club’s effort in the stands. Once again, playing one of the top teams in the division, Castel Rigone played harder and generally better than Teramo. Once again, they lost anyway, haunted by a habitual slackness at the start of every half which forced them to play from behind nearly the entire game.
It had started out so brightly, on a day of palm branches, daisy-chains, tulips, and redbuds.
Soft light broke through scudding grey clouds and temperatures hovered dreamily around 18° C. A light breeze carried scents of lilac, wisteria, wildflowers, and freshly-cut grass. A hundred kinds of green were splashed across the hillside above the stadium, amidst the pale yellow stones and light red roofs of the village. Castel Rigone was spectacular.
We were spending the day there with our colleague from Arezzo, Peter; and friends from Australia, Michael and Jenny, and all their kids. We had taken the morning in Castiglione del Lago, watching preparations for their 48th annual Tulip Festival, which involves the four contradas of the town competing with each other for best petal-powered float.
The natural wildflowers were as pretty as the arranged ones in the castle grounds.
Back on the mountain, despite the weather and the growing acceptance of relegation, the Castel Rigone club continued its policies of generosity. Besides admitting the players and their parents free of charge and providing the kids some swag (in this case, small dark blue rucksacks emblazoned with the club logo), they sent stewards to usher the entire outdoor crowd, those rooting for and against Castel Rigone alike, out of the developing rain and under the roofed terrace on the north side of the field. We trudged over gratefully as the ball-boys looked up and hoped for their own rescue. At half-time, the club clad them in rain ponchos two sizes too large, and so they stood, like over-sized chicks dipped doubly long in dark-blue Paas. After half, to brighten a Palm Sunday that had left the sun behind, stewards passed around baskets of fruit gels and chocolate eggs, which were eagerly devoured by the soggy kids and not a few parents. One must compliment the club for continuing to promote a positive atmosphere during their recent slide. It is an abiding faith in the value of benvenuto.
Teramo scored almost immediately, three minutes in, with the home side’s left back at fault for a slow reaction to a deep run ad cross up the line. Castel Rigone responded however, with Tranchitella putting the ball in the net after a scramble four minutes later. The two sides settled into battle, with most pressure coming from the home side (now dressed in dark blue rather than the whites they had worn most of the season). Midway through the period the rain arrived, heralded by curls of dark cloud that clawed their way down the mountain crest from the northeast.
A soggy pitch welcomed the teams back after the break, and sleepy once more, the Rigonese failed to defend well, and this time it took less than two minutes for the visitors to score what would be the last goal of the match. After that, despite valiant efforts to push the ball forward, torrents from the heavens turned green into silver, field into lake. The ball either skipped quickly out of bounds, or was glued in the gathering mud. Attempted passes stuck fast, or flew past. Frustration mounted, the referee was unwilling to call nearly any fouls, and the mood darkened with the day. As time ticked off and it was simply impossible to do anything but boot the ball forward and hope, resignation settled over the crowd.
At the end of the day, Castel Rigone was still not mathematically relegated; other teams in their position also faltered that day, unstrung by pressure. Castel Rigone sits five back with two to play. It seems cruel to prolong the inevitable, to hold out the hope of a miraculous six points and only then if everyone else collapses.
The season is over, and yet it still isn’t over.
Official Lega Pro video highlights of the week 32 1-2 loss v. Teramo:
Official Lega Pro video highlights of the week 31 3-1 loss v. Aprilia:
Official Lega Pro video highlights of the week 30 1-6 loss v. Foggia:
(acknowledging David Peace’s style in Red or Dead.)