Category: Soccer

Castel Rigone: End of Watch

Blizzard14image [The story of Castel Rigone (21 chapters) in chronological order here.]

There is an ending to the story of Castel Rigone Calcio. And it is an unexpected one. Maybe. Well, perhaps it represents a final twist, then. I tell the tale in The Blizzard, issue 14, Sept. 8, 2014, pages 122-128: “Rise and Fall of Castel Rigone: The entrepreneur, the village team and the experiment in humanistic capitalism”…

“This story does not end with dramatic victory from a penalty. It begins that way — in Florence, at a quarter to five on a Sunday afternoon, 5 May 2013. Banks of dark grey clouds jostle over the Apennines along the Arno River. Tourists shuffle along to glimpse Botticelli’s Allegory of Spring at the Uffizi Gallery. And at Stadio Turri, fourteen men crowd in along a torn white arc to watch Dario Pietro Tranchitella place a ball carefully on the ground…”

You’ll have to go to The Blizzard’s website to find out the rest.

I’m a bit stunned to have published this in The Blizzard. I’ve been a reader ever since issue ‘zero’ appeared in 2011, as it represented the first real attempt at a football literary periodical. The founders weren’t after money (though they wanted it to succeed); its financial model is ‘pay-what-you-want’—as little as one pence per issue, though you’d have to look pretty hard in the mirror at yourself if you only shelled out that much for hundreds of pages of great writing and insight. “Intelligent Football Journalism,” it says on the ‘About’ page that tells the origin story. Exactly.

The editor, Jonathan Wilson (Twitter: jonawils), has written some of the best books and articles extant on the subject of soccer. He conjured the idea for The Blizzard in a Sunderland pub with the help of friends and colleagues. To have one’s name in the same table of contents as Philippe Auclair, Scott Murray, and Rob Smyth is an honor.

Due credit in the Blizzard article (though the journal didn’t insert it) is our friend Marzia, for her help and humor in certain translations that otherwise I would not have properly understood. My deep thanks, Marzia.

It was exactly one year ago when I first learned about Castel Rigone, the village club whose youth team was practicing on a sunny Wednesday upon the artificial turf at the Don Bosco Scuola di Calcio in Perugia. Never could I have imagined how it would turn out. Requiescas in pace, Castel Rigone Calcio.

<—Back to “Weeks 33-34: To Morality and Beyond”


We have now been in the United States for three+ days. The houses are strange (an eclectic variety of styles and materials that evoke everywhere and everytime without actually being anything, a collection of mini domestic kingdoms named Cape Cod, Georgian, Neo-Classical, Spanish Colonial Revival, Clapboard Bungalow…). The roads are needlessly wide; there are lawns everywhere, and they are trimmed and edged; people pick up after their dogs. People talk loudly with Jersey, New York, and Philadelphia accents–vowels are strong, angled, harsh. Everything is bigger: cars, buildings, portions, people.

There are fragments and reflections of Italy here on the East Coast — at Uncle Gino’s Pizza in Margate, the restauranteur  noticed Simon’s Juventus jersey and Simon was able to practice his Italian (though not try the pizza; he wasn’t ready for that). We saw stracciatella on the boardwalk in Ocean City, but no one wanted it, at risk of modifying the memory of the divine products from our beloved Gelateria Gambrinus in Perugia. As we go west, even those embers will wink out.

We may be putting up a few more posts — stories and images we didn’t have time to share as we packed up. For now, the boys have decided to start a YouTube channel that is meant to introduce kids in America to European soccer; to share, peer-to-peer, their observations and insights. It’s called “Soccer Stuff”, and episode 1, though a little long (they need to get each show down to 5-8 minutes), is below. It’s about the World Cup. They begin to find their stride about halfway through.


No More Mondiale For Italy

20140624-203138-73898151.jpgSo I just finished watching the Italy vs. Uruguay world cup match. Italy had one win and one loss so all they had to do was get a tie to go on to the next round. We decided to go out onto the “corso” with some of our friends to watch the game. The match started out sketchy with fouls all through the first half but things didn’t really get started till the second. Almost immediately Mario Balotelli  came off for Marco Parolo which may seem like a strange decision because Balotelli is their best striker, however, he had been playing awful the whole game. The next weird thing happened in the 59th minute when Claudio Marchisio was protecting the ball with his body while making a turn (not a foul) and then the defender fell down. As soon as the defender collapsed the ref whipped out a red card and showed it to Marchisio. As you can imagine, the crowd was in an uproar. They showed the replay in slow motion and it turns out that as Marchisio was turning he hit the defender’s knee with the bottom of his cleat but 1. It was an accident and 2. clearly not a red card.

Then, around the 80th minute, the only thing that could have made the game crazier, happened. I don’t know if you guys have heard but Uruguay’s top scorer, Luis Suarez, had bitten two different players in his career and he has now bit a third. That’s right, Giorgio Chiellini was defending Suarez and all of a sudden the Uruguay player thought ” I bet this Chiellini is really tasty” and he took a bite out of Giorgio’s shoulder. Of course Chiellini erupted with anger as soon as he felt the bite and he tried to show the ref but the ref wouldn’t listen. After everyone had “calmed down” Uruguay had a corner kick to take and that’s when they scored the game winning goal, a header by the team’s captain, Diego Godin. Italy had ten minutes to score and never have I seen such a poor effort. Even Thiago Motta, who had been brought in five minutes earlier, seemed to have no energy and before we knew it the game was over.

I have to say that I was extremely disappointed in Italy’s performance during the cup. They didn’t have enough speed or touch and the only reason that they managed to beat England was that England happened to play even worse. At least Andrea Pirlo, my favorite player, always manages to keep his head.


Chiellini trying to show the ref the bite mark.

Not Going Home

Today's Gazzetta dello Sport

Today’s Gazzetta dello Sport

We are stuck in an interstice. Three weeks left. Some things are packed; some are sent home, some are still perched on shelves or snug in drawers. Micah’s at the Don Bosco centro estivo (summer camp), Jakob and Simon are sleeping and reading a lot (and, OK, also playing FIFA 14). Rebecca and I are scrambling to finish projects and produce some products. We are also trying to plan for future returns to Italy — in January for me, with nearly 40 DePauw student soccer-players, and perhaps all of us next June if we can work out a collaborative research project about Castiglione del Lago and Trasimeno. We don’t want to leave, really, but we are also ready for the transition to be over.

In a month’s time, I will no longer be looking out at the tile roofs of Perugia and mountains of Umbria; I will be back in a windowless office with only my memory to fenestrate the brown institutional carpet, dented steel bookshelves, dusty smell of final papers never collected, and incessant morgue-esque whir of an air conditioning system.

But not yet. Not yet.

Continue reading

Forza Italia

Jakob's divided loyalties

Jakob’s divided loyalties

In two hours, Italy will kick off vs. England in the tropical rain forest city of Manaus. The game begins at midnight here. We are waiting for the minutes to tick away.

We are meeting friends at Elfo’s, a party of 10 people trying to fit into a pub that will be overflowing with fans. We were there last night for four hours with our friends from Arezzo, watching two matches (Mexico 1-0 Cameroon) and the stunning 5-1 drubbing of defending champions Spain by the effervescent Dutch team.

Jakob and Micah were both pulling hard for Holland; Jakob because he had accompanied me three years ago on a Winter Term to the Netherlands and Germany, and got to train at the KNVB, the Headquarters of Football for Holland. Micah just loves orange. Two tall young Dutch women seated on the other side of the aisle were both pleased and puzzled to see the little boy in front of them, head-to-toe in the national uniform of the Netherlands, jumping up and down with joy as Holland scored one after another in the second half.


Another goal by the Oranje

20140614-215957-79197162.jpgThe boys will be exhausted; with their friends from Arezzo here today, they went out to a local park to kick around the ball just before noon. Then it was time for lunch, so we met our Australian friends below the church of San Ercolano (which was actually open, for once, so Rebecca got to see inside, and inspect the late Roman sarcophagus holding the saint’s remains which is used as the altar of the church. What did the boys do in between munches? Kick the ball against the massive stone foundation blocks of the building. Then we had an end-of-season party for Micah’s team; the parents played a match vs. the kids at Don Bosco; and Jakob and Simon came down a bit later and they all played some more (3 more hours of kicking a ball).

You have to say that the game keeps them fit. They’ve almost beat the stitches out of our ball. It only has days to live.

So we have to make it for two more hours. It should be an even match. And while we like the England squad and the older boys have some loyalties to St. George from our last sabbatical in Yorkshire, we’re in Italy and we’re all blue tonight.

Well, except for Jakob. He’s cheering for both.

The Beginning of Ending

20140531-225321-82401626.jpgToday we began the long process of going home. Next week will be the last week of school, as well as final music recitals, practices, and school parties. Today was the first ‘last’ soccer game (for Simon). It was the final of the small “G. Modestini” memorial tournament, after his team advanced from the semifinal yesterday. Afterwards, coaches and parents began to ask when we are returning to America.

It wasn’t the most elegant game, but the Don Bosco giovanissimi got it done, prevailing 1-0 vs. a determined Ventinella squad. The lone goal was in the first half, from Jordy, off a through-ball from Simon that the defender could not quite handle. Simon played well; the coach said he was ‘migliore in campo‘ (‘man of the match’) afterwards. Don Bosco’s keeper for this match, Christian, also played one of his best games, tipping one free kick over the bar, and a defender, Tommaso, saved the result when he headed away a shot against the post and out of play to keep it from going in at the start of the second half, when Ventinella began to press hard and Don Bosco tried to protect their narrow lead.

Here are the game highlights:

Unlike yesterday, there was no dramatic comeback, no penalty shoot-out. Don Bosco, though not without some drama, simply finished the game off.

La coppa

La coppa

There was great excitement at the end—the first ever trophy for coach Titoli, and for most of the players, in all likelihood. Micah was thrilled that his big brother had won “la coppa,” and he danced and jumped along with them when they lifted it upwards (see the end of the video). Songs continued in the locker room, and the team then brought the cup out to the field again, starting to walk around the edge as if they were circumscribing a sacred space (campo as temple). Which, in a way, it is.

Here’s the tournament report by the coach, for both kock-out matches. At the end, Mister Titoli simply and elegantly says:

Come già detto, non ha vinto la squadra più forte; ha vinto piuttosto la squadra che più aveva voglia di riscatto (in semifinale confesso infatti che a una manciata di minuti dal termine stavo raccogliendo i palloni preparandomi al saluto finale); ha vinto la squadra che ci ha creduto fino alla fine, andando oltre ogni aspettativa… ha vinto il calcio, questa magnifica metafora della vita, che regala continuamente emozioni ed opportunità a chi sa coglierle.

È stato un anno un pò difficile, ma che si è concluso con un sorriso e con una coppa alzata con gioia verso il cielo. Grazie.

“As I’ve already said, the strongest team did not win; rather, the team won that had the greater will for redemption (in the semifinal, I admit in fact that in the minutes at the end I was collecting the balls and getting myself ready for the final handshakes). The team won that believed right until the end, going further than expected… It was calcio that won, this magnificent metaphor for life, that ever makes a gift of emotions, and also opportunity to those who know how to seize it.

“And so went a year  that was a bit difficult, but that finished with a smile and with a cup raised with joy towards the heavens. Thank you.”

Thank you, Mister Titoli.

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