Let Lucho work.
Chievo the muse.
I was thinking of my favorite football moment of 2017.
It wasn’t Monaco winning Ligue 1. An incredible achievement, but that was more of a story than a single moment.
Totti retiring, the actual day. His final goodbye at the Stadio Olimpico (which got killer reviews on Google by the way) came to mind. Tears and tears. A tearful Totti is a Totti worth remembering. But alas…
Then there’s the US men’s team not qualifying for the World Cup. A bit of shock and joy. A hope that rot will stop, which may only happen if Eric Wynalda is elected as the USSF president. But that’s another journal entry for another day.
But the moment that rose to my hippocampus’s surface was Mario Mandžukić’s Champions League final chilena:
Mandžukić, Juventus’s alleyway brawler, displayed his technique and audacity to lift the hope of Juventus supporters around the world.
It wasn’t enough.
Mandžukić’s goal, his match tying goal. His momentum shifting goal. His glimmer of hope goal, will likely be forgotten. Real Madrid’s 3 second half goals turned brilliance into a consolation.
Football supporters just don’t sit around in pubs discussing all the amazing consolation goals they’ve witnessed.
But when it was executed, in that that moment, the Croatian’s chilena wasn’t a consolation goal. It was a celebration.
Here’s to more chilena’s in 2018.
– Thanks to Get French Football News for sharing the Marseille documentary.
Totti is the player you dreamed of being.
He’s the player’s name you’d shout during pickup games.
Pumping a fist while spinning away from a pair of trash bins after scoring.
Totti’s the reason you let your socks sag at your ankles.
He’s why you try chipping the keeper at any opportunity.
Totti is why you watch YouTube clips until 3am Wednesday morning.
He’s why you’ll never support Lazio.
He’s why you’ll never support Juventus.
He’s why Italian football became your obsession.
He’s why tomorrow will be the first day of a new Serie A.
A Serie A without dreams, a Serie A without Totti.
“When life gives you lemons, stick em’ in your bra.” said an old roommate’s girlfriend when her plans went to shit. My plan that Sunday afternoon was the Derby Della Madonnina. Atalanta v Roma was supposed to be an appetizer. A nibble of fruit and cheese before the main course. I caught one Atlanta counter. And another. 5 minutes became 10. 10 became 30. I was captured. Atalanta was pushing Roma around like your Aunt Milda’s liver onions at Thanksgiving.
I’d heard murmurs from podcasts and tweets that Atalanta were a team on the rise. A young side eager to carry out Gio Gasperini’s 3-4-3 masterplan. Still, I hadn’t seen for myself. After all, it was Atalanta. In my years of following Serie A I’d never watched them play. And today I needed a Roma win. If only to slow the Juventus juggernaut from a fifth consecutive Serie A title.
Atalanta ripped my loyalties apart. My logic cursed Salah’s spurned chances and bemoaned Roma’s lack of possession. My emotions whispered for Atalanta. Her back three. Her old-fashioned touch-line wing play. And her boots-full-of-tricks number 10 – Alejandro “Papu” Gomez, were irresistible.
Gasperini’s 3-4-3, oiled and quick, confounded Spaletti’s defensive shape. Atalanta’s movement and passing stirred up a level of anticipation usually reserved for individual players. The type of anticipation you’d feel when “Brazilian” Ronaldo dribbled full force at defenders. Or when Zidane trapped a pass from the air without spilling his espresso. Each feint a word before the punch line, each touch a silk scarf from a magician’s wrist.
However, this interruption of plans went beyond formations and players. It came to life from the stands. The Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia, built in 1928, remains a noir shrine to Italian football of yesteryear. Smoke from the flares of the Curva Nord 1907 brought the nostalgia of Serie A’ early 90s pomp. And the supporters were KISS concert rowdy.
Late on Papu added to the ruckus, bamboozling Pardes to draw the penalty. Franck Kessié converted as Spaletti’s strategy fell to the cutting room floor. The final whistle kicked Atalanta closer to a European adventure while Roma wedged deeper beneath The Old Lady’s heel. This wasn’t the Sunday I’d planned. This wasn’t the Sunday Roma planned. But when life gives you lemons, you stick em’ in your bra.