Whatever Is God's Will: Juary

Paul Grech Monday, January 27, 2014 , , ,
Back in the early eighties Italy was the centre of the world of football and would remain such for the best part of a decade.  The richest clubs in the world played in the Serie A and, in turn, these attracted  the best players.  Juventus had Platini and Boniek, Napoli played to the tune set by Maradona whilst AC Milan had the trio of Van Basten, Gullit and  Rijkaard.  Even a small club like Udinese could attract a player like Zico.

If the Serie A was the cream of world football, then Avellino was the curd.  Promoted to the Serie A for the first time in 1978, they had defied expectation by staying there year after year despite being billed as relegation favourites at the start of each season.

The architect of their elevation was  owner Antonio Sibilia, a stereotypical Southern Italian with a pencil thin moustache, ferocious distaste for anything other than a conservative look in men – he hated long hair, ear-rings and tattoos – and alleged links to the camorra.  The city of Avellino itself was a typical Southern Italian city, with its fair share of social problems but also a football mad population that ferociously supported their local side.

It was in this environment that Juary arrived in 1980, finding heightened expectations given the highly restricted number of foreign players that a club could register at the time.  “It was every player’s dream to play in the most beautiful league in the world,” he recalls.

"We Offer the Best Coaching, Best Staff and Best Way to Develop Players"

Whenever there is a wave of despair that periodically seems to grip English football, particularly when the national team does poorly, the country’s youth system is proclaimed broken.  It is a knee jerk reaction that generates attention grabbing headlines but which doesn’t necessarily reflect reality.   Whilst the problems are highlighted, all the good that is being done is glossed over.

The big mistake made is that what is happening at certain big clubs is deemed as being symptomatic of what is happening all over the country.  Clearly, that isn’t the case.  Southampton are as good an example of a florid youth system as you’ll find all across Europe.  So too are Aston Villa and neighbours West Bromwich Albion.

And it is those clubs that Brentford are trying to emulate.

The full article and interview can be read on Blueprint for Football.

Sport Book Chat: Daniel Gray

One of the questions that I was asked during my Italian ‘O’ Level oral was to locate ‘Lazio’ in Italy.  Given that most of my knowledge of Italy was based on what I had read in the various football magazine, it was somewhat obvious that my reply would be “in Rome”.  After all, the Rome derby was played between AS Roma and Lazio.  Thankfully, I met a somewhat lenient examiner who guided me into providing the right answer (for anyone interested: Lazio is the region in which Rome is located).

Time has afforded me the luxury to learn a bit more about the world but, even so, a lot of my geographical knowledge is linked with my knowledge of football.  When I hear the name of a city, my thoughts instinctively turn to that place’s football team and what I know about it.

I know that I’m not the only one who does that which is why it is somewhat surprising that it has taken so long for someone to come up with a book that mashes together travel and football writing in one book.

That someone is Daniel Gray who, in writing his book ‘Hatters, Railwaymen and Knitters’, has taken  a journey around England looking at a number at football clubs and the cities that host them.  In the process, he manages to piece together a picture of England, its beauty and the inherent importance of its most popular sport.
Copyright 2010 Paul Grech: Writer