A Season with Verona: Travels Around Italy in Search of Illusion, National Character, and...Goals!
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After 20 years of living in Italy, Tim Parks, whom Joseph Brodsky, has called "the nest British author working today," spent a full year following the fortunes-and misfortunes-of the Verona football-oops! Soccer-club. Here is his rollicking report. Fro Udine to Catania, from San Siro to the Olimpico, traveling with the fans and the players from the tip to the toe of Italy, Tim Parks offers a highly personal account of his relationship with a country, its people, and its national sport. The fans, as always are accused of vulgarity, racism, and violence. The police are ambiguous, the journeys exhausting, the referees unforgivable, the anecdotes hilarious. In a world stripped of idealism and increasingly bereft of religion, Parks suggests that soccer offers a new and fiercely ironic way of engaging with the sacred.
against the ancient red brick. Now the rain has stopped and I’ve found a decent sandwich in a kiosk and am watching all the Lazio supporters in their pale-blue-and-white scarves flow over the bridge towards the Piazza Foro Italia and the huge structure of the Olympic stadium. I love to watch the home fans streaming to a game. I love the moment, perhaps half a mile from the ground, when the occasional passers-by are transformed into a purposeful crowd: the groups of lads holding their furled flags
the first half We have to win. When you always lose away, you have to win at home. Perotti grows desperate, brings out defenders, throws in strikers. But already we’re into the last ten minutes. Atalanta respond by taking off Doni and bringing on another defender. They’re settling for a draw. The odious scorer goes off to a gale of whistles but again has the temerity to make a gesture of derision to the crowd and, instead of retiring to the dressing room, goes to sit by the coach on the bench to
ancient provincial rivalries, the local hatred of Bergamo and Brescia and Vicenza. Apart from the different dialects, I can’t distinguish the inhabitants of these towns. But perhaps because it took so long for me to settle in Verona, so long to feel that this town would be my town, this team, for better or worse, my team, it seems outrageous to me that so many of its citizens should not only not give their support – that’s fair enough – but actually come along to cheer the privileged unto whom
saying.’ And implies: the centre of the world is our city, our language, our accent. In any event, as I pushed through the turnstile of the sezione ospiti at the Cibali stadium in Catania, the boys were already singing it. Less than a hundred of them, but in excellent voice, immediately declaring their racial superiority, punching their fists in the air, tightly hemmed in by the inevitable riot police. ‘Get ready,’ I told my companion, for I was not alone. The moment I knew I was going down to
Agnolin insists on exploring an exhibition of contemporary art under the porticoes of the seminary. Garish and incomprehensible, the paintings are for sale. Suddenly I realise that the thickly bearded Agnolin looks a little like John Ruskin. He likes the play of light and dark in this picture in particular, he says. Could he be an art professor? Finally, and to my immense relief, we make it out to the training ground, a pleasant sports club in the suburbs. The inevitable policemen are guarding