Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Chutzpah. It sounds a little like a table sauce for cold meat. ‘Make thanksgiving with Chutzpah’ or, ‘Would you like Chutzpah with that?” Would I?!

However, it turns out it’s not a bottled condiment at all, but as Leo Rosten defines in The Joys of Yiddish,“Chutzpah-gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible guts, presumption plus arrogance such as no other word and no other language can do justice to.” Naturally I’ll try.

Unfortunately sport is surprisingly lacking in the chutzpah department, what with multimillion dollar contracts and tongue-tying sponsorship deals, most involved in the theatre of sport these days are about as brazen as barbie.

Ortis Deley, fabled anchor of Channel 4’s athletics coverage tried to break the mould with his excruciating efforts last week, but incompetence isn’t Chutzpah.  Usain Bolt? After false starting in the 100m he ran 19.40 in the 200m then anchored Jamaica’s new world record in the 4×100 relay; incredible guts, warranted arrogance certainly, however still lacking the impertinence and audacity to embody this exulted word.

Rosten offers a further example, “A Chutzpahnik may be defined as the man who shouts ‘Help!’ ‘Help!’ while beating you up.” Real Madrid v Barcelona, Mourinho and Francesc Vilanova and the attempted eye-gouge spring to mind. What’s more brazen than trying to stuff your finger in a man’s eye during the biggest club game in the world with a hundred cameras watching then denying it.

Despite the measured drawl associated with sport and the media,  football managers (and presidents) frequently adopt this “Chutzpahnik” behaviour, but none with such longevity as Pescara coach, Zdenek Zeman.

There isn’t space to condense and trivialize the 64 year olds’ career, but safe to say throughout his 30 years in management ‘The Bohemian’ as he’s often referred to in Italian media has been a tactical pioneer and unswerving challenger to ills and power organizations in football.

This week marked his latest chapter as advocate of fairness; or unfairness depending where you stand following a double swipe at officials in the FIGC.

After consecutive victories Pescara suffered a 3-2 defeat away on Sunday and Zeman made it clear where the blame lay, “At Modena we were penalized by the referee. In SerieB referees don’t measure up. I think everyone has seen what happened. Referees can make mistakes…but when the errors are only on one side, the question changes…The referee last Sunday [Marco Viti] is a rookie, he has just been promoted from the Pro League. He didn’t seem ready for the jump in class, at least from what he showed during the match.” Zeman refers to the two red cards his side suffered, the first a straight red on 20 minutes against keeper Luca Anania.

A 13th minute volley from Ciro Immobile was the perfect start for Pescara, but Anania’s dismissal for deliberate handball on the edge of the area was clearly inaccurate after replays. Viti, perhaps looking to make a strong Chutzparic statement in his first game in Serie-B didn’t hesitate to show red, a move that could mark a speedy return to the lower divisions.

The second, for Verratti was more ambiguous, the midfielder getting a second yellow for a tackle from behind, but with 5 minutes to play and the score tied at 2-2, it proved crucial, Daniele Dalla Bona getting the winner in added time.

Sour grapes? Zeman’s assertions were helped by other poor decisions on matchday 3. Giampaolo Calvarese gave a dubious red card against Gubbio fullback Simone Farina 12 minutes into their away game at Sampdoria and a further expulsion for Giardano Maccarone, leaving the leagues’ smallest team 3-0 down and with 9 men at halftime. They lost 6-0.

Marco Di Bello made an appalling decision to award a match winning penalty for Verona at home to Sassuolo, despite defender Marco Piccioni making almost no contact with either tumbling striker.

All three officials made crucial calls that affected the final score, but that happens every weekend I hear you say. It does, but the debate on referees’ performance is always relevant, and a succession of blunders shouldn’t be overlooked, no matter how often it occurs.

At the very least the Biancazzurri will show their feelings with a ‘panolada’, waving white handkerchiefs in a silent protest at the next home game against Crotone. But in case the FIGC weren’t listening, in true Chutzpahnik style, Zeman wasn’t finished.

Next he alleged fellow promotion hopefuls Torino and Sampdoria were receiving “preferential treatment” from the governing body. He questioned why Torino and Sampdoria captains Angelo Ogbonna and Angelo Palombo had been omitted from a call up for Italy’s Euro 2012 qualifiers against the Faroe Islands and Slovenia. On the surface a possible indictment, however in relation to the facts; Ogbonna,23, is ineligible for the under-21’s and to date has received only one call up to the national team, a friendly with Spain in June and didn’t feature in the game. Palombo has 22 caps for Italy but hasn’t been picked for a competitive game since last October’s 3-0 walkover against Serbia, and Cesare Prandelli has ample Serie-A midfielders to choose from.

A confusing mixture of complaints. One based on evidence that’s sure to appear again, the other, plainly not.

With his usual laconic indifference to the power brokers he might raise further questions to the FIGC following the players’ strike which caused the first game of the 2011/12 season to be abandoned. However, it could simply be that the Czech’s notorious grudge against the Federation still burns brightly. From talk of ‘Pharmacy football’ to battles with Juventus’ Luciano Moggi and now decrying refereeing and club bias on national selection, the man who inspired songwriters, comics and filmmakers can still make the headlines with his own subversive flavour of Chutzpearean impudence.

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