Forza, Viola


12:46 pm - May 16th 2008

by DonaldS    


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The notion that sport and politics should never mix is a curious, and also deeply political, one. Sport, after all, is just the waging of international politics by other means. Ask the East Germans.

Rarely has the mix been quite as fruity as this weekend’s end to the Italian football season, with all eyes on the race for the Serie A title. Most of those eyes, admittedly, will be on whether Internazionale blow a seemingly unassailable lead and hand the prize to Roma. Mine, though, will be watching politics and sport get it on in the battle for 4th spot, and an all-important qualifying place for next season’s Champions League.

In the red-and-black corner are AC Milan, the European aristocrats who were founded by expatriate Brits, the team of Kaka and Pato, and last year the spawniest European champions since, erm, we last won it. In the purple corner, representing Italy’s bucolic heart, are ACF Fiorentina, La Viola, from the city of Dante and Botticelli, supported by some of world football’s craziest fans. They’re a team, more importantly, that hail from (still) Red Tuscany, a nickname the region didn’t get from it’s wines. The city’s mayor is a former Communist.

It’s Milan, the squad of (ahem) Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his Mediaset empire, who must win at home to Udinese and keep their fingers crossed. Against Florence, with a 2-point advantage, who need to take something from a trip to Torino.

There are reasons aplenty for anyone, left or right, to want to push pies of gloat into Berlusconi’s pudgy face (excepting those too ignorant to know any better). Among them, however, isn’t the rumour that was flying round Florence last week: Mediaset bought the Napoli president’s latest screenplay in return for his team rolling over against Milan. Napoli won 3-1.

Failure to qualify could cost AC Milan, and Berlusconi personally, a delicious €25 million or more. With the added bonus that his smug face won’t be on ITV quite so often next season. And that, even for the football unbelievers among you, has to be something worth cheering.

Also published here.

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About the author
Donald is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He is a travel journalist, editor, author and copywriter. In the wake of the 2005 General Election, he co-founded and edited The Sharpener for a couple of years. He writes the occasional book or newspaper article for money, as well as sharing his thoughts here for free. Also at: hackneye donaldstrachan.com
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Foreign affairs ,Humour ,Realpolitik ,Sport

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Reader comments


I’m not a fan of Berlusconi by any means, but some political stability makes a positive change for Italy.

Political stability? In Italy?

*searches vainly using high-powered optical equipment*

If anyone sees any, could you drop me a note? Thanks.

Does political stability have something to do with straight-arm salutes, demonising foreigners and stirring up lynch mobs? Because that’s the only change I’ve seen in Italy recently…

Come on Fiorentina.

No, political stability means having a government that is likely to be able to command a majority and survive a full term.

It’s easy to characterise Berlusconi as some kind of reincarnation of Mussolini, but it is a less dangerous self-fulfilling prophecy to see him as a bulwark against fascism than have either of the alternatives of a Weimaresque democracy or the resulting fanatical mania sweep across the population repeat themselves.

Much as I disagree with the politics of his alliance it does provide a clear platform to oppose and hold to account, which is far better than the incoherent mess of Veltroni and Prodi which got mired in chaos.

Anyway, last I noticed, Berlusconi hasn’t used armed force to mount a coup and bring himself to power, which is an indication of his ability to show restraint, despite his control of the levers of power which he could turn to that effect if he really was motivated to do so.

More to the point, Michael@3, that is nothing new, as it has been an ever-present throwback in modern Italy, so if that’s what you’ve seen I suggest the only change that’s taken place is in the eye of the beholder.

It’s easy to characterise Berlusconi as some kind of reincarnation of Mussolini because he makes such a good job of it (though a less cynical observer, or perhaps one who hasn’t spent so long in Sicily, might point out that Il Duce had the one saving grace of being anti-Mafia).

In truth, my points were made in jest. I only hope yours are too. If not, Thomas, I suggest you have those eyes checked sharpish…

Get in there.

@4 thomas

> political stability means having a government that is likely to be able to command a majority

Hmm. Any government that relies on Bossi and the nutty Northern League for its parliamentary majority is by definition unstable. Not to mention in debt to a political movement from the Dark Side.

And it’s already begun.

@5 He wishes he did!
But he’s also too much of a businessman to forget which side his bread is buttered. Yes, I noticed, but having put in some long hours struggling with my Italian on the streets campaigning against him during the General Election it’s something I feel I have the right to get sniffy about it.

@6 Oh, and manage a smooth transition between governments.
He is now an old man who is looking to write his own epitaph as a benevolent patriarch in an honorable tradition, rather than a radical ideologue, so until an heir is proclaimed the next few years will see the lid kept on any squabbles.
Let’s hope he doesn’t suffer a sudden demise without preparing the ground for the succession as the cracks would then really open up (as they did here post-Blair) – it might make some of the results of the votes closer to our preferences, but there’s no guarantee in that alone. Crime policy over the next few years will be the best symbolic indicator.

I’m afraid I worry that far too much opinion here is being filtered through the grapevine to be reliable, though, and partly as a result, I won’t lose any sleep over not winning the battle of who can be hailed as the most left-wing class-warrior.

Getting onto another field, I got to hang out with some passionate rugby trainees – now there’s a social shift!

Obviously my google skills just aren’t up to much, but I’m pretty sure that, irony of ironies, AC are actually the left-wing Milan side. And it doesn’t follow from Florence being a left-wing city that Fiorentina are a traditionally left-wing side. But still, anything to get at Berlusconi.


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  1. Virgil Winston

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