News from the Peninsula – The human side of the modern day footballer

It’s only right and sincere to starts this week’s news round-up by offering our deepest thoughts and condolences to the friends and family of Robert Enke, who tragically died this week, aged 32.

It’s a shame the public only tend to respond to the human nature of professional footballers when such sad events occur. These often unwilling and unnatural role models are subject to immense professional and private scrutiny, placing an unfair burden on individuals who are simply choosing to excel in their chosen field. Already this season, both Gigi Buffon and Momo Sissoko have admitted to suffering from depression, struggling to cope with the great expectation and sacrifice heaped upon them. Despite all of the money, the fame and the adulation, these false idols are still prone to raw human emotion and feeling.

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Enke’s case has highlighted the fact we can only see so far into the lives of a professional footballer. We can analyse their form and fitness, their attitude and application – what we cannot see is what goes on deep within, in their heart and soul. At times like this we must remember that they are not idols or heroes – they are mere mortals. Rest in peace, Robert.

It is also an opportune moment to wish Carlo Cudicini well in his recovery from a motorcycle accident in London. The Tottenham goalkeeper suffered “potentially life-changing injuries” when his motorbike crashed with a car on Thursday. The full extents of his injuries are yet to be known, but ‘life changing’ would suggest his career hangs in the balance. Get well soon, Carlo.

On field, the Azzurri’s preparations for South Africa 2010 start in earnest with a double-header friendly week with home games against the Netherlands in Pescara and Sweden in Cesena. With a string of injuries to established members of the Azzurri squad, Marcello Lippi has chosen to call up potential debutants Antonio Candreva, Davide Biondini and Mattia Cassani, as well as hand further opportunities to Daniele Galloppa, Domenico Cristico, Salvatore Bocchetti, Christian Maggio and Raffaele Palladino.

Coach Lippi is facing the tough task of honing a 23-man squad, so the upcoming fixtures will provide an interesting insight as to which of the peripheral squad players can force their way into the reckoning. Following a lacklustre finish to the qualifying campaign with below par showings against the Republic of Ireland and Cyprus, Lippi now has a blank canvas to sculpt and mould the squad and tactics of the team to his very tailored specifications. This international break is the last get-together before World Cup year, in which there are only three further warm-up games before the tournament kicks-off in June, and Lippi admits he already has the majority of his squad selected: “Our journey is now in its final stages and it’s a decisive time for us. We have worked with a group of 35 players – 23 of them will be going to South Africa. It will be very difficult for someone else to be called up come March, but it’s not impossible.”

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That statement doesn’t read too well for Antonio Cassano, who has been continually overlooked by Lippi, despite his outstanding form for Sampdoria. Doriani President Riccardo Garrone claims to know a ‘very ugly story’ behind Lippi’s refusal to pick Fantantonio for la Nazionale, although he was reticent to give details. This insight was given short-shrift by FIGC President Giancarlo Abete, who appeared to back up the assumption that Lippi believes Cassano would have a destabilising effect in the changing room: “Cassano’s value has never been up for discussion, but the group is what counts.”

Prior to last week’s match between Inter and Roma, the sparring between managers Jose Mourinho and Claudio Ranieri had refreshingly taken an accepted, complimentary air, with neither one back-biting or sniping. Cue the final whistle at the San Siro and all the tranquillity had gone. Mourinho accused Roma of being negative, before tucking into the officials for their constant whistle-blowing. In turn, Ranieri retorted that the Giallorossi had been “battered heavily” by the Nerazzurri’s rough play, and accused il Campione of “systematic, tactical and professional” fouling. A furious Ranieri complained: ““I like physical football, but next time we need to come here with armour. They are big bullies.” Mourinho, bully? Surely not.

Congratulations to David Trezeguet who this week equalled the Juventus club record for goals scored by a foreign player. In the 5-2 victory over Atalanta, Trez notched for the 167th time in a Bianconeri shirt, pulling himself level with legendary Argentine striker, Omar Sivori. However, the Argentinian born ace still has a long way to go to become top-goalscorer of all-time for the Turin giants – that record is held by teammate Alessandro Del Piero with 262.

News from the Peninsula

Week 6-7 –
Milanese managerial mess
– September 27 – October 3

Week 7-International week (Rep. of Ireland vs. Italy, Italy vs. Cyprus) –
Cannavaro stung by doping claims
– October 4 – October 10

International week (Rep. of Ireland vs. Italy, Italy vs. Cyprus)-Week 8 –
Lippy Marcello blasts the tifosi
– October 11 – October 17

Week 8-9
Inter-spective look at Mourinho’s European Nerazzurri
– October 18 – October 24

Week 9-11
Life begins at the quarter
– October 25 – October 31

Week 11-12
Inter late show keeps the Euro fire burning
– November 1 – November 7

Week 12-International week (Italy vs. Holland, Italy vs. Sweden)
The human side of the modern day footballer
– November 8 – November 14

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