Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Match 13 - Chievo

The third match of a busy month, and my thirteenth away day of the season, saw me going back to Verona. Back to the Bentegodi, this time to see Chievo, who in the words of Tim Parks, author of ‘A Season with Verona’ are: 

[A team from] a miserable working-class suburb overflowing into declining semi-industrialised fenland. On a generous count there are a mere 3,000 souls; pigeons, water rats and stray dogs included”.

If you get the idea that Mr Parks perhaps isn’t overly enamoured with Chievo, you’d be right. He seems insulted by their very presence (as limited as that may be), and their exposure in the media. Unhappy that the previously discussed reputation of the Veronese isn’t applied to Chievo fans, but only to those who follow Hellas, he said: 

“Chievo are popular because they don't represent everything that other Italians want to quarrel with when they think of Verona. That job is left to Hellas. They steal our colours but 

decline our enemies.”

I wondered what a Chievo fan’s impression of Parks would be, so I spoke to Michele, a member of the Mussi Volanti group: 
“To be honest, I’m not 100% about what he’s said about us, but if I remember right, it was something along the lines of us being “a by-product of modern football”. For me, sporting merit’s more important than money. Chievo weren't promoted to Serie A because we paid someone, we got here by playing, and when we went down in 2007 we bounced right back up again with a points record that equaled Juventus’ [and subsequently, Sassuolo’s]. I don’t know why there’s a need to justify the ‘Chievo phenomenon’ - we’re talking about sport! Win the games? Cool, stay in Serie A. Lose them? Ok, down you go like our cousins from Hellas who were in the lower leagues for twelve years.”
They might want to be friends with everyone, but I guess some digs are just too easy to let pass by.
Another thing to bear in mind, is that bless their synthetic cotton socks but barring their miraculous early years in the league, Chievo just aren’t very good nowadays. They’ve had a few decent players, along the lines of Simone Perotta, Michael Bradley and current star striker, Sergio Pellissier. He’s a bit of a fox in the box is old Sergio, and I’m not being unnecessarily ageist either - he is getting on a bit. Give him half a sniff of goal and he’ll pop the ball in the net though - those instincts don’t go with age. The rest of the team is generally made up of journeymen pro’s and decent-enough younger guys, and as bland as that cliché may be, so is Chievo’s squad.
One player who I feel would be of note in Chievo’s history is Luciano. Or should that be Eriberto? A Brazilian midfielder, he played in the Brazil Under-20 team along with Ronaldinho, Julio César, and Matuzalém that took bronze at the Coppa America in 1999. By this stage the name on the back of his shirt read Eriberto, as three years earlier, due to a lack of interest in him on account of his age, he bought a fake identity from a fixer. Thus, Eriberto-nee- Luciano was signed by Palmeiras in his home country before coming over to Italy, first to Bologna, then to Chievo which is where he would play the majority of his career. In his time with Chievo he played more than three hundred matches, and was part of the team that came to be known as the ‘Miracle of Chievo’. 
In later years he would say that he had adopted his new name and age because he was poor and hungry; the name that he would subsequently publicly reveal was not his. When he came clean about it all, he said that it was because of an identity crisis and so that his son could take the real family name. This kind of deception wasn’t tolerated, and although he risked going to prison, in the end he was banned for six months and given a fine.
After his ‘big reveal’, Luciano-nee-Eriberto-nee-Luciano’s team mates were reported to have taken the mick out of him, saying that he didn’t look his age. The suspicion that a player may not be as old (or young, as the case may be) as he claims to be resurfaced around the time of my trip to the Veneto, with the Lazio youth team player, and former ‘hardest-paper-round-in-the-world’ record holder, Joseph Minala. 
After he was promoted to the first team, quotes by him (that were swiftly rubbished) surfaced suggesting that he was actually 41. Minala is officially seventeen, and after a few days of tittering in the papers, Lazio lost patience with people suggesting that not everything was above board, and subsequently threatened legal action against anyone who questioned the young lad’s age. And I can sympathise with him. After all, he’s been putting up with allegations like this for decades. ...................

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