Euro 2012 has so far been an extraordinary tournament, for so many reasons. We have seen passing, playmaking and finishing of the highest order; we have seen two of the game’s elder statesmen, Andrea Pirlo and Andriy Shevchenko, at their most lethal; we have seen the Dutch undone, the Spanish stymied, the Germans surging. And that’s only on the field. Off the field, we’ve seen civil unrest, and vigorously-denied allegations of racism. But that’s not all. Euro 2012 has also given us a new noun: a “cassano”.
This noun is named after Antonio Cassano, the Italy forward who this Tuesday was asked what he thought of the rumour that there were two metrosexuals and one homosexual in his squad. He was somewhat wary of the query – “the (national) coach had warned me that you would ask me this question,” he said – but was still game enough to give an honest response. “If I say what I think … I hope there are none”, he replied. “But if there are queers here, that’s their business.”
These comments had the predictable effect. Cassano, seeing the media ablaze, quickly issued a fire blanket of a press release. “I am sincerely sorry that my comments have caused controversy and protests among gay groups”, he said. “Homophobia is not a point of view that I share. I didn’t want to offend anyone and I absolutely don’t want to put a person’s sexual freedom under discussion. I only said that it was a problem which was nothing to do with me and I don’t let myself express judgments on other people’s choices, which should all be respected.”
This press release is a textbook cassano: a retraction of an offensive statement, a retraction which occurs even faster than that very famous Dutch dragback. Typically speaking, a cassano is beautifully drafted, yet strangely unsatisfactory, as if it did not truly acknowledge the degree of offence that was caused. It wasn’t only “gay groups” – read, special interest whingers – that were put out by the forward’s words. It was a whole lot of regular people. What’s more, the presence of gay people in a football squad should not be “a problem”, as was implied in the cassano; and given the apparent contempt with which the Italian used the word “queer”, it seems unlikely that his press release was prompted by a genuine change of heart.
This is not his finest few hours, it must be said; and most people seem content to let the matter rest there. In the wider scheme of things, then, let’s look on the bright side. This forward, who has produced several memorable moments since he first emerged at Bari, has given us a new word, and has thus added to his legacy in the unlikeliest of ways.