Tag Archive for Italy

“Berti”, a guest football poem by Sheridan Bird

Recently I wrote a poem on Dimitar Berbatov’s departure from Manchester United.  Sheridan Bird, a European football expert who’s written for Champions Magazine and FourFourTwo, then sent me a piece he’d penned about a hero of his, Italy and Internazionale’s Nicola Berti.  His fulsome homage to the man nicknamed “Crazy Horse” is below:



Northern Italy
Early 1980s
Big framed boy with quiff ‘n’ grin
Stretches his long legs
Pounds the turf

Nicola likes the feeling
Strides clear of the wreckage
Limbs propel furiously
Thundering away from stragglers

Parma like it
Fiorentina like it
Inter like it
Italia too

The big lad’s technique is humble
His energy, timing and power conquer calcio
Clumpy, honest hybrid of Nedved, Boniek and Bryan Robson
From the left
From the right
Bounding into the box

A missile with a spiv’s haircut
Fizz the ball in
Berti smashes a path
Heads it past the keeper and into next week
Tour de force
Two-one to Inter

He had a girl’s first name
And an endless supply of girls’ numbers
Playboy in bars
Pumped-up puppy on the pitch
Not even London nightspots survived flirty Berti
Crazy Horse ran with the Hotspur

Nicolino gave his vibrant all in 11 World Cup matches
Won’t see him on a legends list
Unlike gutsy gliding assassin Baggio
Tight-lipped frumpy-faced shot-stopping  God Zoff

Berti didn’t sign his operas with skill
He was a steamroller with accelerators
Controlled chronological chaos
Spindly-legged action splash

Cheeky champ of Serie A 1989
Goal getter and trophy taker in ’91 and ’94 UEFA Cup finals
Gangly midfield funpack
Marquis of goals and girls

Poem for Pirlo: “Good evening, the name’s Andrea”

I’ve just watched Italys Andrea Pirlo dismantle England’s Euro 2012 hopes with a display of near-faultless playmaking.  England barely survived until the penalty shoot-out, managing to hold their opposition to a goalless draw in normal time, but then Pirlo stepped up to the spot and did something so special that I thought I would write a poem about it.

Pirlo told the press afterwards that he had deliberately taken a nonchalant penalty so as to unsettle the England penalty-takers; and so I thought I would write a piece about what he might have been thinking as he stepped up to face Joe Hart.  I’ve included my poem below, as well as a video link to Pirlo’s special deed; it’s called “Good evening, the name’s Andrea”.


Good evening; the name’s Andrea –

Which means “I’m half art, half player” –

I don’t shout this out, I’m too modest –

So I’ll say it through my boots, with my spot-kick;

Tribe Called Quest asked “Can I Kick It?” –

I thought they were pansies, I plan to chip it;

I will float this down the middle;

Down England’s hopes like a row of skittles…

So I’m approaching Joe Hart,

Ball on the chalk, I start the slow dance:

Waltz forth; to the lawn he falls fast,

And watches forlorn, as the ball soars past.




Euro 2012 gives us a new noun: the “cassano”

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.