The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
It might have been a bit anticlimactic after the drama of the Champions League, but we won our second consecutive Serie A title with a routine 1-0 win over Napoli. Albert Vrancken scored the winning goal. We followed the title-winning match with a 2-0 win over Treviso that was only un-routine in that the goals were scored by our 17-year-old youth striker Michele Proietti (for whom I nurture extremely high hopes) and our 18-year-old youth defender Riccardo Caprioli (who also featured in the last 10 minutes of the Champions League final).
The win against Treviso means that, despite feeling harried and pinched for most of the season, we actually finished with one more point than we earned the season before. It also means that we went undefeated for the season, in all competitions, in our new stadium. In fact, we have yet to lose our first game there. I loved the Silvio Piola, but there’s something about the new place that tells me we’re going to love it even more.
And on that note, we need to give it a name. I propose a contest. Submit your entries and/or votes for entries in the comments or by emailing email@example.com. I’ll pick the winner (I will take votes and arguments heavily into account) and announce the results on Monday. The prize: if you come up with the winning entry, the section of the stadium where the hardcore fans sit (stand, I should say) will be named after you. That’s right, Doug Cobbleplunge: this is is your chance to see the Doug Cobbleplunge End become a reality.
There’s a lot to be said about where we are as a team, about possible offseason moves (we’ll need a new right back for sure), about youth development, about the feeder club situation, about the staff. But this isn’t the time for any of that. There are moments in life when you owe it to the forces that made you to stop and take in what you’ve done. Like you’re only the representative of a million factors and confluences that all flowed together into what happened, but because you’re the representative you have to pause and go over it all again so that everyone knows where they are. You have to reflect.
We won every competition we entered this year except the Coppa Italia, all the way back to the no-consequences Silvio Piola Cup. We’ve got the Supercoppa Italiana, the UEFA Super Cup, the European Cup, and the Serie A trophy all sitting over the fireplace, and the shine when we look in their direction is a thing to soothe your soul. We’re it, now. We’re the club. We’re not the richest club on earth, and we’re not the top-ranked club by some computer coefficient, but it’s known. Everyone knows it. We may not be on top of the mountain for long, but we made it here, and no one can ever take our flag down or tell us we don’t understand the view.
Pro Vercelli is a club with a deep history, as you know, and until this season, we were always defined by that history; we were always “the club that was struggling to recapture the greatness it had lost.” We’re not giving up one iota of our mission to live up to the past, but now our fans can point to the present as a thing of glory all on its own. If anything, we can respect the past more, because it’s no longer a torment or an unreachable ideal or a source of alienated pride. It’s something we can identify with out of our own experience. We know how it felt.
So that’s what all this means, at the moment. It won’t get much better than this. Expectations will rise, accomplishments will be taken for granted, egos will get out of control. That’s just human nature, and I know that there’s no use wishing it was otherwise if I plan to keep the club afloat. I’ll just have to manage it. But for now, we know that where we are is somewhere special. We remember what it’s like not to be here, and we can appreciate what here is both for itself and in light of everything we did to reach it.
How many times in football do you honestly get to say that? How many times in life?
by Brian Phillips · June 12, 2009