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’s come to my attention that we’re playing our home games in a swamp. Every season between three and five matches have to be postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, and our field condition seems to be rated permanently at “terrible,” giving us by far the worst playing surface in Serie B. (The two Verona teams are rated at “okay,” and everyone else is “very good.”) I can live with that for one season in the second tier because it emphasizes our dauntless underdog quality.
But as I hope I’ve made clear, we are not out to be the plucky team from nowhere valiantly holding our own against larger opposition. We’re out to be—well, you know the moment in Star Wars where the Death Star is swinging around the planet toward the little broken radiator part that’s supposed to be the rebel base? What we want is for a Pro Vercelli crest to pop up on the base, at which point Darth Vader will fall to his knees and the battle station will hurtle away in terror.
So we need a decent field to play on. AC Milan have won five consecutive championships, and they didn’t do it by double-booking the San Siro as a breeding ground for the endangered squash-bellied muskrat. So when our bank balance topped €3 million for the first time, I asked the board to relay the pitch. Their response? “The board remind you that unfortunately the club does not own the stadium and therefore they cannot relay the pitch.”
Wait—what? We don’t own the Silvio Piola? Who owns the Silvio Piola? There’s nothing about this in the stadium’s Italian Wikipedia page:
The stadium Silvio Piola, is the largest sports facility in the city of Vercelli.
History of the stadium
The stadium was built in 1932, in the heart of the city, with the name of Leonidas Robbiano, great pioneer of the Air Force.
In 1998, with a joint resolution of the stadium was dedicated to the memory of the great Silvio Piola, historian of the Newcastle United striker who from 1929 to 1934 collected 127 appearances and scored 51 goals.
At the facility had a capacity of 12,000 seats, now after several major renovations are 8000 posts. From the season 2006/2007, the A.S. Pro Vercelli Belvedere benefits of the stadium for home games of the Serie D league and Italian Cup Amateur. In 2007, due to a storm, much of the wall of the stairs collapsed, but was later rebuilt before the start of the season 2007/2008.
Okay, other than the fact that Google Translate renders “storico attaccante della Pro Vercelli” as “historian of the Newcastle United striker” (how’s that?), there’s nothing out of place here, certainly nothing to suggest that Pro Vercelli don’t own the Sil. I mean, we have our name on the seats!
Anyway, this is terrible news, because it means that (1) we can’t adjust the pitch size (I noticed I hadn’t been asked, but assumed it was because we couldn’t afford it); (2) we can’t make improvements to the pitch; (3)—and this is huge—we won’t be able to add more seats unless we build a new stadium altogether. Which we won’t be able to afford to do until we multiply our cash reserves by about a hundred, so until then, our match-day income is going to be hoping Mr. Scrooge will bring it a goose for Christmas. The big clubs can blithely sell out their 70,000-seat arenas week after week while we’re stuck admiring the ecological diversity of our federally protected 9,000-seat marshland. So the game just got a little harder.
As for the league season: We’re through the first two phases of the three-phase endgame I mapped out in the last update. The first phase was a disaster—a draw and two losses against bland mid-table teams. We only managed one goal, a 56th-minute breakaway by Jorge Ibáñez against Triestina.
On the other hand, the second phase, the merciless stretch in which we had to face the top four teams in the league in a five-game span, went brilliantly.
Two wins and three draws against the top teams in Serie B, including a club-historic 3-1 annihilation of Torino that featured a sensational goal from Jacopo Sammarco:
The net result of all this is that we’ve fallen to ninth in the league. We still have an outside shot at the playoff, but making up points on three separate teams over the last five matches is going to be tricky. Fortunately, we’re playing the bottom of the table. Unfortunately, playing weak teams is not necessarily our strong suit.
More once the fates have picked their scissors.
Song clip: Willie Nelson, “My Own Peculiar Way”
by Brian Phillips · March 9, 2009