After walking up the inclined roads towards the centre, we’d already begun to see what the ancient city of Perugia had to offer. Whilst walking towards the Palazzo del Priori, we happened to walk into a growing crowd of people.
Right in the middle of the main high street of Perugia was a small artificial football pitch complete with half-size goal posts, painted lines & a female referee. With so few women taking up roles in the English game, it’s really refreshing to see the officiating of this match being overseen by a female.
Four teams of 7 players (or thereabouts) aged between seven & eight began to form up with their parents keeping up their excited pace behind them before they began building up a surrounding wall for the pitch to act as a barrier to stop the ball rolling away down the high street, but also, as a ‘Perugia FC Supports Club’ of cheering parents with half time oranges & bottles of juice.
Along the side closest to us stood one of the two waiting teams – Team Giallo, if you will – who were looked as composed as professionals even though nerves could be seen on one or two & an ambition to ‘get on the pitch already’ from another.
One player in particular was calm & composed enough to spend more time looking at my shoes than easing in with some stretches; but I can’t see why – his were far better than mine.
Moments after & prior to the first kick of this game of two halfs, a caring young lady (with a possible fitness coach future) came along “Team Giallo” and dowsed them with a magic liquid of sorts. Water.
Unlike the ‘magic sponge’ where your player recovers from writhing along the floor clutching his ‘broken ankle’, then post ‘sponging’ returns to thirty second sprints like a newborn gazelle – the magic water had the opposite effect.
Calm to agony – or so they’d have you believe.
Other members of the team just used it as an excuse to match the style regimes of their heroes.
Soon enough, players from our starting teams were forming in with their fluid formation of choice – standing anywhere. Two players from Team Rosso/Red get the ball moving & already Franca’s ‘Little Juventus’ are having to throw bodies in the way to stop the first goal flying in.
One shot. Two shots. It’s remarkable that ‘Team Rosso’ aren’t in the lead.
Substitutes from ‘Team Little Juventus’ are edging closer to the pitch eager to help their teammates & even the odds.
But it wouldn’t have helped…
‘Team Rosso’ claim first blood with the opening goal.
Not that no one didn’t see it coming, but we were both so eager for ‘Team Little Juventus’ to do it’s illegitimate parent team proud by winning at least 10-0, or there about.
Never mind though, I’m sure that once they get the ball rolling again they can compete a little more…..
2-0 to the reds in Perugia’s high street & the defender just can’t believe he’s to blame. The goalkeeper’s raving but it won’t change what’s already happened. Now they have a hill to climb. On come the substitutes, now’s their time to shine.
Blast! 3-0 & resigned to a certain defeat.
Not that the four minutes of play our miniature Gianfranco Zola could have done to stop it. When the ball is more often in your own net, let alone at the feet of your opponents, there’s not much you can do to counter it.
Even a modern tactic such as ‘feigning an injury’ isn’t enough to combat it.
By the time the fifth goal went in, heads began to drop & no change of substitutions was enough to turn the tide. Even between ourselves as the supporting cast around the dummy pitch, we lost confidence. No matter how Franca tried to raise my spirits, I knew this was game over. Then it was.
The final score escapes all but those who scored themselves. Some same ten-nil, others just the five. Either way, a sporting effort by both, but a resounding victory for ‘Team Rosso’ Bravo’s all around.
Finally it was time for us to leave, the games would go on however, just not with our vocal support. We had plans to meet up with Franca’s old flatmate from Perugia and friend from their joint hometown, Alessandra.
But I couldn’t leave you without showing this last picture
I loved the tilt that this jealous child had as he watched from the sidelines as kids just a year or two ahead of him played the sideways pass, stepped over the ball & rifled the ball into the bottom corner of the net, dreaming that one day; that’ll be me.
I know which one I was.