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March’s Monthly Juventus Thoughts: Football, bloody hell

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The words of the great Sir Alex Ferguson seem to perfectly describe what was an absolutely enthralling month of action.

Juventus v Udinese Calcio - Serie A Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

I’m still struggling to wrap my head around an absolutely remarkable series of Juventus matches in March. Just when you thought that being a Juventus fan for so long could become boring, you’re hit with this emotional rollercoaster of action.

Due to the international break, I’m publishing this recap a little early and adding the Juventus-Milan game to April’s recap. Onwards!

Sparkle

He’s been in form, out of form, and now (somewhat?) in form again. Paulo Dybala has certainly had a very eventful season thus far. I’m going to sound pretty insensitive with this, but I actually thought that his recent thigh injury came at the perfect time, given that it occurred when his performances were truly at their lowest point. The injury forced him out of the spotlight and granted him the time to regroup both physically and (particularly) mentally.

Juventus v Udinese Calcio - Serie A
A new dawn for La Joya?
Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

Though his form hasn’t recovered to the dizzying heights of the opening two months of the season, it seems like his “regrouping” period has done him a world of good. A remarkable display of skill, strength, and perseverance saw him hold off Marco Parolo and fire a dramatic last-minute winner against Lazio after which he displayed a cool head to score the winner against Tottenham Hotspur just four days later.

Now that we’re on the topic though, let’s talk about that remarkable night in London.

London Recall

Football, bloody hell.

That game (and the home leg) was truly one of the most extraordinary, emotionally volatile Juventus games that I can remember from the recent past (up there with that remarkable 3-3 draw with Napoli). To paraphrase the great Sir Isaac Newton, “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies but not the madness of people football.” This game truly did defy the laws of physics.

Football really, really is painfully cruel. The entire feeling from this game was so surreal that I don’t quite know how to process it. It’s probably because it is the first time, from what I can remember, that I am on “the right side” of a game like this. Usually it’s me/us Juventini that suffers the pain and heartache of this game we call football. “But you gave them such a good fight!” “You deserved to win!” and, the worst of them all, “We’re so proud of the team and the performance!” I’m used to this and all that other patronizing nonsense after losing a big game.

Spurs fans were absolutely (and understandably) distraught. Reading some of their reactions really made me realize just how much this heartbreaking loss meant to them. At the same time, I realized that people less familiar with the essence of the game will think “Well why does it matter? Why does it matter so much to you that you’re so distraught?”

“In a world haunted by the hydrogen and napalm bomb, the football field is a place where sanity and hope are still left unmolested.”

— Stanley Rous

This reminded me of a brilliant scene in Dragonball Z. Per usual, (Majin) Vegeta and Goku were not on particularly good terms with each other and Goku asked him whether this was “the same old story between you and me?” Gohan immediately responded with bewilderment and asked: “Does it really matter?”

It was the manner and substance of Vegeta’s response — cool as ice and without so much as batting an eyelid — that always stuck with me: “Not to you Gohan but to a warrior it matters greatly.”

And that’s really it, isn’t it? It matters to us warriors, dreamers, hopers, fans, and all those hoping to escape the unimaginative reality of everyday life.

One memorable night in London was all it took to remind me of this once again.

“There’s something beyond what you see every day. There’s something going on here in life; beyond just a job, and a family, and two cars in the garage, and a career. There’s something more going on.

There’s another side of the coin that we don’t talk about much and we experience it when there are gaps, when everything is not ordered and perfect. When there’s kinda a gap, you experience this inrush of something.

So a lot of people set out to find out what that was really about… that life isn’t just about what they saw their parents doing. It’s the same thing that causes people to want to be poets instead of bankers.”

— Steve Jobs (in the last 10 minutes of “The Lost Interview”)

Gonzalo Higuaín: ‘Would you love me again?’

We all know about that brilliant kid in school who, despite his talents, never quite believed in himself. He’s the kid who never thought he was good enough and, despite how much he tried and hard he worked, rarely received the recognition and appreciation he felt he deserved. Worse yet, he received more rebuke than praise for his efforts.

All he ever wanted though was love from others and, most importantly, from himself.

Although I’m not quite sure about that last part, it seems like Gonzalo Higuaín has definitively won the love of both himself and Juventini alike. As I’ve said in the past, I always thought there is/was something about the look in Higuaín’s eyes that tells me that he is a man that is haunted by inner demons from his past. Scoring goals and sacrificing himself for the team always seemed like a form of personal redemption and vindication for him; a way for him to say “no matter what you say, I AM good enough!”

Tottenham Hotspur v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg
I AM good enough!
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

This is why I’m so, so happy for him as he basks in the glory of being the star of such an amazing night in one of football’s greatest stadiums. Finally he is receiving the praise and appreciation that he deserves. Whisper it quietly, but I dare say that there is a touch of personal victory along with that defiance in those cool eyes of his.

Remember that kid from school? I think he’ll be alright.

Ghanian Fire

Four score and about eight months ago, a certain Ghanian defender/midfielder was on the verge of leaving Juventus. However, due to the late collapse of a transfer merry-go-round that consisted of Kwadwo Asamoah going to Galatasaray, Leonardo Spinazzola coming to Juve, and a mystery man replacing Spinazzola at Atalanta, nothing happened. The club from Bergamo couldn’t find their mystery man so everything fell apart and nobody switched clubs.

What a difference a non-transfer makes.

Much to the surprise of many Juventini around the world, Kwadwo Asamoah has been in sparkling form for the club. You would have been branded a madman had you told me 8 months ago that Asamoah’s performances would be as good as — if not better than — those of Alex Sandro. Given the Brazilian’s tipsy-turvy performances this season, it really makes me wonder what would have happened if Allegri had not been forced to play him in attack and Asamoah as left back due to the (minor) injury crisis in attack? Would Asamoah’s strong performances have pushed the Brazilian to the bench?

Hypotheticals, hypotheticals. We’ll never know of course since it seems like Cuadrado and Bernardeschi will be out for the foreseeable future. What we do know, however, is that Asamoah is enjoying his football and fans are enjoying his mini-renaissance. Long may it last!

Torino FC v Juventus - Serie A
I really do enjoy finding the freakiest, gravity-defying pictures in my monthly recaps. It’s such a treasure trove of trippy stuff. I mean, look at this!
Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Electr(on)ic Relaxation

I recently read an article about La Liga launching its first esports tournament (to take place in Barcelona next month) which “it aims to be the premier gaming competition in Spain.” Based on global trends, it seems like this form of electr(on)ic relaxation is steadily becoming a serious money-making industry instead of merely casual entertainment. They say that where there’s smoke, there’s fire but in this case it seems like where there’s money, there’s lots of attention from people looking to get some (‘some’ being money, not that ‘other stuff’. C’mon now ragazzi, this is a family environment, it’s not that type of blog!).

As a result, the real narrative of the abovementioned article can be summarized in one word: money. I believe that La Liga sees this as a realistic opportunity of (eventually) increasing its revenue and adding value to its brand. However, just like in last month’s recap, this is another trend where I have to ask myself a few questions. Where does Italy fit into this equation? Is Italy keeping up with and preparing for the future or is it lagging behind?

“There are very few men – and they are the exceptions – who are able to think and feel beyond the present moment.”

— Carl von Clausewitz

In addition to globalization, the Premier League’s nouveau riches, and the marketing failures of Italian football governing bodies, many of us attribute the demise of Italian football to the league’s stubborn habit of living in the past — although the latest adjustment to the transfer window is encouraging — while other countries move forward into the future. Look, I doubt that esports will revolutionize European or global football in the near future. But given the attention that Spain’s top footballing division is giving it, I think that it seems to be serious and credible enough to deserve consideration from the powers that be in Italy.

Game on.

Goals, goals, goals galore

It has been an utterly imperious season for the Bianconere thus far. While recording a remarkable 15 victories, zero draws, zero losses, they have overrun their opponents by scoring a staggering 45 goals and conceding only three. It’s no wonder then that defender Tuija Hyyrynen and striker Barbara Bonansea made the shortlist for the FIFPro 2017 Women’s World XI (although they unfortunately did not make the final XI itself).

“He wins his battles by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what establishes certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.”

— Sun Tzu (The Art of War)

That said, the fight at the top of the table remains just as thrilling as the action on the pitch given that ACF Brescia are only three points behind Juventus. It looks like it’s going to be a fight till the very last matchday but given the form that the team is currently in, I know who my money is on.

Ciao Capitano

March 4, 2018, was a day that will forever live in the minds of every football fan in the world. Much has already been written about the heartbreaking passing of Davide Astori so forgive me for reopening a sensitive wound, but I thought it was only right to honor the memory of the much-beloved father, partner, player, and captain.

“I really love my job. I really love football. I love it more now and I enjoy it more now than I did when I was 18.”

Davide Astori

ACF Fiorentina v Benevento Calcio - Serie A
Pioli in the background really ruins the picture but it was the best I could find of what was, for me, the most touching moment of that game.
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Ciao Capitano.