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Manu’s Grab Bag: Win in the desert

A goal by Cristiano Ronaldo gives Juve their record eighth Italian Super Cup.

Juventus v AC Milan - Italian Supercup Photo by Marco Rosi/Getty Images for Lega Serie A

The Grab bag is back! We hope 2019 has been as fruitful as possible and that you all are well on your way to fulfilling your new year’s resolutions, whatever those might be. Me? Happy you asked — you didn’t — because once upon a time I used to be a really fit lad, did sports and all. So, like approximately 99.9 percent of the world, I’m trying to get back to that level of fitness. It’s going OK, and I will say that I’m sick and tired of eating chicken every day, so the whole thing is off to a promising start. I refuse to go into my late 20’s looking like late-career Carlos Tevez.

Anyway, with the generic good wishes out of the way let’s get to the important stuff. Or, well, at least as important as the Italian Super Cup can really be.

Here’s the thing: I get the commercial benefits of playing the game and all, but it just doesn’t make a lick of sense to play the thing considering Juventus has won the league and the Coppa Italia already. So now we get to see Milan play for the cup, because they lost the Coppa Italia final? What’s the logic there? Why not Napoli, league runners up, for that matter? So, not only it doesn’t make a lot of sense from a sporting side, but now you also get the controversy aspect of holding the match in Saudi Arabia, of all places!

This brings us to our first category…

Term to know: Sportswashing

Sportswashing is a term that refers to governments organizing international-caliber sporting events in their countries as a means to improve their reputation on the world stage as well as gloss over miserable records on human rights and personal freedoms. In mid-2018, Serie A signed a deal with the Saudi government to host three of the next five Supercoppas in the Arab country. This as part of a massive public relations effort to paint the Kingdom as a more modern country, with other events such as WWE pay per views and exhibition tennis matches also scheduled to be held in Saudi Arabia.

This was already bad enough, but with the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the pressure intensified for the organizers to pull out of the events. WWE went through with their most recent event held there in November — even after receiving a fair deal of criticism — and the match scheduled between Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic was cancelled due to an alleged injury by the Spanish player.

For once, it seemed like most everyone agreed on the fact that pulling out of the event was the right thing to do. The backlash continued, when the tickets were announced and turned out that large parts of the stadium were inaccessible to women, with only a few reserved seats allocated to them, as long as they went accompanied by a man, of course.

Parliament members of all parties voiced their displeasure about playing in Saudi Arabia, finding common ground for a change. Hell, even beIN Sports, one of the official broadcasters, jumped on the bandwagon and implored Serie A not to play there. Was it because of some moral objection? Of course not! They are actually pissed off at Saudi Arabia because pirated transmissions run rampant there. Serie A still went on with the game, of course. The defense being pretty much, money.

Leave it to Serie A to mess up a glorified friendly in such a fantastic, wholly unnecessary way.

But, hey, we got this picture out of it!

I say worth it. Even steven, guys.

Winner: VAR Haters

Oh, boy did we see some hot VAR action Wednesday night.

I lost count of how many stoppages we had in order to review plays. I’ve stated before that I like and support VAR, but with these types of games I understand the people that dislike it so much. It absolutely stops the flow of the game — especially when the referee takes his sweet time to make calls.

Look, people will hate the decision, as all decisions that go Juve’s way. But, I mean, if this is not worthy of a red card, then I don’t know what is:

Which, brings me to…

Winner: Juventus Conspiracy Theorists

There is a segment of the population that firmly and strongly believes that Juventus pays off refs to get calls. There is absolutely no evidence saying that they do, especially not after Calciopoli, which we can debate all day and night if the punishment was warranted but there is very little doubt some shady business was going on. Nevertheless, like any good conspiracy theorist, they don’t need solid evidence and they will not be dissuaded by your silly things like facts and logic.

So, of course, the Emre Can foul was a penalty. Of course the Kessie foul was not a red card. Of course Juventus won this game because of the ref, it’s all there, THIS IS PUBLIC INFORMATION, THEY ARE TURNING THE FROGS GAY.

Let’s brush over the fact that the Cristian Zapata play was just as much of a 50/50 call as the Can one and that Juventus had a couple of goals disallowed, rightfully, due to offside calls.

Either way, the conspiracy theorists will have a field day and we are all lesser because of it.

Loser: Rodrigo Bentancur

So, help me God, if Juve lose Bentancur just as we were getting ready to have our full midfield depth back — and especially if we lose him because of the frickin’ Super Cup?

I will rain hell* on every single person responsible, up to and including the groundskeeper, AC Milan as a staff, record label and as a crew, the entire kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Nations for allowing this to happen.

*Hell, defined here, is some very strongly worded tweets.

Winner: Juventus fans.

With the #10YearChallenge being all the rage among the youth, let’s take a moment to remember that 10 years ago Juve was trotting out dudes like Hasan Salihamidžić, Amauri and the immortal Jonathan Zebina.

On Wednesday night, we got to see this:

That’s Miralem Pjanic, a top 10 midfielder in the world, serving an absolute pearl of a pass to Cristiano Ronaldo, a top 3 player in the world, to get the game winner in Juve’s record eighth Italian Super Cup win. This is incredible, massive shout out to all of us who stuck it out through the dark ages of getting owned in FIFA 08 all those years ago. Reverse shout out to all those snakes that still “liked” Juve but played with Inter in FIFA.

*Blasts “How Bout Now” by Drake at max volume*

The “Most insincere pre-match social media post” Award

Back in college, I had a girlfriend. At first, like most relationships, we got along great. It was new and exciting, filled with potential. Unfortunately, we were still coming out of messy break-ups, extremely hung up on someone else and both in deep denial.

After a while we saw the writing on the wall, we were aware that this relationship was going nowhere and that we were a wrong fit for each other. Still, with Feb. 14 fast approaching and neither of us particularly keen of spending it alone we kept the charade going for a few more days. We had dinner, had spectacularly awful conversation, took a few requisite pictures for social media, went through the motions and called it early while steadfastly refusing to admit we both wished we were somewhere else. We broke up shortly afterwards and haven’t really been in touch since.

Just though I would share that quick story. Anyways, unrelated to anything, here is what Gonzalo Higuain posted on Instagram before the Super Cup!

The “Most Awkward Post-Game Handshake” Award

Oh, Pipita, I really hope you go and kill it with Chelsea, man.

Take of the week

Riad. A, chimes in:

“I don’t understand what Allegri is thinking putting him on. I’d lace up Perin’s boots to play for Khedira any day of the week.”

I mean he is of course kidding, right? Allegri couldn’t possibly…

*Sees Sami Khedira play once*

Sure, why the hell not give it a whirl for all I care.

Song of the week for … Juventus FC

Trophies, by Drake!

Self-explanatory, boys.

Have a take? Want to tell me how wrong I am? Have a question? Email at to get featured.