Gianluca Vialli: Cheats never prosper? Yeah, right!!

Read The Italian Job and Gianluca Vialli’s take on cheating in football. As he says, Machiavelli is an inspiration, and in The Prince, Machiavelli famously argued that “the end justifies the means”, which marked him out as the epitome of cynicism and amorality.
Vialli says that football in Italy revolves around tricking the referee and getting away with it. Diving is not considered cheating, it is part of being clever or in Italian “furbo”. Players are encouraged to indulge in trickery if the benefits outweigh the risk. The street smarts that an Italian player brings gives him a leg up on playing football anywhere in the world. Italy has been one of the most successful teams in the world because the national obsession is with winning, not in how the game is played. This differentiates Italian football from the English. Vialli is in a unique position to comment because he was a successful player-manager of Chelsea from 1996 to 2000 and also played for Sampdoria and Juventus in Serie A
The Italian Job also gives an insight into Jose Mourinho’s way of dealing with referees. The recent pillorying of Graham Poll by Jose Mourinho is an old ploy that he picked up coaching in the Portugese League.
“I’ll give you an example,” says José Mourinho. “We had the same referee twice last season and in two games, with two controversial decisions, he cost us five points. If I were in Portugal I would come out and say, ‘The referee has something against us’, so that the next time he referees us, he is already under pressure. He will want to be careful not to appear anti our team.
“Here in England, I can’t do that, because nobody remembers who he is. Nobody wants to talk about him. In Portugal I can create big problems for a referee. Here I can’t do a thing. There is much more respect for the institutions and, because of that, everybody behaves differently.” It’s refreshing to hear Mourinho candidly admit that he would “create problems” for a referee who had made two mistakes against him.
Mourinho’s bare knuckled approach to playing the game is working. Graham Poll was supposed to officiate the Man Utd vs Chelsea game but in his place, Howard Webb was given the job.
However, Vialli’s description of characterizing English football as ‘fair and square’ is a bit outdated because we now have a virtual epidemic of diving going on in the Premiership. It is becoming increasingly easy to fool referees and fans have longer memories of some of them. On the other hand, not all Italian referees are prone to snow jobs. Certainly, Pierluigi Collina comes to mind. His consistent and uncompromising officiating made sure that very little trickery and gamesmanship occurred in his matches. Vialli’s book is somewhat of an exercise in national stereotypes but it is a fascinating read.

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