An odd thing happened when I was a wee lad: For a distinct period of time — about two years, there or thereabouts — I knew a helluva lot more about Italian football than I did English.
How on earth could such a thing happen? Very easily: Sky had all the live football, Match of the Day was on too late, and I was too young to muscle my way into the crowds at my first and only footballing love, Cambridge United.
So that left just two sports programmes to be regularly digested each weekend. Trans World Sport — a bizarre collection of sports like World Rally and Skiing that woke me up at the weekends (and had a very intense opening sequence).
And then the brilliant Football Italia.
On Saturday, the magazine show. On Sunday, the live game. Since maturing I’ve come to realise that Italian football is complete and utter toss, but at that time in my life, it was the only way I’d see live games. And so, as a result, I ended up taking a fondness to Parma. A great team, at the time, that have now turned a bit rubbish.
Gazzetta Football Italia — the Saturday show — had the usual blend of goals and interviews. And as kids we all gained much pleasure from shouting the trademark ‘Golllllllllllllllllllaccio!’ at the start of the show. A cry that you’d hear being screamed across the playground up and down the country. No idea what I’m on about? Watch this clip, and wait for the memories to flood back:
The second best thing about the show (yes, the ‘Golaccio’ was the best thing — it was that good), had to be James Richardson’s newspaper review. Sat outside the trendiest cafés in all of Italy, James would pick through the sporting press, effortlessly translating headlines. I’ve never in my life picked up a copy of La Gazzetta Dello Sport — but I somehow felt like I read it every weekend for two years.
Enough of the nostalgia. Here’s what I spotted today:
Woohoo! There he is… swanky café; La Gazzetta Dello Sport; strange looking cake!
This seems to be a bit sporadic by the Guardian — the last clip I can find is from Euro 2008 — but I hope they keep this up. I miss James. My footballing week is enhanced greatly with comments like “Bayern aren’t new to going down easily, they are after all managed by Jurgen Klinsmann” and “[a Bild reporter] buried a sausage under a corner flag at the Nou Camp. A sort of game of ‘hide the sausage’, if you will. Instead, rather appropriately, Bayern came up with their wurst performance since 1974″
How James has never crow-barred his way into BBC or ITV I’ll never quite understand. But, for the time being at least, the legendary paper review is back — and it’s as good as ever. And, if you want more Richardson goodness, you can subscribe to the equally good (if a little more demanding of your time) Football Weekly podcast.