Borgolabigonza is not a metropolis and its football team, Bigonzese, has always played in one of the lowest leagues, unknown to most of people. But this team has always had its faithful supporters, who suffered for the worst season of this team since its foundation, during the year this story is set in (many years ago, when I was a kid).
Even with a change of coach, the team hadn’t scored a single point in ten matches. They didn’t score a goal, and the passive ones hadn’t exceeded three-digit numbers thanks to Ginetto, the son of the greengrocer, an efficient goalkeeper with his own style.
Ginetto didn’t stop a ball even with intimidations, but he rejected it with his feet, his hands, his belly and even with his nads if necessary. The other ten crazy players completing the team were without hope. It wasn’t worth spending money on sending them to Lourdes.
The “superexperts” talked around their sancta sanctorum at the cafe in the square: the billiard table, consoling themselves playing and drinking red wine.
“They’d better give up!” growled the defeatist chemist.
“No, they have to fight until the end!” shouted “Caporetto”, jumping up from his place, aged ninetyand stuck back in the world wars.
“The team needs new players,” said the host, working at the espresso machine but listening to their talking.
Marolla cleared his voice on a Wednesday night and dead silence fell. He was the superexpert of the superexperts. He was a football connoisseur by profession and kept the accounts of a tile firm as a hobby. A photo with Gianni Brera, a distant relative of his, crowned him as the most expert, and sometimes he showed it to a selected audience, with understandable thrift.
Like every good expert Marolla avoided discussions and squabbles. He sat aside, drinking a Fernet and sometimes wearing a pitying smile when he heard a big lie. When he cleared his voice he was about to speak, or to spit. Anyway it was worth being quiet to see if it was the first hypothesis.
On that Wednesday night it was the first hypothesis.
“Now football is just a question of money!” said he. And he stopped talking. He never said more than eight or ten words, but when he spoke he pontificated.
Everyone started to interpret his thought in order to distil until the last drop of football wisdom.
“It’s true. Think about the league A,” shouted Bacci, a laid off master mechanic. “The billionaire presidents own all the strongest team!” And he swore fit to darken the sky.
“Our team is managed by the town hall…because no one wants to own it,” pointed out the chemist sullenly.
“It has just the players from the village, who are all useless,” joined the barman, making a cappuccino. And another curse came.
“And the coach?” continued Bacci, who had a story of not respected borders with Boccaccini, surveyor of the land office and the coach of the Bigonzese team.
“A rich man should buy the team,” said Lucio, the policeman who controlled traffic (and often gave tickets) from the window of the café.
The discussion ended, because there weren’t many rich men in the village. One of them was Bartezzaghi, the old notary, but he didn’t care about football.
The one left was “the one”, Cuccumazzo!
He had come from Naples without a penny and now, after 15 years, he was the owner of a factory of dog food, he drove a Maserati and had bought the old villa of the count Degli Orpelli. He “should” be the new president of the team!
And from that moment Cuccumazzo, who had been looked down on by all the villagers, met people smiling at him everywhere he went, patting on his shoulder and telling him that every self-respecting industrialist sponsored a team, even a team of elderly men playing bowls.
Cucumazzo, who was great narcissist, was convinced and bought Bigonzese. As soon as the celebrations ended, he calculated well and realised this affair could cost him a lot. People expected him to rob the surrounding little teams looking for talents. But players were really expensive even at that lowest level.
But Cuccumazzo came from Naples and had acquired experience selling and smuggling Malboro in the police headquarters, so he didn’t lose heart. Being a great expert of the human mind, he found a solution for impressing people and spending less. Instead of buying seven or eight little champions he played the “old glory” card.
“I will buy Bucalossi!”
The news travelled all around the village like the shockwave of a bomb: the “great Bucalossi” was on the Bigonzese’s book!
Three seasons with Juventus and twelve presences in the national football team. People went crazy. They mysteriously forgot that Bucalossi was 38, hasn’t been playing for four years and he had been confined to a bench in the league B for the last three seasons. As Cuccumazzo had predicted, the pompous name drove everyone crazy.
“Can you believe it?” Bacci was excited. “Bucalossi…who was interviewed by Galeazzi!”
“Give him some time to get fit and you will see,” continued Lucio from the window, letting a Panda jump the lights, which was his sister-in-law’s. People didn’t realise the sad truth. Bucalossi was the most pooped player ever. When he had played he had wasted all his money on women, cars and parties, and now he was completely broke. And he drank, a lot! Cuccumazzo pretended he had spent a lot, but he had convinced him offering a room and board and some hundreds of euros for his expenses.
Bucalossi didn’t care. Recently he had slept in a ex supporter’s garage, who had pitied him.
The waiting for his debut began.
Three weeks passed and Bigonzese regularly lost and Bucalossi didn’t want to get fit. People started to protest.
Cuccumazzo knew perfectly well that he had bought a pooped player, but he also hoped to get him back on track with a little bit of training, in order to hit some balls and score a pair of goals, even a free kick. Instead, one night Bocaccini, the coach, spoke honestly; he faced Cuccumazzo and said bluntly: “There’s nothing to do…send him back home!”
Apart from the fact that Bucalossi had no home, by then Cuccumazzo had lost his face with that story. He might as well have risked everything for a chance: he ordered Bocaccini to let the champion play on the following home game. Boccaccini nodded because he had nothing to lose..
But the following Sunday, Bucalossi was so drunk that he couldn’t even stand. He sang loud army songs, then he cried and then smiled, and then he sang some more. The little stadium was crowded. They had to find a solution.
“Put him under the shower and give him a litre of coffee!” ordered Cuccumazzo to Boccaccini, sweating cold . Then he gave a fake smile and went to the gallery to tell a big lie. “He will play in the second half, when the opponents are tired.”
Someone jumped up and said “a great tactic!”
The match began.
Bigonzese was given a good trashing on the field; Bucalossi was given a lot of coffee on the bench. It was a worse siege than Fort Apache. Ginetto topped himself saving everything, even a couple of shots of own goal by his own players..
On the 40th minute, the ref had to signal a big penalty kick. The opponent midfield kicked the ball in the corner and Ginetto brushed it, but it wasn’t enough.
During the half-time, Cuccumazzo burst into the changing room and bollocked Bucalossi in such a way that he almost seemed sober.
It was enough to send him on the field.
When the crowd saw him, it exploded. It was like being at the Maracanà. But when the match started again, nothing changed. Bucalossi stood alone in the half field of the opponents, while all the other players were in the half of Bigonzese. Supporters were perplexed.
At the 20th minute something happened: Ginetto saved a ball! Of course, he sent it back as far as he could to lighten the siege. Since the playing field had originally been a tomato patch belonging to the mayor’s cousin, it was pretty short and the ball flew to the border of the opponent’s area. There Bucalossi stood, motionless and in a catatonic state, with an empty look in his eyes and a bubble forming and deflating in his right nostril. The ball fell on the top of his head and unpredictably bounced, passing the opponent goal keeper and scoring a goal.
People looked drugged.
“What a nice touch!”
“The first ball he touched scored a goal!”
“It’s like the Inter of Herrera: everyone defending and then zack…a fast-break goal!”
Cuccumazzo almost felt ashamed.
The opponent coach was terrified and put four fixed defenders on Bucalossi: one on each side. And it was good thing, because they could support him, avoiding him falling asleep.
The ball was back in the centre and the siege came back as strong as before, although the opponents were outnumbered because of the four defenders on Bucalossi. Actually, Bigonzese would have suffered the siege even if the goal keeper alone had played on the other team.
Ginetto worked wonders: he repelled with his eyebrows, blocked a level shot with his ass, raised the ball above the crossbar with his ears, until the 44th minutes of the second half, when Ginetto had the ball in his hands again (and by a miracle) and sent it back as far as he could (which was the one pattern Bigonzese passed the half field with). The ball, by a curious quirk of fate, went directly to Bucalossi’s head, who slept just a little bit out of the opponent area, supported by his guardian angels. But this time, since his head was bent on his chest, the ball bounced in the opposite direction and came back. No one expected it, even Ginetto, who was taken by surprise. So the ball flew over his headand went into the net.
Score two-one for the opponents.
The four defenders moved away to hug their mates. Bucalossi fell on the grass without his supporters. And laid there motionless.
Then even the fools understood.
No one protested. There was dead silence. It seemed to be at the Maracanà during the world cup final in 1950, when Brazil lost the final match against Uruguay and people were shocked.
Less than a minute was left. Paella, the midfield and the scarcest of them (who wore the number nine just because he was the building manager of Bocaccini and turned a blind eye on an affair of irregular conservatories), exchanged the ball with a mate and shot toward the opponent goal keeper, full of range. He, distracted because he have never touched the ball since the beginning of the match, gave a corner kick to the opponent team.
People moved, their heads down, without looking at Bucalossi, who was still lying on the field. But something unpredictable happened. Ginetto left the door and, caught by a raptus, and went to the border of the opponent area. The crowd stopped just to give him a raspberry.
Tonino La Fronza, the baker’s boy, kicked the corner and the ball fell straight on the field. Ginetto, like Pelé in the cult scene of his movie “Victory”, did a double scissor-kick. Everyone froze.
He jumped up into the air, kicked the ball perfectly and so hard that it hurt the opponent goal keeper’s hands, tore the net and disappeared into the uncultivated bush at the bottom of the field. A second later, the ref signalled the end of the match.
Score two-two. Apocalypse!
They took Ginetto and brought him in triumph all around the village and around a couple of other towns nearby.
He stopped being a goal keeper and played counter-attack. Paella took his place as goal keeper and was quite good.
Thanks to Ginetto’s goal, Bigonzese started to win some matches and avoided the relegation on the last day.
Many years have passed since that Sunday. And many goals of a certain midfield, and many (really many) litres of wine for another (ex) one.
Do you want a realending? Ok, here it is…
Ginetto became the midfield of the national team…
And Bucalossi the keeper of the stadium.
Translation by Emma Lenzi (edited by Irene Tossi)