Roma’s shock defeat at home to Romanian minnows Cluj has got James Horncastle thinking about Korea 1966 and Zambia 1988
Candido Cannavo, one of La Gazzetta dello Sport’s directors, doesn’t suffer fools lightly. He is candid by name and candid by nature. In the wake of Zambia’s 4-0 defeat of Italy at the 1988 Olympic Games, he wrote a rather vitriolic piece entitled “The comic misadventure of a team of nobodies.”
In it, he recalled the Azzurri’s shambolic exit from the 1966 World Cup at the hands of North Korea and their professional dentist cum scorer Pak Doo Ik. “From that day,” he lamented. “Everything you were ashamed of became known as Korea. That word enriched our language and became a popular and eccentric synonym.”
Cannavo went on to conclude his article with this sentence: “The more you speak of Zambia, the more the meaning of Korea is destroyed… In reality, it’s difficult to take this grotesque morning seriously.” Cannavo’s words are as true today as they were then, especially in light of Romanian side Cluj’s 2-1 vanquishing of Roma in Tuesday night’s Champions League opener at the Stadio Olimpico.
Indeed, if Zambia joined Korea in the Italian thesaurus as an alternative to the word shame, then surely Cluj must be placed alongside them too. For Cluj were only in the Romanian Third Division six years ago and had gone almost a century without winning a trophy until last season when they added the League title and Cup to the Transylvanian Championship they won in 1911.
To understand just what happened to Roma, I think it’s only fair we take counsel from a man who sat on Italy’s bench. Arrigo Sacchi wrote an article in Rigore in 2000 called “The determinant components that shape a winning team.”
The former Milan and Parma boss starts by saying how important the internal affairs of the club are to its success. His ideal club is one that is “serious, patient, innovative and looking to renew itself.” Now, you could say the uncertainty surrounding Roma’s ownership and the club’s debts make it difficult to satisfy those criteria.
Sacchi, who went on to become Real Madrid’s technical director, expects a club’s Coach “to love his work and transmit enthusiasm to his players.” Has Luciano Spalletti lost that ability because of the board’s inability to bankroll plans that would take the club further? Does Spalletti feel he has done all he can with the resources available to him? If so, then the players who, according to Sacchi need to respond “technically, tactically and professionally to the philosophy of the club and Coach,” will also have lost faith in the Roma’s project.
That discord has been clear in the Giallorossi’s last three games. They have surrendered leads in all of them and failed to fight back. Roma haven’t won since Franco Sensi passed away, but something else is undoubtedly missing from the club that has threatened to win Serie A since 2005. Perhaps, one if not all of the components of the winning team Sacchi described in Rigore eight years ago are no longer part of the Roma dynamic.
...it seems the clowns are falling apart!