A psychic journey through Juventus versus Chelsea, 9th March 2009 or a more than somewhat bollock-eyed view of Tuesday night’s game, if you prefer.
If I ask you to give me the lines from two Michael Caine films, the chances are they may well be the following ones [rendered of course with a suitably cockney argot]:
“You’re a big man, but you’re in bad shape. With me it’s a full time job. Now behave yourself.”
“You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”
Both films feature cities where the local team plays in black and white striped shirts, namely Newcastle and Turin (apologies to Torino fans).
Curious don’t you think? And there’s more. While most of the chase sequences in the “The Italian Job” were filmed in Turin, one sequence, where they are driving through Turin’s sewerage system was actually filmed in sewers in a suburb of Coventry. When they are training the drivers and practicing blowing off those doors, they are in and around Crystal Palace (thanks to Wikipedia for the info – hope it’s correct).
Not just the team colours then, but Coventry was our previous game, Crystal Palace appeared out of nowhere on the blog late on Tuesday afternoon. Just coincidence you would say.
Well not when you consider that Tuesday’s game was played in Turin.
And it was a full moon.
Turin: historical seat of the House of Savoy, capital of Piedmont, central to the Risorgimento and the Unification of Italy. Yes, the home of Italy’s first capital and parliament is a far from ordinary place.
Strong and disturbing forces churn about this singular city. It is where the primordial meets the modern, Baroque style contrasts with featureless suburb, weighty intellect co-exists with heavy industry. Most of all, it is one of those rare places where there is an unending confluence of good and evil. The sacred and the satanic.
Located on the 45th parallel, it is at the conjunction of two mystical triangles. One of black magick (formed with London [that doesn’t include Croydon] and San Francisco) and one of white (formed with Lyon and Prague).
There it sits on the banks of the Po in the shadow of the Alps, brooding; not only the gateway to Italy, but the fabled site of a gateway to hell, (said to be below the Piazza Statuto). The underworld and Judeo-Christian tradition collide. Legend has it that the Holy Grail is buried below the City and of course the holy Shroud resides in the Duomo of St. John the Baptist.
Around the city, statuary and carvings depicting good and evil confront each other across squares, streets and courtyards. Darkly negative energies swirl in conflict with the positive, vibrant forces of good. Locals are familiar with the sources of the righteous and the malign, the locations where they have leached deep into the sediment.
Turin has been long associated with Satanists, occultists, necromancers. Seers and practitioners of the mystic arts have flocked there, Nostradamus among them.
The more rational would say that the demonization of Turin is the work of the Catholic Church and arises from its role in the Unification of Italy, which stripped the Papacy of its temporal power.
But prayer books and holy water are stolen from churches. Whispers persist of rituals, pagan inversions of sacred rites fuelling a demonic engine, belching a sulphurous miasma.
Not for nothing do Juventus take to the field in the Biancinero. The white and the black, the dark and the light…
There it is, the eternal battle, a world forever in balance. Pause for a moment and consider the end of “The Italian Job”. It is nothing if not a metaphor for the ongoing ethereal struggle that grips Turin. Everything is finely balanced; the hope of somehow breaking free, the despair of plunging to destruction at any moment.
“Hang on, lads; I’ve got a great idea.”
Into this lurking dark pool of the magical, the supernatural, stepped our boys, thinking only to play a game of football. But the game was to be played where the teeth of two giant oppositional cogs, gearing for the demonic and heavenly, grind together in an eternal driving motion.
Evening slips away, night and darkness walk abroad. In the heavens above Turin the lunar pull is at her greatest strength. The harmonics of the planets is suddenly dissonant. Something is fractured and disorder leaks in from another continuum.
As we look on, nervous, bemused; crushed one moment, uplifted the next, it seems as in a warped celestial symphony that leitmotifs echo again and again, half remembered phrases return but reworked, transformed. The gossamer thin veils that contain our linear existence are being torn, spectral visions of unlived pasts bleeding through into the Stadio Olimpico.
There is ebb and flow, time speeds up and slows down. Patterns hold for a moment and then shatter.
Can that really be Ranieri, dapper, calm, plotting Chelsea’s downfall or a chimera of a favourite uncle, conjured from some bestial alchemy to taunt us?
Drogba’s free-kick. A goal! No, a moment of beauty cruelly revealed as a vile succubus screeching in from an Anfield night we’d rather forget.
Ranieri watches as his team go down to 10 men then 2-1 up. We shiver in recognition of a refracted painful image that must be Monaco.
Tuesday 8th March 2005 we are 3-0 up against Barca, Ferreira handles a cross from? Yes Belletti. Penalty. Suddenly the game is far from over. My head spins. Opposing timescapes are colliding and throwing off nearly indecipherable shards of half-memory.
And still the pale, sickening light of the full moon throws her baleful influence down upon the field.
As if to restore that vital balance, to reassert the positive life forces that still course through the thin, ancient, parchment-dry veins of this city, Ballack, who conceded the free-kick from which the penalty came, combines with Belletti and Drogba to give us the salvation we now most desperately crave.
In the aftermath, Carvalho and Tiago cling together as though trusting nothing else but their own solid flesh, Ballack and Salihamidzic stand as though amazed to see each other, time warped back to the Bundesliga. Friendships renewed, contacts revived, neural paths reawakened.
Relief. With the whistle a viral spell has been broken. They have all survived, even if they and we are unsure of what we witnessed, unable to apprehend the real nature of what has just occurred.
Drogba is interviewed and seems confused. Unable to pick his way through and explain what it is we were trying to achieve.
Hiddink, Dutch clear-eyed and possessed of Protestant certainties surely sent them out with a plan. It’s “The Italian Job” after all.
[Remember your best Michael Caine] “It’s a very difficult job and the only way to get through it is we all work together as a team. And that means you do everything I say.”
But had he prepared them enough for the occult maelstrom that would break on them in Turin or did he just get lucky?
Did Drogba sense way back that Scolari, with his Marian devotion, steeped in the old Catholicism would be swept away by the dark currents, the mystic undertow? Defeat would have been certain.
As a man of heightened sensibility, a shaman with a nose for the scent of the unreal, hearing the incense born whispers of a long departed magus, he made his stand and waited for someone better prepared for the struggle.
On the pitch certainty was lost, it was a ghost world, time was cracked, a mock past was flooding through the cracks. Misrule was riding out.
Perhaps moon sick, he struggles to re-arrange his thoughts and express his feeling of the disorientation that enveloped them all. And then just as quickly evaporated.
Me, I put down my glass and staggering under the psychic weight of the drama reel out of the pub and onto the Lower Clapton Road. I pull up my collar and walk head down to avoid the glaring unlight of the full, full moon, dreading the lunar nausea that grips if you stay washed too long in her rays.
I am confident Habs will sort out the basics, report the football, but I may need to consult the Fortean Times for a true match report, an account of what has really occurred. Somewhere in the underworld a wretched scribe is rewriting the truth, doctoring the statistics, reconfiguring the chalkboard (and I don’t mean Moffat). We must hold hard to what we have seen. Know it for the truth.
It was 2-2. The vital balance was maintained.
I hear the diurnal groan of the turning earth, the gentle singing strings of a celestial harp.
The black and the white, the light and the dark.
Perhaps I should just lay off the Guinness.