Home World Cup 2018: Kick out Ventura, Tavecchio and the dinosaurs! Italy need a revolution

World Cup 2018: Kick out Ventura, Tavecchio and the dinosaurs! Italy need a revolution

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With the Azzurri on the brink of humiliation, it has become clear that the country’s rotten footballing foundations need to be uprooted

Forget North Korea in 1966. Forget South Korea in 2002. Forget New Zealand in 2010. Italy failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup will be the biggest embarrassment in the country’s history.

Whatever happens on Monday night against Sweden at San Siro, it is clear that Italian football is broken. There needs to be a revolution.

Italy coach Giampiero Ventura has received most of the blame for the World Cup qualification fiasco – and understandably so. This is a man that has been shown to be completely out of his depth in terms of tactics and team selection, reducing a squad that surprised everyone at Euro 2016 under Antonio Conte to a mentally broken one that can’t even beat Macedonia or Sweden.

But the bigger question that needs to be asked is this: Why the hell was Ventura given the job in the first place?

Giampiero Ventura Sweden Italy WC Qualification

Italy has produced more world-class and innovative coaches in history than any other nation. It boasts top-level managers all over Europe. Last season, three of the continent’s five major leagues were won by Italians. Four different Italian coaches have won the English Premier League in the last seven years.

Yet the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) decided to hand over the keys to an old man who turns 70 in January. An old man who has never bossed a big club in a managerial career spanning four decades and who has won one Serie C and two Serie D titles.

Ventura is a provincial football coach who was given the job because of who he knew rather than because of his talent. His appointment is a perfect example of the power wielded by the old Italian establishment. They say football often reflects society and this is a classic case.

But we should not be surprised. After all, the president of the FIGC who hired Ventura, Carlo Tavecchio, is another dinosaur. This is the bigot who described Lazio’s Cameroonian midfielder Joseph Minala as some “Opti Poba, who has come here, who previously was eating bananas and now is a first-team player for Lazio”.

Carlo Tavecchio Claudio Lotito

Joseph Minala Lazio

Instead of this racist being instantly banished from the running to become FIGC president in 2014, the Calcio establishment closed ranks and protected their choice before giving him the most powerful position in Italian football.

Adriano Galliani, Milan’s powerful CEO at the time and vice-president of the Lega Serie A, described Tavecchio’s comments as “an unfortunate joke” and put all his support behind him. No surprise there, either. Along with Silvio Berlusconi, the 70-something Galliani had already driven Milan into the ground by selfishly clinging on to power.

Franco Carraro, a senator in Berlusconi’s political party and a three-time president of the FIGC, remarked: “There has been no act in Tavecchio’s life that suggests racism, quite the opposite.”

Italian football needs to be completely revolutionised. Fossils like Tavecchio and Galliani need to be driven out of the game and the rotten political system that protects them overthrown.

There is so much that needs to be fixed. Off the pitch we see half-empty stadiums and racism from fans go unpunished, while clubs are so ignorant and backwards when it comes to PR and marketing that they couldn’t sell a life jacket on the Titanic.

On the pitch, the football is sinking as a result. The lack of Italian players coming through the ranks is of huge concern.

Take a look at Italy’s best five clubs right now. The Napoli team that lost 2-1 at Manchester City in the Champions League had just one Italian starting. The following night, Roma began their 3-3 draw at Chelsea without a single Italian.

Even Juventus – traditionally the Serie A club that boasts an Italian core – finished their game against Sporting that week with only three Italians: Gianluigi Buffon (age 39), Andrea Barzagli (36) and Giorgio Chiellini (33). The Inter and Lazio teams who are flying high in Serie A this season have on average only two to three Italians starting each weekend.

Italian football fans like to mock the Premier League and the way the influx of expensive foreigners has destroyed the England national team. But the Azzurri’s situation right now is bleaker than that of the Three Lions, who at least safely qualified for Russia and even experienced great success at youth level by winning the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups this year.

Inzaghi Baggio

Del Piero Vieri

Victor Lindelof Ciro Immobile Sweden Italy

When Italy qualified for the 1998 World Cup, the forwards they took to France were Roberto Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero, Christian Vieri, Filippo Inzaghi and Enrico Chiesa. The following top-class attackers didn’t make the trip: Gianfranco Zola, Roberto Mancini, Francesco Totti, Giuseppe Signori, Fabrizio Ravanelli, Vincenzo Montella, Pierluigi Casiraghi and Paolo Di Canio. The latter never even won a cap for his country.

Twenty years later and the squad’s frontline contains an Inter reserve, Eder, and a struggling Southampton striker, Manolo Gabbiadini. Such is the dearth of quality available that fans have been forced to pin their hopes on Ciro Immobile, who has proven to be an almighty flop whenever he has played for a big team.

Over the past 12 months, Leonardo Pavoletti, Gianluca Lapadula, Roberto Inglese and Nicola Sansone have received call-ups.

A Serie A club hasn’t won the Champions League since 2010 – and even that was an Inter team containing 11 foreigners – or contested a UEFA Cup/Europa League final since 1999. There hasn’t been an Italian Ballon d’Or winner since 2006, the same year Italy won the World Cup.

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Since that triumph, the Azzurri have won one World Cup finals game.

None of this is a coincidence.

If the Azzurri and Italian football is going to return to the top, then the whole footballing system needs to be uprooted. And that starts with kicking out dinosaurs like Tavecchio and Ventura.

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