It has been a rough week for Italian football. After being drawn with Uruguay, England and Costa Rica in their World Cup group, the Italians have suffered another catastrophe with the elimination of Juventus and Napoli from the Champions League. Both teams will now compete in the Europa League after finishing third in their respective groups. Instead of talking about the problems of Italian football, the Italian media has chosen to put the blame on UEFA President Michel Platini.
Juventus has been knocked out of the Champions League this Wednesday after a 1-0 defeat in Istanbul against Galatasaray. Antonio Conte‘s men, among the favorites before the competition have won only once in six group games and really didn’t deserve to qualify. Had they beaten Galatasaray in the first leg in Turin, and the bianconeri would have arrived in Istanbul with their ticket for the next round already in their pocket. The other Italian team, Napoli, has finished third in its group with 12 points just like Dortmund and Arsenal but was eliminated only on goal difference.
For the Italian medias, the man responsible for their troubles is none other than Frenchman and former Juventus player Michel Platini. On Thursday, the day after Juventus’ elimination, Italian newspaper Tuttosport ran as a headline a picture of the UEFA President in front page with a sarcastic ”Merci Michel” under it. Juventus’ game was stopped at the 33rd minute on Tuesday due to the heavy snow and bad conditions of the field. The game resumed on Wednesday under conditions nearly as bad as the day before. For Juve fans, UEFA should’ve never scheduled the game the next day because of the conditions, but the European soccer governing body had no other choice as the rule in these kind of cases clearly says that the game had to be played the next day.
Last week, the Italian press accused Platini of favoring France in the World Cup draw. Knowing that the Frenchman is not responsible for the World Cup draw and has a conflictual relationship with FIFA President Sepp Blatter, it’s difficult to see how he could have possibly influenced the draw. It would have been more understandable to accuse Blatter of favoring his country, Switzerland, who was seeded ahead of Italy for the World Cup draw.
Surprisingly, the Italian press didn’t talk about the problems Italian football is facing for years now. Italian clubs struggle in European competitions against English, Spanish and German opponents. Inter Milan, the last Italian club to win the Champions League in 2010, had no Italian player in the starting XI (Marco Materazzi came on at the 92nd minute). To survive, Italian clubs are often forced to sell their best players (AC Milan couldn’t afford to keep Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, Napoli also sold Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani to PSG, Inter had to let Samuel Eto’o and Wesley Sneijder go).
Another issue in Italian football is racism. Last season, former AC Milan player and Ghanian international Kevin Prince Boateng walked off the field in a friendly game against fourth division team Pro Patria after he was victim of racial abuse. Mario Balotelli, an Italian international, has also been victim of racial abuse.
Even though the national team remains one of the best teams in the world, Italian football is in crisis and needs to make change. Its clubs are not competitive anymore in European competitions, racism is still a serious issue and infrastructures need to be renewed. It’s difficult to see how Michel Platini caused all those problems.