A Tale of Two Cities

Daniele De Rossi spoke last week at a press conference during Italy's World Cup preparations, which was not covered or at all mentioned here, due to me being preoccupied with sitting huddled up in a corner, rocking back and forward as I contemplated a future without Capitan futuro, even as I was aware of it being a very unlikely scenario. It wasn't just me, however; that press conference drove nearly everyone who listened to it into a sort of frenzied state of mind. Real Madrid fans everywhere started salivating, as much like Pavlov's dogs they are conditioned to do that whenever a world class player is mentioned in connection to their club. Politicians, ministers, northern Italian separatists (in no way are the three mutually exclusive), police officials and, for some reason, his teammate in South Africa Maggio soon were worked up beyond control, each trying to outdo the next in being the latest and most prominent to rebuke De Rossi.

The reason was DDR's expression of a perfectly legitimate opinion on the tessera del tifoso to be implemented next season; in essence, he is of the opinion that the fan membership is a terrible idea, but if they're really going to push it through and force fans to register in order to watch a simple game of football, a similar card for police officers might not be a terrible idea either. Seeing as just a few weeks ago half a dozen officers beat down two young men near the Olimpico stadium, ostensibly for being ultras, DDR isn't completely out of sight with this one. Later released video footage from one of the boys' families shows the pair as they were leaving the house to go to a nearby birthday party throws shadows over what was already a brutal overreaction. DDR held a very enlightened discourse on crowd trouble, or more precisely the ultras, not being the sole reason for Italian football's problems, and that whoever thinks the tessera del tifoso will magically heal all that ails the sport in Italy is deluding themselves. This is an opinion on the subject more nuanced and informed than far more educated politicians and journalists have been able to contribute to the discourse as of yet. So of course the outcome was to criticize De Rossi for his "vicious attack" on the "honorable" police officers that "deserve nothing but respect and gratitude". He was portrayed as if he was a savage who, had his schedule not clashed due to playing games for Roma at the same time, he would probably be out fighting the police himself. The onrush of criticism even compelled Totti to send a message of support as well as a "warm embrace" to his teammate via his blog.

Contrast Daniele to Marco Borriello. The former held an enlightened conversation on a very delicate issue, and offered far beyond the usual, meaningless truisms. Borriello, on the other hand, continued a less than honorable tradition of contributing to the public discourse with offensive remarks that, to make it worse, have no connection to reality. After Fabio Cannavaro and Silvio Berlusconi, it was now Borriello's turn to openly mock Roberto Saviano, the author of Gomorra, which shined the light on the iron tight grip organized crime has on the author's hometown of Naples. Said Borriello, himself from Naples, "Saviano has profited on my city. There was no need to write a book about that". This echoes, almost perfectly, the words of his captain in the National team, as Cannavaro expressed the same view a couple of years ago.

But nothing could be further from the truth. Consider that since its publication he's lived under constant threats to his life, that he's been forced underground and to abandon relationships with friends and family and stay hidden, out of sight lest he be murdered. Consider that his opus, Gomorra, isn't what Borriello, Cannavaro, Berlusconi et al claims it to be; it is not a conscienceless exploitation of a city and its inhabitants, anyone who has actually read the book (in other words, not Borriello, Cannavaro, Berlusconi et al) must note that if anything, it is a cry for help from a person who lives the city, but rightly considers the crime and indecency of the lives of many something it could stand to rid itself of.

One man, representative of his home town, expresses nuanced beliefs that could be used to stimulate a meaningful debate. Another man, he too representative of his home town, says anyone who points out that there's crime and misery in that city is nothing but a profiteer, someone who's not to be respected. There's something very ugly in the air when only one of them gets criticized, and draws ministerial involvement, and it isn't Borriello.