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Monday, April 22, 2013

Book Review | "20 Great Italian Games" by Giancarlo Rinaldi

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"I have always been fascinated by the history of the game before those matches that I actually witnessed with my own eyes. I grew up on stories of Sandro Mazzola, Gianni Rivera and Gigi Riva and great nights of Italian sides battling with their Scottish or English counterparts in epic encounters. I was hooked by those tales of a time which helped cement a vision of Serie A as negative, cynical and defensive among UK residents for decades to come."

--- Giancarlo Rinaldi, "I Classici del Calcio: 20 Great Italian Games," published in April 2013 as a Kindle edition on Amazon.com ($2.99) and at Amazon.co.uk (£1.53).

For those of us around the English-speaking world with a calcio addiction, the name of Giancarlo Rinaldi is as common as the fervent cries of "RETE!" on a Sunday afternoon from RAI Internazionale.

Mr. Rinaldi helped to introduce Italian football to a skeptical, but curious, UK audience, over 20 years ago. It was during a time of a golden generation of Italian calcio, and British audiences learned that it wasn't such a bitter pill to swallow. This book takes a detailed and focused look back into history. Most of us can't confirm seeing all 20 games in the author's playlist whether in person, on television, or in our dreams. I believe you will greatly enjoy his compilation and match commentaries. The author is an encyclopedia of Italian calcio and graciously shares his acumen with us.

Organized Format and Engaging Writing Style

There is a detailed forward by John D. Taylor of Football Italia, a concise table of contents along with an intriguing introduction by the author. Mr. Rinaldi's writing style is detailed, engaging, historically-accurate and witty. His match commentaries paint images of the sights and sounds of the actual games. This is a quick yet comprehensive read. Your interest level will remain high throughout this excellent work.

Compelling Historical Aspect

Mr. Rinaldi chronicles his 20 favorite Italian league games which start chronologically with Internazionale v. Juventus in April 1961 and end with Internazionale v. AC Milan in April 2005. The 18 others in between will surely hold your attention. The author is a Fiorentina supporter and made no apologies to feature them in seven capsules (by my count).  My two favorite games were the Juventus v. Milan match in February 1982, along with Napoli v. Fiorentina in September 1989.

A Few Notable Quotes

"In the Spring of 1961, Inter and Juve were on a collision course for one of their most stunning season showdowns ever. The Bianconeri were reigning champions, inspired by the peerless strike force of Omar Sivori and John Charles. The Nerazzurri were cast in the role of  upstarts, hoping to win the Scudetto for the first time since 1954. It ended with a final twist worthy of an Inspector Montabano novel."

"Just five minutes in the Bianconeri were awarded a penalty much to the rage of the home support. It was assumed that Baggio (Roberto) would step up and take it with the trademark calm he had shown throughout his career. But things did not go according to script. Instead, it was Gigi De Agostini who strode forward and missed the spot kick, provoking howls of derision. To add to the fury of Juventus supporters, Baggio was substituted later in the game and left the pitch draped in a Fiorentina scarf. It was a betrayal which some of the Turin faithful could never forgive." (Fiorentina v. Juventus in April 1990).

"This was a battle built upon the seismic fault lines of Italian society. The north-south divide has long cast up a stereotypical view of those residing above or below Rome (or some other arbitrary point on the map.) According to those prejudices, the northerners are a dour and passionless bunch while the southerners are cast as work-shy group who are happy to live off handouts from the State. It does not make for harmonious relations." (AC Milan v. Napoli in February 1990).

"It was the goal we all dreamed of in our school days. With never a thought of passing to a team-mate, you go skipping past opponents on a mazy run before ending it with an ice-cool finish. In 1989 at the Stadio San Paolo in Naples, Roberto Baggio did it for real. To this day, footage of the strike is the kind to give fans of beautiful football goosebumps." (Napoli v. Fiorentina in September 1989).

A Valuable Addition to Your Calcio Library

This book is must-have for your Italian football library. From the iconic names of Antognoni, Baggio, Batistuta, Buffon, Maldini, Maradona, Platini, Sivori, Socrates, Totti, Van Basten, Weah and Zico, the author covers the entire literary pitch in his 20 game-selection. My only complaint? There were only 20 games. :)

"I could never die on Sunday. Then I would miss my Italian football." 

--- Italian proverb.

About the Author

Giancarlo Rinaldi is a "Fiorentina-loving writer, long-time Football Italia contributor, grappa-guzzler and full-time husband and father from Scotland." You can follow him @ginkers on Twitter and visit his blog at http://giancarlorinaldi.tumblr.com.

Please Note

I did not receive a complimentary review copy nor was I compensated by the author, publisher or any party who would benefit from a positive review.

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Steve Amoia is a freelance writer and translator from Washington, D.C. He is the publisher of World Football Commentaries and The Soccer Translator. You can follow Steve @worldfootballcm on Twitter. 

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