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  • How Can Impotent Inter Become a Champion Again?
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    Soccer is one of my greatest sources of passion. There is something so seductive about footwork that looks like dance, the sound a cleat makes as it smacks the ball and that rush of energy that sweeps your entire body when your team scores that elusive goal. But players that can make you reach unimaginable heights of pleasure can just as easily consume you with the deepest of sorrow.

    Just ask my sister -- and the 5,235,000 other Inter Milan fans in Italy alone who have been left unsatisfied this season. Inter already is way behind Serie A leaders Juventus of Torino and A.C. Milan. Just two months into the season, Inter players are facing major staffing changes because their coach Hector Cuper was fired after the team tied to lowly Brescia. A humiliating three-to-nil loss to Lokomotiv Moscow, a squad that had never beaten an Italian side, has left Inter emasculated. But sometimes all a man (or team of men) really need is an ego boost from an admirer. That is why, on behalf of my sister and the other Interisti, I'm writing this letter directly to i nerazzurri.

    Before I begin, I must admit that I'm taking on the role of mistress here for I belong -- in heart, body and soul -- to another team that shall remain nameless for the purposes of this article. Even though Inter is not the team to which I am wedded, if I have to see Inter Captain Javier Zanetti shed just one more tear, I might start crying myself. Frankly, letting these grown men go on like this is inhumane -- and uncomfortable for anyone watching. Without further ado, here are three compliments intended to help Inter perform like the real men that they are:

    Your's is the biggest of all the other teams. Inter is lucky to have star striker Christian "Bobo" Vieri, a beast of a man at 185 cm in stature and 82 kg in weight, carrying all the pressure to win on his sturdy shoulders. But Vieri himself is well aware of the fact that one man cannot do the work of an entire soccer squad and has said so -- on numerous occasions. At almost 31 years old, Inter is asking too much of someone who has already scored more than 100 goals in Serie A. His resentment recently started to show. At the start of the season, he criticized the now fired Cuper for letting forward Hernan Crespo go to Chelsea and even hinted that he wanted out of the nerazzurri. His defiant and angry face popped up on TV screens across Europe in practically every game this season. When Italian national team Coach Giovanni Trapattoni took Vieri out toward the end of the team's recent qualifying match against Azerbaijan, he stomped off the field, threw a water bottle and fled to the locker room before the game finished. (He gets some leniency for being a diva because the outburst came after he scored a goal and helped Italy secure a spot at the European Cup finals in Portugal next summer.) The scoring machine needs some help, or we just might see the burly Vieri explode like Etna. For goodness sake, fellow Inter players, please feed the ball to the hungry monster as much as possible. Make the passes pretty and practical. Size may give you an edge, but you have to know how to use such an asset, my friends!

    You're a bunch of young studs. This year, a crew of rookies, who are in their late teens and early twenties arrived at Inter. From 19-year-old Obafemi Martins to 24-year-old Andy van der Meyde, the squad picked up lads with fresher legs and lots of energy. What the new guys lack in experience, they can make up for in physical strength. We already witnessed their greatest potential in the team's only happy moment this season -- a 3 to nil blowout against Arsenal in the Champions League. But youth can sometimes be a liability. Besides the obvious inexperience, boys can be foolish. Mohammed Kallon, a 24-year-old striker, sent Inter for another loop by failing a doping exam recently. He tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid nandrolone, a charge that Kallon denies. Hey, Kallon (and any other young athlete for that matter), listen up and listen good: At your age, there is no need for performance enhancing drugs. You should be a tiger all on your own!

    Your fans want it reeeeeal bad. The Inter fans from Owner Massimo Moratti to comedian Fiorello to my very own sister have been waiting what seems like an eternity (but is really 14 years) for another scudetto win. The cruelest of days, perhaps, was May 5, 2002. That was the very last day of the 2001-02 scudetto race, when Inter lost to Lazio and, as a result, came in second to Juve. Before the match, the press had already practically named Inter champion. Who could forget the sight of Ronaldo sobbing on the bench? (Since then, Ronaldo left Inter for Real Madrid and has spoken out against Cuper.) In the 2002-03 campaign fans tasted more salty tears, especially when Inter lost a spot in the prestigious Champions League final to city rivals Milan without even losing a game. (Inter tied Milan in the two legs of the semi-finals and lost the spot because of away-goals scored.) I'm not even an Inter fan, and I can't take anymore of this. I wanted my team, which is still remaining nameless, to battle a worthy opponent, a fierce and strong and manly Inter. And I know that these players still have the strength within them. Led by new Coach Alberto Zaccheroni, who also happens to be a lifelong Inter fan, there should be no more excuses. Inter players -- from Bobo to Fabio -- will rise again. Let's get busy!

    Will Inter be able to revive itself? Tell me what you think. fdimeg10@aol.com

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