European football club brawl: Messi hits out

Written by Pritchard See all the best images from the club scene at home and away Verona, Sicily — It’s one of football’s oldest debates: is it better to score in the red shirt…

European football club brawl: Messi hits out

Written by Pritchard

See all the best images from the club scene at home and away

Verona, Sicily — It’s one of football’s oldest debates: is it better to score in the red shirt or the blue? It’s one of the more absurd but enduringly positive talking points of the game.

Last weekend, at the Luigi Ferraris Stadium, Hellas Verona supporters were celebrating a 2-2 draw with Empoli — but on a night that has renewed the debate over who should win best club, the match ended in an ugly brawl.

With seconds left to play in a game that could have been a cost-cutting exercise for the fourth-placed club, Verona defender Georgio Chiellini fired home a 68th-minute free kick to secure a 0-0 draw.

But even then, things got ugly. Verona players and staff ran on to the pitch to confront Empoli fans, who mobbed their team and coach when they arrived at the changing rooms.

The turmoil continued at halftime, with a stand still set up by Italian media to allow the Dispersal Order Tribunal, the first appeal body in the country to handle league-related appeals, to appear at the stadium.

Empoli coach Eusebio Di Francesco was keen to laud the 40,000 fans who supported the team, but he couldn’t help but utter words of frustration.

“We’ve just gone through one of the saddest nights in the history of this club,” he said after the game. “To go into a dressing room after this, that’s the worst scenario.

“I’ve done my job tonight — the players were so disciplined. But after the final whistle, it was as if they went straight to the bath and were about to throw up.”

He also paid tribute to the Silvestri family, who own and run Verona, one of two Italian teams he now manages. The other is Bologna.

“The Silvestri family has shown a lot of courage, a lot of professionalism and I’m very grateful for that,” he said. “Today, we showed again that that family can be a fantastic support to the club.

“They are one of the best families in Italy and we’re happy they’re helping us. They have tried to help us this morning, without worrying about tomorrow.

“I am an Empoli fan but I have to be honest: I’ll find myself supporting any of these teams.”

Verona, meanwhile, had to wait until the next day before the Dispersal Order Tribunal met to decide whether to grant them an appeal. When the ruling was in, the club was granted a 3-0 win, with Manolo Gabbiadini scoring twice to move the team above Empoli in the table.

Meanwhile, Valderrama’s midweek goal against Sampdoria sparked outrage in Argentina. Five-time world player of the year Lionel Messi may have been asked for his opinion by his manager, but after the game, not even a club great could justify what Messi described as the “very stupid” behavior of the referee.

Argentina’s Jonathan Calleri and Chiellini were quick to condemn the controversial goal, sending their players’ tweets to an all-time low.

Messi went one step further, demanding that the referee’s decision be reviewed by FIFA. “I’m very surprised, as the referee ruined the game… For me, it was a penalty and a clear foul,” he wrote on Instagram.

“I trust that FIFA will analyse this, as I think that what the referee did was very stupid and spoiled a huge atmosphere.”

Messi has certainly been a serial offender in the ban-filled lower leagues, having also been in the referee’s bad books when his Atletico Madrid side edged Levante 2-1 last December in the Supercopa de Espana.

The Supercopa de Espana is the game’s second edition, competing for the spoils of the “Champions League” and is considered one of the title’s main prizes.

Two other penalties have been given against him this season, one for a foul and one for dissent after receiving the yellow card.

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