Thursday, March 3, 2011

Reports From Italy...

...should never be trusted.

News broke from Italy yesterday claiming AS Roma defender Philippe Mexes will join AC Milan this summer. Based on prior Italian "reporting," this story, along with a myriad of other rumors emerging from the boot, should be discarded. Reports from the Italian media are more often than not misleading and inaccurate.

As a fan of the Serie A, I have come to learn what a common motto during rumor-fueled reports should be: "I'll believe it when I see it." News sources in Italy tend to magnify and inflate miniscule rumors, often skewing the truth by exploiting half-truths. Obviously, this rings true for most sporting media - speculation is an act we must expect - but the Italian media seems to turn every story that comes along on its head. I've lost count of the times I've seen an official report from an Italian news source turnout to be, in hindsight, the unlikeliest of rumors.

Why the willingness on the part of the Italian media to report any and every rumor? It could be because of a few factors:

The fans in Italy are very demanding. Having spent time in the capital at Olimpico many a Sunday, I can tell you first-hand that Italian fans are among the most passionate and fickle in the world. On any given match-day, the faithful are berating the ownership of the team for poor results or a lack of financial backing. The next they are pridefully tearing up when their captain hustles into the defensive third to make a tackle. Italians are very reactionary by nature, which leads to coarse actions day in and day out.

Though the media is a separate entity from the sport, they are one with their audience. Italian news sources know what fans want to see and know how to fan the flames of profit. Rumors attract readers, readers attract money, and in a football nation as wild about the sport as Italy, topsy-turvy fans are attracted to tasty rumors. Thus, the entertainment ensues...I mean reporting.

Stadio Olimpico - Roma

Coinciding with the above notion, the overall atmosphere around the sport should be held liable for erroneous journalism. In case you have not noticed, the mood surrounding Italian football is extremely negative. Stadiums are in horrible condition and seats rarely fill to capacity. Violence, unrest, and even racism often occur on or around match-day. And typically, the good play of one team is overshadowed by the bad play of the opposition. This overall negativity in the atmosphere of calcio is a media dream. Rumors are exploitable when conditions are depressed. It seems like fans have an easier time feeding on rumors when they are so hungry for any sort of news they might react to - both positive or negative.

Another likely reason for the influx of inflated rumors is the state of the league. The Serie A is definitely on the decline. A league that once fielded legends like Maradona, Roberto Baggio, and Ronaldo is now a rare destination for the sport's biggest stars. Talented youth from around the world are being drawn to top teams in top leagues, like Barcelona in La Liga or Manchester United in the English Premier League. Italy's own youth are being stolen by foreign leagues because of this depreciation.

When a company performs badly, investment in it stops. But when a league falters, the media does not give up. The decline of the Serie A has resulted in news sources grasping for any stories they can find, as opposed to more legitimate stories found in a league on the ups. Thus, diminutive rumors or stories are spotlighted for the sake of spotlighting and publishing a daily paper.

These might seem like gross overtones in relation to a news report about Mexes joing Milan, but in reality, everything surrounding Italian soccer is toned differently from other world leagues. Each aspect - the fans, clubs, owners, and media - all spin a web of mystery. Things often are not as they seem, especially in the media. I urge you to reconsider legitimacy of the source when you hear a report from Italy about your favorite player transferring to Juventus or Inter (the typical rumor-mills). The report is most likely not true.

I'll leave you with an image of someone that I feel, through actions and attitudes, epitomizes the problems surrounding the Italian football community. Coincidentally, this picture makes me cringe every time I see it:

Luciano Moggi - the man behind the Calciopoli Scandal
Please stay tuned for more about the state of the Serie A. And check out today's piece of unbelievable news from the Italian media: Mourinho linked with Roma - Corriere dello Sport.

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