Dark plots and the ref locked in a toilet

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Despite seeing themselves as the crazy kids of Europe, Italians are in fact very traditionalist and conformist in the way life should be conducted.

At times they are more stuck in their ways than a Roman traffic jam.

So when the fixture list threw up the Turin derby and Inter against AS Roma in this week’s penultimate midweek round, television flexed its muscles and sent Juventus and Torino to a Tuesday slot.

Initially jolted out of their comfort zone, the Turinese were turned off by the whole idea. “I go to the gym on Tuesdays, I meet my lover then, my favourite show is on TV’ and so forth were trotted out as better ways to spent the evening.

However, with the soulless Olympic stadium only holding 25,000, as plans on to refurnish Stadio delle Alpi remain mired in red tape, it was always going to be a sell-out.

Now all of a sudden everyone and their old aunt wants to get their hands on a ticket for il Derby Della Mole.

This new-found interest in a early-week jaunt out from the comforts of watching the latest Brazilian soap is down in part to Toro’s amazing comeback from 4-1 down to draw 4-4 with Parma on Saturday, followed on the same evening by Juve’s last-gasp defeat at Reggina.

To rub salt into the wounds, it was a penalty to boot, something the Old Lady could always rely on in the back in the days of ‘Lucky’ Luciano Moggi, that sent the Bianconeri scurrying away from the deep south complaining of dark plots and the need for the old order to be restored pronto.

As usual, the referee was at the heart of the storm, in this case, Paolo Dondarini, who turned down three Juve penalty appeals before awarding one at the other end in the 93th minute after Mohamed Sissoko’s flying kick on Nicola Amoruso.

“You bet we are bitter,” chewed Claudio Ranieri on his tongue. “We should have had three penalties. This is just the tip of an iceberg.”

Haughty club president Giovanni Cobolli Gigli even put his name to an open letter calling for ‘a need to rediscover faith in referees and give a boost to Italian football’.

Pretty rich since it was the club’s previous employees corruption of match officials that led to the current crop of wet-behind-the-ears refs being thrown into this high-pressure world.

Tuttosport could always be relied on for an impartial view. ‘What a disgrace!’, screamed their Sunday morning headline as they towed the party line.

National television broadcaster RAI have always been something of Juve apologists so it was no surprise that they too saw everything in black and white.

One of their reporters even went as far as calling on Dondarini to be locked up and the key thrown away.

This was a none too subtle reference to a supposed incident after the same fixture in 2004 when Moggi and his cohorts reportedly locked referee Gianluca Paperesta and his linesmen in a toilet at Reggina’s Granilla stadium for failing to do their bidding.

It’s all mana from heaven for everyone, apart for the referee maybe, as Tuesday’s game is now firmly the centre of attention nationwide.

Can’t wait to see what happens when Alex Del Piero trips over his size eights in the area.