Serie A's legends of the fall begin to fade away

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Italian football and theatrics have gone hand-in-hand well before even Filippo Inzaghi threw his first hissy fit and dived out of his pram. And each year ahead of the new season, the referee’s association comes out with the usual platitudes about ‘cleaning up’ the game.

The ref’s head man, Cesare Gussoni has cited the recent European Championships as a shining example of all that is good and wonderful in the game.

“I didn’t see many fouls, simulation (what Italians term good old-fashioned diving) or much arguing with the referee,” he claimed. “I hope to see a similar situation in Serie A this season.”

Obviously, Ces failed to notice Cristiano Ronaldo’s crumbling to the ground from the moment he stepped onto the pitch, followed by most of the Spanish and Turkey team or Michael Ballack’s non-stop ranting at match officials throughout the tournament.

Ronaldo prepares for take-off against Germany 

It seems, more than anything, it’s a plea for patience with the new graduates, promoted from Serie B to replace Gianluca Paparesta, Paolo Bertini and Tiziano Pieri, who were implicated in the 2006 Calciopoli match-fixing scandal.

Reduced in number from 43 to 39, the new men in the middle will have to learn on the job.

Serie A has rightly been labelled the home of divers, con-merchants and all sorts of miscreant behaviour but some areas of the dark arts are beginning to recede into the past and maybe Gussoni has less to worry about than he obviously believes.

As notorious tumblers such the aforementioned Inzaghi and Pavel Nedved come to the end of their careers so a new generation of players are keeping their feet firmly on the ground.

Last season we saw the likes of young whippets Marco Balotelli, Alexandre Pato and Sebastian Giovinco hurdle challenges, remain upright and continue en-route towards goal without any indication that they needed to become acquainted with terra firma.

Balotelli charges through... and stays on his feet 

While certain exponents of the crafty fall, such as Luis Figo and Alex Del Piero who are known to run headlong towards an opponent before toppling earthwards, Napoli’s whirling dervish Ezequiel Ivan Lavezzi found that swerving past a defender at the last moment was an even more cunning ploy.

As the legends of the fall fade away, the fresh-behind-the-ears match officials will still be faced with sly shirt-pulling, bear-hugs inside the area and the double assassination attempt where opponents take turn to kick lumps out of the likes of Ricky Kaka, Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Francesco Totti.

The art of the foul in Italy knows no bounds and as for arguing, well that’s just part of the national make-up.

As the man whose job it is to prime referees for what is ahead, Pierluigi Collina, put it: “It’s not going to be easy for anyone but with a new generation of match officials we are heading in the right direction.”

Let’s hope for once Italian football doesn’t trip up.