ZOFA ZOGOOD; It's So Relaxing for an Italian in the Prem

By Bonetti, Deborah | The Mirror (London, England), February 10, 1997 | Go to article overview
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ZOFA ZOGOOD; It's So Relaxing for an Italian in the Prem

Bonetti, Deborah, The Mirror (London, England)

When Italians used to think of England, they conjured up pictures of the Queen, Big Ben and a greasy helping of fish and chips.

But today things are very different.

The mere sight of an English flag automatically inspires images of Vialli's bald head at Chelsea or Fabrizio Ravanelli's silver crest at Middlesbrough.

Then of course there's Zola Goala - Stamford Bridge's new hero and Roberto Di Matteo with his art of football (both pictured right).

Effectively, the English Premiership has almost become an extension of the Italian League.

The Italian superstars are moving in - and it seems that even more are keen to come.

So what is it that attracts the glitzy Azzurri over here and, most importantly, do they fit in?

Obviously money plays a big part in any player's decision to go abroad, however desperately they try to play down this key factor down.

It's importance is easily assessed. In the years BS - before Sky - there was little money in the English League vaults and nobody who was anybody ever bothered to cross the Channel.

Far greener pastures were to be found in Italy, so none of their star players ever needed to stray.

Now the grass has turned yellow on the peninsula and, in the year of Our Sky, in which a deal worth pounds 670million descended upon the Premier League clubs, everybody, it seems, wants to be a part of it. The Bosman ruling also played an important part in the foreign invasion of Britain, and Gianluca Vialli himself is an exuberant example of the freedom it allows international players who have reached the end of their contract - and sometimes the end of their tether too.

And then there is the quest-for-new-experiences factor, which appeals to those who have won everything - such as Vialli and Ravanelli for example - and who are desperately looking for new challenges.

However, once you have got your one-way ticket to England and said good- bye to all your friends, what you find upon your arrival in a new country, with a different language and culture, may turn out to be a little different to what you expected.

There is no question that the English Premiership and the Italian Serie A are quite dissimilar, not only by name.

This is apart from what we have all been bottle-fed for months about the difference in style and technique between the two, words which have progressively lost all meaning through their over-presence in the media.

Then there is all the nationalistic hype about how foreigners may jeopardise English talent on which we shall let true-Brits such as Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger or West Ham defender Slavan Bilic enlighten us on day.

Instead, let's have a look backstage at the differences between the two championships OFF the pitch - something which is not frequently taken into consideration but which, some would argue, could actually account for a good 60 per cent of what then happens ON the pitch during Premiership games.

In the beginning there was the Routine - otherwise known as the daily chores of your average player.

In Italy, Premiership teams have a training ritual which requires an almost religious application.

Players train twice a day: two-three hours in the morning and the same amount of time, doing completely different exercises in the afternoon.

Most clubs have private fully-equipped gyms attached to their training grounds and there is a full-time athletic coach who prepares a personalised programme for each one of the players and makes sure they work on their weaknesses, while at the same time moulding them into all-round athletes.

There is a full-time medical staff which supervises the whole team and which breaks down into four main areas - medical aid, physiotherapy, massages and dietetics (i.e. food).

These take care of the players' bodies as if they were machines and, every two months, have them undergo physical and clinical tests which monitor the fitness of the muscular frame and the good functioning of the body.

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ZOFA ZOGOOD; It's So Relaxing for an Italian in the Prem


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