Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

The Passion, and the Goals, Flow in Sicily

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

The Passion, and the Goals, Flow in Sicily

Article excerpt

At the Derby di Sicilia between Palermo and Catania, something took hold of the participants on the field, something that turned into an infectious game of end-to-end attacking.

They do things differently in Sicily.

The last time the derby match on the island garnered headlines was in February 2007, when the police officer Filippo Raciti was killed trying to prevent rioting outside the stadium of Catania.

The Derby di Sicilia in Palermo this past weekend was something altogether more acceptable. It was the only Serie A match played on Saturday night, meaning that fans were watching it on television throughout the mainland of Italy.

It was great fun.

Palermo, the struggling team on the island thus far this season, overran Catania, winning 3-1. But such was the abandon, such was the absence of a defensive security that this encounter at Renzo Barbera Stadium might easily have finished 10-7.

It did not end up that score, however, because the finishing of the 37 shots on goal was erratic, with passion overrunning thought, as it did on so many things this night.

There were coaches on the sidelines and men in suits up in the stands, commercial sponsors and all the rest of the modern industry that is synonymous with the pro game. But something took hold of the participants down on the field, something that turned this into an infectious game of end-to-end attacking.

It was as open as child's play, reminiscent of a Sunday morning on the fields in the New York borough of Queens, where hundreds of kids chase soccer balls. All of them want to be forwards, thinking first -- and last -- about scoring.

Fabrizio Miccoli, at 33, is the most impish child of Palermo. He was born in the south of Italy, not on the island, but close enough to make the Sicilian derby a big priority in his life.

Miccoli is often the smallest figure on the ground, but with the largest appetite for adventure. Just 10 minutes into the derby, he struck the 100th Serie A goal of his career.

Like many before it, the century goal was an expression of imagination. The ball broke to him in a central position just outside the Catania penalty box. There were three defenders close by, but none close enough. With one touch of his right foot, he nudged the ball to his right. With the second he struck it, inducing a swerve that was quite deliberate, a shot that appeared to be going wide of the post until, as if still under his influence, it curled inside the top corner of the net.

The 20,000-plus home crowd began chanting his name. "Miccoli! Miccoli! Miccoli!" As much as he mesmerized the opponents in that instance, he and his inspired teammates kept on doing it.

The same happened in reverse. You attack, we attack, was the ethos -- or maybe just the childlike instinct.

No coach could take credit or blame for what was happening. …

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