Archive for September, 2010

Were Fulham the victims of ‘Furbizia’?

September 13, 2010

I have always loved Italian football. I loved the fact that Inter won the Champions League this year (effectively) with one of the best defensive displays of the last decade against one of the best teams of all time. I also enjoy supporting the team that everyone loves to hate at the world cup: the Azzurri.  Why do I enjoy this? Furbizia.

I have never been a particularly good footballer in skill nor athleticism, but I have always had a good footballing ability to read the game and a decent level of intelligence that allows me to be more canny with how I deploy my (rather limited) resources. This is where Furbizia comes in. Simply put, it is the ‘art of guile and cunning’, a way to help get the mental upper hand in football. Over on there is an excellent article detailing exactly what Furbizia is and how it influences the game:

Furbizia is something very different. Firstly, it is something which takes place only and exclusively on the football pitch. The word ‘furbizia’ itself means guile, cunning or astuteness. It refers to a method which is often (and admittedly) rather sly, a not particularly by-the-book approach to the performative, tactical and psychological part of the game. Core to furbizia is that it is executed by means of stratagems which are available to all players on the pitch, not only to one team. What are these stratagems? Here are a few: tactical fouls, taking free kicks before the goalkeeper has finished positioning himself, time-wasting, physical or verbal provocation and all related psychological games, arguably even diving.

An interesting concept that is very evident in Italian football. Many call it cheating but I believe it is an art and  style that helps to define Italian footballing philosophy and adds flavour to the game.

How is this relevant to Fulham? On Saturday, Fulham were subject to some of the most cynical football known to man sending the messageboards into meltdown and myself into a frenzy of irritation at the match. Over at Craven Cottage Newsround, Rich offers both sides of the argument as to whether what Wolves were doing was wrong or not, and whether as fans we have the right to get upset.  Timmy  at The Offside also threw some light on the situation by arguing that Wolves are not a dirty team. Were Wolves employing the tactics of furbizia or is that far too kind?

If we look at the footballitaliano article it discusses the use of tactical fouls as part of furbizia and as part of a larger tactical game plan. There can be no doubt that Mick McCarthy purposely instructed Wolves to play this kind of game but the problem with wolves approach was simply that they were not very good, nor very subtle at it.  footballitaliano describes their failure perfectly:

As with all matters in sports, there are variations to how well all this can be performed. Anyone can provoke an adversary, but it takes real guile (real furbizia) to find the weakest links in the other team’s psychology, then wear them out and bite them until something or someone gives in – all without ever breaking a single rule in the book of football.

Wolves simply provoked rather than really found the real weak links in the Fulham team. They also did not have the technical skill to back up the tactics they were employing, rather using their cynical style of play to launch a series of (admittedly dangerous) counter-attacks during the game. The real problem on the day was not Wolves rather basic furbizia tactics but the totally inept performance of Phil Down, the man in the middle of the park. If he had nipped Wolves’ obvious fouling in the bud early on then Fulham would have run out comfortable winners. As it was, he failed miserably and created a hostile environment for himself and the Wolves team (albeit one that I found surprisingly enjoyable!).

Ultimately the ‘dark arts’ in football can add a value to the game but the rather cheap and lazy ‘imitation furbizia’ that Wolves attempted turned what could have been an interesting game into one that has been brought into disrepute.