x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Rambo lost the battle but Genoa won the war in Serie A

When Sampdoria gleefully made the tale public, they did so with a refreshing sense of perspective that showed one of the better sides of the Italian character, writes Ian Hawkey.

Genoa's Luca Antonini, right, celebrates after scoring against Sampdoria during their Italian Serie A soccer match at Luigi Ferraris stadium in Genoa on Sunday. Luca Zennaro / EPA
Genoa's Luca Antonini, right, celebrates after scoring against Sampdoria during their Italian Serie A soccer match at Luigi Ferraris stadium in Genoa on Sunday. Luca Zennaro / EPA

Football is often guilty of taking itself too seriously. So it is heartening that at the conclusion to one of the more absurd stories of the season, most people have been able to stand back and appreciate the humour in it.

As widely reported across the world last week, a member of Genoa’s coaching staff, Luca de Pra, was spotted and photographed dressed up in camouflage, guerrilla-style, in a forest that borders Sampdoria’s practice ground. He had apparently gone there to spy on tactical plans Samp might be making ahead of Sunday’s city derby.

When Samp gleefully made the tale public, they did so with a refreshing sense of perspective and one that, in some ways, showed one of the better sides of the Italian character: its sharp understanding that sometimes, faced with the bizarre, laughter is a better reaction than indignation.

The Samp website likened De Pra to Rambo, and reported how he had “failed to get past Samp’s counter-intelligence”. The pay-off line? “He was returned to enemy base. You should always forgive your enemies, because that annoys them more than anything.”

Genoa, embarrassed, insisted De Pra was acting on his own initiative and suspended the coach.

But nobody wants a loyal servant of the game, as De Pra is, to lose his job over what Enrico Preziosi, the Genoa president, called “a college prank”. Rambo will now be “reintegrated”, Preziosi announced on Sunday evening. Mind you, Genoa were in a good mood by then. They had just won the derby 3-0.

sports@thenational.ae