I started watching soccer with Diego Maradona in 1986; however the first club which caught my eye was AC Milan way back in 1988. The Dutch trio of Ruud Gullit, Marco Van Basten and Frank Rijkaard (fresh from Euro 1988 triumph in West Germany, which I keenly followed) were the initial reasons why I started following them. Also that I hated the German trio of Lothar Mattheus, Jurgen Klinsmann and Andreas Brehme, who were then playing with Inter Milan and gave me more reasons to follow AC Milan. Soon I came to know more about the other ACM players – Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta, Demetrio Albertini, Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Donadoni.
Of the nine ACM players I listed above, three names will likely make it to the all time best Europe XI (Maldini, Baresi, Van Basten) and a majority of the Italian players could make it to the all the best Italian XI. This was the AC Milan I knew. The team which blasted Barcelona (my favorite) 4-0, unexpectedly in UEFA Champions league in 93-94 and subsequently added two more CL trophies – a true powerhouse of football, a legend (and I haven’t even taken into account the pre-1988 era).
When EPL’s most enterprising team, this season, Tottenham Hotspur took on AC Milan, I wanted ACM to go through. The best clubs must go through to the latter stages of Champions league. I would rather have Barcelona vs AC Milan and Manchester United vs Bayern Munich semi final lineup than anyone else there. Not that I had anything against Spurs – they played rollicking soccer in their debut CL season and have given enough to their fans to remember. I don’t think I will forget their matches vs Inter Milan and Arsenal, this season.
At one point in the match, Milan had Robinho, Pato and Ibramhovic on the pitch. This is the Milan I know. On paper this would be as deadly a strike force as Pedro-Villa-Messi or Anelka-Drogba-Torres; more so because Ibra believes he is in the same league as Messi and Ronaldo. His switch to Barcelona was aimed at winning more, scoring more and proving that point. As of now, he will need to live longer with his “big game choker” tag.
Once the game ended, I realized this is the Milan I will find it tough to associate with. I cant see Maldini, Baresi, Van Basten Ancellotti getting into the level of boorishness the Milan players went into. To think of it, they weren’t robbed of a goal (referee disallowed an Ibra strike), they have in fact been given enough lifelines by UEFA and their officials to make a comeback at White hart lane.
I am convinced Tottenham should have won the San Siro tie not 0-1, not 0-2 but 0-3. And more than Gattuso, they should blame the officials. In the first minute, there was a blatant handball by Nesta’s (intentionally outstretched hand), which should have resulted in a penalty. UEFA’s new induction of an additional linesman near the goal posts, either end, had the best view of it and yet missed it.
Mathieu Flamini’s studs up, two footed tackle, on Vedran Corluka deserved a straight red card. Infact after I saw Corluka on crutches, I thought Flamini could be a good sidekick to Vin Diesel in any C grade action movie. Week in, week out we hear experts say how EPL referees are lenient on tackles (read: for ensuring free flow of game for television audiences) and how it’s injuring players for longer terms (a fair argument). Also you have Javier Mascherano barely starting for Barcelona because all his EPL style tackles are getting yellow carded in La Liga. But watching this game, safe to say – referees all over the world are inconsistent and FIFA and UEFA are doing little about it. Shame!
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