Archive for November 28th, 2007

From Soccer to Basket-Ball: Luigi Turci Still Using his Hands, but now Shooting Hoops Instead

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007


Spending a long time in a region or country can leave quite a mark on a person, a mark so big that sometimes you feel drawn to return to that region later in your life. And once you do, you actually might start doing things you never thought of doing before, or things which at least, remained hobbies. Until now.

Such is the case of ex-Cesena and recent retiree goalkeeper Luigi Turci. Having just quit the world of soccer, the 37 year-old Turci decided to return to Friuli, the Italian region in which he spent 6 years from 1996 to 2002, playing goalkeeper for Udinese. Those were good times back then: the 3-4-3 formations, the UEFA Cups, Alberto Zaccheroni (hey, whatever happened to him?)… I guess good man Turci must have felt a bit of nostalgia, because he just settled into his house of Grado, in the province of Gorizia. Besides, his family seems to have taken root already: his oldest son Matteo, is already following his father’s steps and is playing for the Gradese youth team (as a goalkeeper of course). Dad drops by the training sessions sometimes, to give his son and the other “baby” keepers a few pointers.

However, Turci’s life hasn’t been 100% soccer. “In fact” he says, “I’m rejecting it, almost“. Especially because since earlier this season, he’s been hired by the local basketball team, which is competing in the “Campionato Promozione” (in case you’re wondering, that’s the 7th level of competition, starting with Serie A at the top): in other words his opponents don’t have belong to teams like Milan, Inter, or Juventus anymore, but rather “Cormons”, “Edera”, “Villesse” and “Mossa”.

Luigi Turci, back in the days with UdineseSo far, Turci’s team has won 5 games out of 6: “I was asked if I wanted to play with them, and I accepted, since I don’t like being inactive. I have practice once a week, and play league matches on the week-ends. On average I remain on the court 20 minutes, playing as a pivot, the only role that suits me best since I’m the tallest guy in the roster“. But all of you are wondering… how good is Turci playing basket-ball? “Well… my shooting technique needs some improvement, but under the basket I’m doing okay. My record so far is 4 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 block“. Not bad for a beginner…

Turci’s passion for basket-ball was born while he was still with Udinese: “Me and the other keepers used to play a lot in the gym while we were training. I remember I used to have challenges with Morgan De Sanctis and Zampa (the fitness trainer), which by the way could have made a career in basket-ball in my opinion. Unfortunately, after I was transferred to Sampdoria and then to Cesena, I couldn’t play anymore because they didn’t have courts“. And what number is Turci wearing now? “Number 12“, the number usually given to the back-up keeper? “Ah yes, that’s true. But it wasn’t a romantic choice, it was really the only choice: it was the only shirt my size they had in stock“.

Well, good luck with your new career Luigi. After all, even Kobe Bryant started playing professional basket-ball in Italy. Yup, that last fact is 100% true. :)

Hat Tip to Gazzetta dello Sport for publishing this story.

Champions League day 5 – Inter & Roma Earn the 3 points for an Early Playoff Ticket

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

UEFA Champions League logoWith Matchday 5 of UEFA’s top European competition and all 4 Italian teams on the verge of earning their ticket to the next round, Inter and Roma have started the party early on Tuesday: the 3-0 and 4-1 victories against respectively Fenerbahce and Dynamo Kiev are sending the Italian clubs through to the Last 16. For Inter, you can call that a group birthday present to manager Roberto Mancini (born on November 27), and for Roma, the proof that even without the likes of Totti, Mexès, Aquilani and Perrotta (out injured), they still remain a competitive bunch.

Champions League day 5 - Inter 3-0 Fenerbahce, Dynamo Kiev 1-4 Roma

After the K.O. in Istanbul earlier this season (1-0 by goal of Deivid, the only defeat suffered by Inter this season along with the SuperCoppa loss to AS Roma), in what the Nerazzurri almost made seem like a “do-or-die” match, Inter had many objectives today and succedeed in all of them: get rid of their strongest opponents in the group, avenge their 1-0 defeat of matchday 1, and qualify for the next round of the competition. Talk about killing many birds with one stone…

Roberto Mancini started his team with a 4-4-2 diamond formation. Having to deal with the absence of Olivier Dacourt, the Inter coach opted for a Cristian Chivu-led defensive midfield and Dejan Stankovic (finally back from injury) operating as playmaker behind Zlatan and Cruz. However all the match needed were the first few minutes, to make everyone understand that on the other end, Zico’s Fenerbahce was a team which could potentially go well beyond the Round of 16: placed very close together on the field, with Aurelio and Sahin (chosen over Stephan Appiah) on task to disrup Inter’s game, and ready to create dangerous situations with Semih Senturk or Roberto Carlos on the wings. A dangerous opponent therefore, which coincidentally had already beaten the Nerazzurri on matchday 1.

After 20 minutes, to contain Fenerbahce’s offensive verve on the wings Mancini chose to reposition Stankovic on the left, switching to a classic 4-4-2 line-up with Chivu and Cambiasso in the center. This had the direct effect of stabilizing Inter’s possession, and allowed them to keep control of the game’s pace. The best chances in the first half all came from the Nerazzurri, despite none of them gave Fenerbahce’s keeper too many worries: first Stankovic (wide), then Cruz (also wide)… what about Zlatan? He was trying his best to find space away from the opponents’ box, since the last 18 yards were being kept under a tight lock. Result of the first half? 0-0 with 0 shots on goal.

In the 2nd half, Inter went ahead almost by accident, shortly after they almost conceded one through Alex (shot from the edge of the box inches wide): Maxwell got through on the left wing and sent in a low cross towards the center, Edu tried to a last-ditch attempt to clear it, instead it finished on Julio Cruz‘s chest and Inter had the first goal of the match. 1-0.

10 minutes later, cue goal nº2 for the Nerazzurri, with some delightful technical play: low cross by Chivu, dummy by Cruz, controlled touch by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and ensuing land-air missile towards the top corner. 2-0 Inter, and Zlatan’s 5th goal in Europe this season.

That was decidedly the morale-sinker for the Turks, who let go of their disciplined defense moments later. After risking another goal through counter-attacks of Cruz, Suazo, and a Zlatan free-kick, the Fenerbahce defense eventually gave up in the final minute: Cambiasso stole the ball 30m out, exchanged passes with Cruz and then gave the ball back to his Argentine teammate. Cruz was then able to send Luis Jimenez through on the left,  who had little trouble beating Volcan on the first post. 3-0 Inter, game over. For Roberto Mancini, 43 years and counting, a top-rank party is in order (1st in Serie A, 1st in Europe). Huzzah!

In the end, the key statistic of Inter’s past performances this week: Atalanta, goals by Suazo and Cruz, Fenerbahce, goals by Ibra and Cruz. The Inter attack is definitely working at full capacity…


F.C. Internazionale Milano
[Match Highlights]
Fenerbahçe S.K.
GOALSCORERS: 55’ Cruz (I), 66’ Ibrahimovic (I), 90’ Jimenez (I)
INTER (4-3-1-2): Julio Cesar – Maicon, Cordoba, Samuel, Maxwell (72’ Jimenez) – J.Zanetti, Chivu, Cambiasso – Stankovic (88’ Materazzi) – Ibrahimovic (78’ Suazo), Cruz. (bench: Orlandoni, Solari, Dacourt, Crespo). Coach: Mancini.
FENERBAHCE (4-2-3-1): D.Volkan – Gokhan, Lugano, Edu, Roberto Carlos – Sahin, Aurelio (62’ Appiah) – Deivid (82’ Tumer), Alex, Vederson – Semih (66’ Kazim). (bench: B.Volkan, Cakmak, Onder, Bilgin). Coach: Zico


Roma’s performance today can be defined by two words: domination and qualification. The Giallorossi stepped onto the field in Kiev with the right mentality, using a mix of beautiful plays and cynicism (uncommon to the Giallorossi this season) to archive this match within the first 45 minutes. Max Tonetto was like a train on his left wing, and Mirko Vucinic is rapidly growing from his vice-Totti role to an irreplaceable piece of the Roma arsenal.

For the first half, it was a superhero tale for the Giallorossi: Super-Roma, and in particular Super-Panucci. The aging right-back is having quite the magical moment in his career: he scored the vital qualification goal vs. Scotland with the Azzurri (in the 90th), scored the winning Roma goal vs. Genoa this week-end (also in the 90th), and scored against Dynamo Kiev today… in the 4th? Huh? Going against the run of play here Panucci… No matter though because this goal, at the cost of not being vital, was equally beautiful and spearheaded the way to the Giallorossi victory today: on the right wing, a first cross by Christian Panucci was deflected by Goran Gavrancic, and gave the right-back another stab at it. His left-footed cross towards the far post actually turned into a direct shot in goal, with Vucinic fooling the keeper with what seemed to be a slight touch (replays showed no one actually hit the ball). 1-0 Roma.

Minutes later, it could have been a double for Roma (and Panucci himself!), had the hero right-back not narrowly missed a left-wing cross by Tonetto. Speaking of Tonetto, the man was virtually unstoppable on his left wing, running up and down the line and capable of sending in accurate crosses for whoever his intended recipient was. Giuly almost turned into the beneficiary of one of those crosses, but his header from 10 yards was narrowly wide of the mark. 10 minutes later though, the French winger struck gold: receiving a defence-splitting pass from Cassetti (with entire Kiev backline pushing forward), Ludovic Giuly was sent all alone in front of the Kiev keeper, dribbled him, and deposited into the empty net. 2-0 Roma.

6 minutes later and shortly before the break it was 3-0 for Roma, exploiting yet another lethal counter: through in the center, this time Giuly was the provider, executing a perfect pass for Mirko Vucinic. Through on goal, the Montenegrin striker found the twine from 13m, eluding the rush from young keeper Dybka (replacing injured Shovkovskiy). At this point, Roma had the match locked and had thrown away the key.

The 2nd half was a boring but necessary chore for the Giallorossi, who at this point thought the match had already said all it had to say. Not so. 60 minutes into the game, Daniele De Rossi was forced off the field with a knock (colliding with his own teammate David Pizarro), earning Ahmed Barusso his first Champions League apperance. Also, Dynamo Kiev found a way back into the game (or at least, a goal): the entrance of Maksim Shatskikh revitalized the Ukrainians, and in minute 64 it was 3-1: through on the left wing, the forward found the foot of Ismaël Bangoura (helped, it must be said, by a terrible clearance of Juan) who slammed into Doni’s net.

The last word however today was for the Giallorossi. A one-two between Vucinic and Tonetto on the edge of the box opened acres of space for the former: 20 yards out and instep finish by Mirko Vucinic. 4-1 Roma, just too much for the Ukrainians tonight.

At the end of the day, all bets are off in Group F: Man Utd has mathematically clinched 1st-spot (regardless of what happens at the Stadio Olimpico next matchday), Roma is going through as 2nd-ranked. Sporting Lisbon will go to the UEFA Cup.


FC Dynamo Kyiv
[Match Highlights]
A.S. Roma
GOALSCORERS: 4’ Panucci (R), 32’ Giuly (R), 36’, 78’ Vucinic (R), 63’ Bangoura (D)
DYNAMO KIEV (4-1-4-1): Rybka – Dopilka, Gavrancic, Vashchuk, Nesmachniy; Ghioane – Gusev, Ninkovic (55’ Shatskikh), Rincon (69’ Milevskyy), Rotan (46’ Belkevich) – Bangoura. (bench: Lutsenko, Markovic, Fedorov, Correa). Coach: Demanienko.
ROMA (4-2-3-1): Doni – Panucci, Ferrari, Juan, Cassetti – Pizarro, De Rossi (60’ Barusso) – Taddei (46’ Esposito), Giuly, Tonetto – Vucinic (84’ Cicinho). (bench: Curci, Antunes, Pit, Mançini). Coach: Spalletti.