Friday, February 16, 2007

The least likely Scudetto ever? - Ebren

By Ebren

Gun-toting fascists, animal trainers and a Welshman who outscored Pele up front – Lazio's 1974 team are probably the most outlandish Serie A winners ever.

Promoted from Serie B in 1972, Lazio took their place in a Serie A where foreigners were banned and where the league dominated by the Milan and Turin giants, within two years they had won it.

Coached by former Roma player Tommaso Maestrelli and fronted by Giorgio Chinaglia, Lazio spent little on the team, used a tiny squad (only 18 players were involved in the 74 Scudetto, two of them only playing once) and played a brand of all-action total football in the temple of Catenaccio.

To add to the fun, the team were split in two in training. Coaching sessions frequently ended in violence, seeing more players wear shin pads in practice than in league games, and the two camps changing in separate dressing rooms.

The team were also gun-happy. Relaxation involved shooting at things - bins, lamps, and in one case Roma fans trying to keep them awake.

They also voted fascist, held up jewellery stores for fun and managed to beat up – on the pitch, in the dressing room, and in a restaurant – the only two English sides they ever faced (Arsenal and Ipswich).

But wedded to all this, they played excellent football.

In 1973 they finished two points behind champions Juventus, with the best defence in the league. In 1974 they scored 12 more goals with Chinalglia finding the back of the net 24 times in 30 games to win the league for the first time in their history.

And Chinaglia was special. The first Serie B player to be capped for Italy, named Lazio's greatest ever player in 2000 and – playing in the same side as Pele – all-time top-scorer in the North American Soccer League.

But stats are where his story begins.

Giorgio followed his parents to Wales aged six and was free-transferred by his first club, Swansea, before reaching Lazio. Brought to Serie A in 1969 he flourished under coach Juan Carlos Lorenzo, who was in charge of the Argentine "animals" of 1966, he scored the winner against Milan on his full debut.

On the pitch he was lippy, violent, and shot from the lip as often as at the goal – in effect Chinaglia was what Paul Dicov would be if he was good at football.

But less than a year after the 1974 triumph, Lazio's decline began.

Banned from Europe for their 'fracas' with Ipswich, Lazio's coach Maestrelli contracted terminal stomach cancer. Then, just 47 days after helping to carry Maestrelli's coffin, Scudetto-winning midfielder Luciano Re Ceccioni was shot dead while pretending to rob a jewellery shop as a joke. He was 28.

By then Chinaglia had already left for the New York Cosmos.

It would take Lazio more than 20 years to win another trophy and until 2000 and the inspirational leadership of Sven Goran Eriksson to win their second league title.


andrewm said...

Ebren, what were the robberies all about?

Ebren said...

A joke.

Three players, for a laugh, stuck their hands in their jacket pockets and said "this is a stick up".

It was funny once, the next jeweler wasn't a football fan, and killed one of them when he didn't comply fast enough.

Gutted when I realise how much I cut to make 500 - then saw Jonnyboy's epic...

MouthoftheMersey said...

Ebren - I knew some of this but it's great to see it all in one place and told at a rattling pace. I felt a bit cheated by sticking to 500 words or thereabouts, then seeing a winning entry well over, but I guess these are early days.

Do you think they got nervous at GU about legal? I'm sure you can stand it all up, but are Sean et al sure you can?

Good stuff - hope your hat's in the ring next time.

Zephirine said...

I enjoyed this!

guitou said...

Ebren, coming late sorry-good writing, incredibile detail, combine to tell a story most of us certainely don't know about it.

Ebren said...

MotM - the 500 words messed with me on this one.

For instance, the fight they had in the reseaurant with Arsenal was litteraly about handbags. Genius.

One of the shootings was when a player couldn't be arsed to get up to turn off a light so shot it.

And Chinaglia once chased one of the other members of his team (i.e. one of the ones from the other camp) across a pitch and kicked him in the rear (eat your heart out Bowyer).

All cut (as well as quite a few more).

Legally it's safe. I have said nothing that isn't on the public record/a fact/reported on at the time.

Unfortunately, there aren't many stories like this that I know - so it was a one shot at this deal.

Ho hum - I will be woking on something.

MotM said...

Ebren - I almost sent an e-mail direct to Sean asking if they would accept re-worked re-submissions. There is no reason why not, but if the panel read the first para, they might think "seen this" and spike. I've a done a
couple of new ones because mine aren't up to scratch no matter how much work, but yours is an excellent piece and with this new
superb detail, it might make the cut. I think it's worth asking.

And it's a crying shame that the Doc's piece isn't available to a wider audience as it's a beaut, as the Aussies would say. I think he should re-submit too.

Ebren said...

Suck up.

I might give it a go - but if it's not something they want, then there's no point.

Also, I've been mischief making again apperently...

MotM said...

Ebren - they might hold it against you especially BG who seems rather mean, but who's to say that it won't be a different shift on for the next sift or that everyone suffers second album syndrome and they go back to the stuff rejected last week?

If I miss out this week, I'm definitely going to ask about re-working stuff.

andrewm said...

Ebren, since you were kind enough to email this to me before it was put on this blog it seems only fair to elaborate on my comment.

This really is a very interesting story, I have to say I knew nothing about it. I'd be interested in reading the uncut version if you have it and feel like emailing it to me.

I'm pretty disappointed it didn't get published on GU, especially given what they chose. For example, the one about gambling on sport is no more than mildly amusing and seems to have been chosen simply because it's a subject that GU rarely covers.

Anyway, I enjoyed this very much and I hope you find something else that sparks your interest as much as this story clearly did.

Ebren said...

I'm afraid I don't have a full copy. I first heard the story in Calcio

Then I did my homework, found out some new things about Chinalgia and some information about the league and team online, and put the article together.

I would suggest you buy Calcio fot the full(er) story.

It's not an easy read - being more a history text book than something like Brilliant Orange or one of those - but it's pretty impressive.

andrewm said...

Cheers Ebren, sounds like my kind of book.

If you have any interest in boxing you should definitely read "War, Baby" by Kevin Mitchell. Brilliantly written and very moving.

greengrass said...

ebren -
I spend time with friends in Catania every year, and have absorbed some of the Lazio lore through the years.
I really enjoyed getting a full picture like this, and you certainly tell a good story - far better than any of the "winners" in the sop contest.
Pseuds' Corner kicks arse!

Ebren said...

GG - I've already told someone off for sucking up. Don't make me ban you for repeated sycophantic emails ;o)

But cheers. Compliment accepted. I also seem to have escaped HB's hatchet.

I would have liked Cally's thoughts, Italy is his forte after all...

Tweet it, digg it