After the Champions League draw, finally after six years we have an Italian team in the semis. Juventus face Real Madrid after lady luck smiled on them and handed the Italian giants a draw against Real Madrid. They avoided Barcelona and Bayern Munich; two teams that are currently probably the best in Europe.
The Old Lady has waited 12 years to be in a Champions League semi-final. They last featured in the final two legs of the Champions League in the 2002/2003 season in an all Italian final staged at Old Trafford. Since then it has been a tale of first and second round eliminations save for 2013 when they made it to the quarter-final.
Ominously the form of Juventus in Europe’s premier competition is reminiscent of Italian football. Between 2004 and 2014 only three Italian sides have reached the semis. AC Milan were in the semis in 2004/2005 before coming out top in the 2006/2007 spell. In 2009/2010 Inter Milan were crowned champions. England may not be represented in this season’s final but in the same duration an English has been in the semis or the final eight times.
Michel Platini bemoaned the inability on Italian teams to build their own stadiums. "We've been saying the same thing for years here [at UEFA]," the Frenchman said. "If you want to have clubs competing with the very best in Europe then the stadium is fundamental. Juve, who have their own ground, are nevertheless still a long way behind Bayern and Real."
While Inter, Milan and Roma have plans in place to own their own stadiums someday the situation is still very grim. It is made worse by an absurd law that requires Italian teams to wait eight years after the initial lodge before beginning to build a stadium. The game deserves better.
The current state of the stadiums also leaves a lot to be desired. Most of them are not specially built for football and have a racing track hence taking the action away from the fans. As a result the watching experience has become less than gratifying for supporters and they have deserted the stands.
The ultras that are now synonymous with Italian football do not help matters either. These rogue fans have grown so strong over the years that they can hold managers at ransom and dictate what players to be fielded. They instigate violence that further pushes the good guys away from the half-empty
stadiums. With little earned from gate collections, teams continue to struggle financially and cannot attract the big names that would create a spark into a league low on embers.
As if to push the final nail into the coffin, the large investors have left. There is no enthusiasm left to pump money into a league seemingly on its last legs. The Parma situation is all too fresh in the news. When a team in the top tier goes under due to bankruptcy it betokens a dire situation that needs to be salvaged ASAP.
If any gains are to be made in a game that is half of what it was at its zenith, collaborate efforts from all stake-holders should be at the forefront. If the infighting that now characterises Italian football continues; then the game is certainly at its deathbed.