• How I've Come To Love A Bald Italian Man

    His name is Gianni Infantino, an Italian who is currently the General-Secretary of UEFA, and even with stiff competition from the likes of Pierluigi Colina and James Richardson, he is undoubtedly my favourite bald man of football.

    Let me explain.

    Last month I attended the Europa League Final in the revamped Lansdowne Road stadium (or the ‘Dublin Arena’ as it was referred to on the night). Joining me were my girlfriend and a fellow Dundalk FC fan. As kick off approached it dawned on us that we were probably the only three people at the final that night who had also been at one of the tournament’s very first games.

    That First Qualifying Round of the 2010-11 Europa League had kicked off way back on July 1st 2010 and the game that we had traveled to was a thrilling encounter in Luxembourg between CS Grevenmacher and Dundalk FC. It had been Dundalk’s first foray into European action in eight years. In front of 500 fans, Dundalk dominated the opening stages of the match and by the hour mark had a comfortable 2-0 lead. However, in the heat of the Luxembourg evening we collapsed and suddenly found ourselves 3-2 down. Losing to a team from Luxembourg… this just wouldn’t do! With less than ten minutes to go in the match, up stepped Grevenmacher’s centre-back Khalid Benichou to stick the ball in his own net and level the game up at 3-3. We had been saved by an own goal, but we didn’t care. We took our draw and our three away goals back to Oriel Park and duly advanced to the next round with a win on home plastic, eventually going out of the tournament to Levski Sofia of Bulgaria.


    Ten months later, the three of us now found ourselves in Dublin 4 for the all Portuguese clash between Porto and Braga. In the stands, the blue and white of Porto outnumbered the red of Braga by about two fans to one. Porto replicated this dominance on the pitch. However, in a disappointing match, they could only manage a 1-0 win through a powerful first half header from their Colombian talisman Falcao. Despite a less than exciting night on the pitch, the atmosphere generated by the Iberian fans off the pitch meant that it would still be a night to remember. However, the best moment was yet to come. As the Porto players climbed the steps to receive their winners medals, I spotted that Michel Platini was the person handing out the gold. This wasn’t the exciting bit though.

    It was then that I noticed the bald man handing the medals to Platini to distribute and recognised him from somewhere. After about three seconds I remembered who he was and I exclaimed to my girlfriend; “Look, it’s your boy from the draws!” After she gave me the all too familiar look that meant I wasn’t making sense, I had to explain it to her. The guy handing the medals to Platini was the guy who does the draws for the Champions League and Europa League preliminary rounds. Usually I only see this guy in mid-June or July when he is announcing the drawing of clubs like HB Tórshavn, Dinamo Tbilisi or TNS. Here he was though, in the flesh, in Ireland at the Europa League final.

    He is the guy that makes European football real for the League of Ireland fan. He is the guy who usually you only see on a dodgy online stream of the Europa League First Qualifying Round draw (before the English teams come in and Sky Sports start caring about the draws). You wait as he pronounces perfectly the names of hundreds of clubs from every corner of Europe until suddenly he announces a name like ‘Dundalk’ or ‘Bohemians’ and you go mental singing to yourself in your office chair, while hoping that your boss can’t see your computer screen. He is the face of the Europa League for us Irish fans. He is Gianni Infantino.

    Taken from We Play On Fridays- the only online LOI fanzine
    Write for WPOF
    This article was originally published in blog: How I've Come To Love A Bald Italian Man started by thischarmingman
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. ArdeeBhoy's Avatar
      ArdeeBhoy -
      Nice one. I like.
    1. Stuttgart88's Avatar
      Stuttgart88 -
      Wasn't Infantini previously in charge of financial affairs? As far as I know he was the main instigator of the Financial Fair Play Rules, which I fully support. UEFA actually has some good people, and well-meaning people.
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