Mark Bresciano still haunted by the Sicilian derby
How quickly circumstances change. Just over a month ago Socceroos midfielder Mark Bresciano was the toast of Palermo, as the affable Victorian turned in a series of eye-catching displays.
Now Bresciano is the villain of the piece, with his early dismissal in last weekend’s Sicilian derby contributing to Palermo’s humiliating 4-0 defeat at the hands of local rivals Catania.
It was a dark defeat for a man still haunted by memories of this often violent fixture.
In February 2007, a riot at Catania’s Stadio Angelo Massimino resulted in the death of police officer Filippo Raciti. So affected was Bresciano by the tragedy, he made public his desire to exit Italian shores.
His destination was widely expected to be Manchester City, and although Bresciano spoke candidly about his waning interest in a league plagued by corruption and violence – he had also been stung by former Palermo coach Francesco Guidolin’s decision to abruptly drop him from the starting eleven.
When Bresciano’s expected move to Manchester City failed to eventuate, he returned to Palermo and quickly won over new coach Stefano Colantuono with his no-nonsense attitude and incisive passing game.
Yet if Bresciano thought that his career was in turmoil, it was nothing compared to the mayhem going on behind the scenes at Palermo.
Notoriously trigger-happy Club President Maurizio Zamparini hired and fired both Colantuono and Guidolin during the 2007-08 campaign, only to reappoint Colantuono when Guidolin’s third spell at the club failed to work out.
Colantuono was axed just one game into the current Serie A campaign, but Bresciano rapidly found favour with his replacement Davide Ballardini.
He may have just as quickly fallen from grace, however, as his X-rated challenge on Takayuki Morimoto after just sixteen minutes at the Stadio Renzo Barbera cost Palermo any chance of winning one of the most heated fixtures in Italian football.
There was no ill-intent in Bresciano’s lunge – but it was a horror challenge, and the kind of tackle that has the potential to end a career.
Fortunately for Bresciano, former Tokyo Verdy striker Morimoto was unharmed, and he promptly chimed in with Catania’s second goal of the game.
Morimoto had already laid on the first for Argentine midfielder Pablo Ledesma, and such is the form of the young striker that many are wondering how long Japan coach Takeshi Okada can continue to ignore him.
That Okada does ignore Morimoto – and having likewise dispensed with VVV Venlo’s in-form midfielder Keisuke Honda from the recent squad to face Australia – says much about a nation that prefers to see its stars perform on the domestic stage.
At any rate, not even Morimoto’s form could overshadow a truly outrageous strike from Catania captain Giuseppe Mascara.
Mascara is an enigmatic figure in Italian football.
He’s done the rounds at several lower division clubs – even turning out for Palermo in Serie B – but his incredible volley on his former stamping ground was of the highest quality.
Spotting Palermo keeper Marco Amelia off his line, Mascara smashed a first-time volley from inside the centre circle over the Italian international and into an empty net!
If it had been scored in the English Premier League, we’d be talking about the strike for the rest of the season.
Alas, it will probably go unnoticed by all but the most die-hard of calcio fans – although Mark Bresciano probably won’t complain if Australian fans skip the replay.
The Melbourne-born midfielder once again appears unsettled at the Sicilian club.
If Australia coach Pim Verbeek feels that Jason Culina’s move to the A-League is a backwards step, one has to wonder what the Socceroos tactician makes of Bresciano’s current situation.
Palermo is hardly a conducive environment in which to play winning football.
The constant coaching merry-go-round has become a farce, and the Rosanero are fast becoming the laughing stock of the Italian game.
He’s already been sent off twice this season.
Now might be the time for Mark Bresciano to devise a permanent exit strategy.
Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he has settled in Brisbane and has been a Roar columnist since December 2008. Follow Mike on twitter @Mike_Tuckerman
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