You could be forgiven for thinking that the symbol of Torino wasn’t the bull, but an elephant instead. The club’s fans never forget. Nostalgia for Il Grande Torino and the crumbling old Filadelfia go a long way to explaining the long memories of those who stand in the Curva Maratona. As such they remember who did right by the Toro and who did them wrong like it were yesterday.
So when it emerged that Torino were considering offering the Sampdoria midfielder Enzo Maresca a contract earlier this week, their opposition wasn’t a surprise. “We don’t want him,” one supporter said. Another warned: “If we sign him, I’ll give my season ticket back, actually, I’ll burn it.”
To understand the hostility towards Maresca you have to go back over a decade. It’s February 24, 2002. Torino are leading Juventus 2-1 in the Derby della Mole. With only a minute remaining, they look about to claim a first victory over their rivals in seven years.
It’s at this moment that Lilian Thuram gets forward. From the right, the Juventus defender launches a cross towards the edge of the box. Following it, he sees a young teammate rise and send a remarkable header beyond Luca Bucci in the Torino goal. That young teammate was a 22-year-old Enzo Maresca.
No sooner had the ball come to rest in the bottom corner of the net then he turned to celebrate. Maresca began to run and as he did so, he put both hands to his head, pointed his fingers up and imitated a bull, a cuckolded bull. He made a point of doing it in front of the bench where Marco Ferrante, one of Torino’s goalscorers, sat. Ferrante had celebrated provocatively too after he’d got his team back on level terms following David Trezeguet’s opener. Maresca’s was retaliation.
It’s an act Torino fans are still unwilling to pardon. One of the most famous among them, the TV presenter and showman Piero Chiambretti tweeted that should Torino sign him, he’d seriously consider changing the team he supports. After deleting that he clarified: “Changing teams is genetically impossible. Let’s hope the directors use their common sense.”
Expressing the same sentiment, surprise, surprise, was Ferrante. “If I were Torino, I’d think twice about it also for Maresca’s own good,” he said. It’s unknown whether his name is on the petition started to try and stop the move from happening. Despite it, Torino seem intent to resist fan pressure and go ahead regardless.
“We’ve never been slaves to anyone or anything,” director of sport Gianluca Petrachi insisted, “We’ve done deals in the past that haven’t been acceptable from the fans’ point of view, but we have to make judgements based on what’s in the interests of the team. If we were to believe the player would help us improve we’d definitely consider him. Maresca shouldn’t be afraid of throwing himself into this experience. He’s a leader. He has great character. There shouldn’t be any problems with his past.”
But there are. Which is absurd really. Because it’s not like Maresca is Mr Juventus like, for example, Beppe Furino, Antonio Conte or Alessandro Del Piero were in the past. After moving to Turin from West Brom at the beginning of the century, he was a squad player who, every other year, was either sent out on loan to Bologna or co-owned by Piacenza in his four seasons on their books.
When Maresca definitively left in 2004, he joined Fiorentina, a club whose fans hate Juventus every bit as much as Torino’s do. They accepted him as one of their own once he’d undergone a thorough “de-hunchbacking”, the ritual former Juventus players have to go through on moving to Fiorentina.
If Maresca is associated with one club, it’s got to be Sevilla with whom he spent four seasons as part of the team that won the UEFA Cup twice, as well as the European Super Cup, Copa del Rey and Spanish Super Cup. Torino fans, however, don’t see it that way. It matters little to them that only 58 of his 426 professional appearances came for Juventus. To them, it’s too many. To them, he’s a gobbo, a hunchback of the worst kind.
Accordingly, La Gazzetta dello Sport has called their stance medieval. “Love for your team can also express itself by favouring its reinforcement,” wrote Luigi Garlando. “Is Maresca the right man [for Torino’s midfield], at 33 and after only 16 appearances [for Sampdoria] last season? This is a legitimate question.” The rest, certainly in this case, should be irrelevant.