Ciao bambinos. Italian soccer is back at last. Six weeks after most other major European domestic leagues started play, calcio begins tomorrow.
The Italians postponed their big kick off to accommodate the Under-23 national side's bid for Olympic glory. What a waste of time! Marco Tardelli's side came up well short of expectations, losing in the quarter-finals.
Following the summer's roller-coaster ride at Euro 2000 and now this Olympic debacle, Italian fans must be relieved to welcome back Serie A action.
So, to greet their admirers around the world, the Italian Federation have scheduled a rip-roaring fixture to herald the new campaign. Well, not exactly. A drumroll, please, for ? Bari v Verona.
Things improve later the same night, however, with Napoli v Juventus. This marks Napoli's return to the top flight and they could hardly expect a tougher baptism. Juve have already racked up a win and two draws in Champions' League play so will be primed and ready for the trip south.
Talking of the European Champions' League that yawning gap in the schedule left by ESPN's abdication is still a cause for grievance. STAR Sports' olive branch to ECL fans, the Saturday taped match, seems to be just another excuse to show Manchester United. What other reason could there be for making this week's game in Eindhoven the match of choice when they could have had Leeds pummelling Besiktas or Arsenal outplaying Lazio.
We may not have live ECL action in Hong Kong but with Serie A's arrival there is a fine cross-section of the best European club football available. Add Italian to the English and German matches already on CABLE, plus STAR Sport's Spanish games and you couldn't ask for more. Well, maybe French, Portuguese and Dutch but that would be greedy.
TVB have quietly moved in on the act, too. With minimum publicity, barring the occasional in-house advertisement, the local channel have started showing the Spanish Primera Liga highlights show. Agreed, the same action can be seen on STAR but the more outlets the better. Also, the show time could be a bit more user friendly. After midnight on a Wednesday is not the ideal slot. The German Bundesliga highlights show that was sacrificed in Pearl's budget to make way for the Primera Liga was at the more civilised time of 11am on a Sunday morning.
This will be the third week of TVB's Spanish highlights. Pearl's Spanish commitment will also include a live match once a month.
Looking further ahead, World Cup qualifiers from Europe and South America resume the week after next, but the advance word form CABLE is that they have been unsuccessful in getting the rights to the England-Germany match. So England fans are forewarned to expect the worst. Or start making inquiries at the usual bars that pick up exotic satellite signals.