Unbelievable. Breathtaking. And did this really happen.
Let’s begin with the background.
Sunday witnessed the meeting between Mazara and Villabate in the Sicilian League of Excellence, a 32 team championship divided into two groups of 16, Group A and B. The winner of the championship gets to play in Serie D. Mazara and Villabate are rivals, finishing 5th and 7th last year, with both sides gunning for promotion this season, sitting in first and second place in the league respectively.
Now, onto the action.
Things started happily enough for the hosts after striker Mario Erbini put Mazara in front with a brilliant back-post volley that ripped past the keeper into the net. Looking carefully at the footage, one can clearly identify Erbini arching his run away from the Villabate defenders (i.e. clearly not offside) as the free-kick was being readied, before expertly connecting with the volley.
Naturally over-the-moon after scoring, Erbini peeled away from the the scene, running enthusiastically towards to halfway line, with the majority of his teammates dovetailing their striker looking to get involved in the celebrations. However, unbeknown to the Mazara players swept up in the euphoria, the referee (for some reason that for the life of us we cannot understand) decided to overrule the goal, with Villabate allowed to restart the play immediately.
And the result was dramatic.
With the Mazara team still celebrating Villabate marched on the attack, striker Tummarello carrying the ball up-field before chipping the stranded Mazara goalie from 35-yards out, with the officials signalling that Villabate’s goal was legal.
Understandably upset, Erbini and his Mazarese teammates Fedele and Calvaruso dashed over to the referee for an explanation. All three were sent off, the Nino Vaccara stadium erupted, and a game a of “catch” quickly transpired as the ref was chased all over the pitch by the raging Mazara players.
After several minutes of madness, with players and staff of both clubs flooding the pitch, the referee was forced to abandon the match under the protection of a police escort.
Just when you thought the story couldn’t get any better, Mazare publish this statement on their website. “All the staff, players, coaches, directors and collaborators of G.S. Mazara 1946 declare themselves profoundly embittered, disappointed and enraged for what happened at the Nino Vaccara today, in what should have been the decisive game of the 2008-09 League of Excellence. A championship conducted without stinginess, but with sound finances, work and time has been compromised on behalf of the absolutely embarrassing and indecent match officials.”
The whole insane incident can be seen here.
(Thanks to excellent James Horncastle from from the Football Italia site for helping to translate this video for us, and filling in the blanks of this story.)