An American in B: The Palermo Zoo (or Zamparini is Burning)

          For a team that doesn’t win much, it’s amazing to me how unacceptable losing is to Palermo. Really, I can’t think of another team where losing is so unacceptable. Or maybe I should say I can’t think of another owner who can stomach losing less than Palermo owner Maurizio Zamparini. I think in his 25 years of owning soccer teams he has changed coaches something like 58 times. At Palermo, the joke is no longer about how often he changes coaches, but rather the joke is that he keeps offering two-year contracts to coaches. I mean really, two years? Try two months.

gattoLet me put in this way: our new coach Gennaro Gattuso was fired after six games—-and he is not the shortest tenure on record here! However, he may be remembered as the silliest firing. For those who have been reading my “An American In B” posts, you know I’m on record as a Zamparini fan. However, I am also strongly against random coaching changes and this point puts me at odds with Zamp. Coaching changes are really the lazy man’s way to try and solve a team’s problems. You can’t change all the players with a snap of the finger, but a coach you can fire easily, so owners do it just to look like they are in control of the situation.

But even as a Zamp fan, I must say he is way out of control of the coaching situation. He hired someone with zero coaching experience and fired him after six games. Not a bad deal for Gattuso since I think he netted something like 600,000€ for each of his games. But why would you hire a coach with no experience if you are only going to give him a month to prove himself?

And this is the crux of the Zamparini problem. He may have a grand business plan for the team, but he has never had a sporting one. There is no and never has been a five-year-plan in place to get the team to be an annually competitive team in Serie A. If Zamparini’s plan, and rightly so, is for Palermo to spend only one year in the second tier, then why hire a coach with no experience? It  makes no sense. It makes less sense though to fire him after six games. If you fire a rookie coach after six games, you cannot possibly blame the coach. It’s the owner’s fault. No plan here. Just darts getting thrown.

Changing coaches is rarely a positive move. I’m sure every reader has an example of coaching changes that changed the course of their team’s history, but these examples are noteworthy for their rarity. One problem is how few coaches there are that are really so effective in this way. Very few, so most coaching changes are really only nameplate changes and not talent upgrades. If Jose Mourinho wants to coach Palermo, Zamp should fire everyone in sight to sign him. But guess what? I talked to Mourinho. He loves Palermo, but doesn’t want to coach in Serie B.

And just to prove my point, remember that Palermo finished fifth in Serie A in 2009-10 season. Think about that, they were the fifth best team in Italy and missed a Champions League slot by just a couple of points. Since then, by my count, Zamparini has changed coaches 12 times and the team has done nothing to but slip lower and lower and lower. Clearly, switching coaches is not the answer.

Now this is no way a knock on our new coach Giuseppe Iachini, who is not only a former Palermo midfielder, but as a coach he is in fact a specialist in taking teams from Serie B to Serie A—so we can only hope he can do it one more time. And the back-story now emerging is that Zamp wanted Iachini before Gattuso, but Iachini wanted to wait on an offer from a Serie A team. When no offer came, Gattuso’s days became numbered, because with Iachini available, Zamp was just waiting for a couple of losses to make the change. Two road losses in five days, against La Spezia and Bari, sealed the deal. Iachini was hired before Gattuso got to the locker room after the latter loss.

Let’s Get Vertical

So this is the hand we now have. And at least it got off to a good start. In front of a sparse crowd at Stadio Barbera, Palermo got a win over lowly Juve Stabia 3-0. And Iachini, who trained the team for only three days must have emphasized verticalization,  because the team’s approach did at least reflect that change: less side-to-side passes and more English-style longballs to our strikers. Di Gennaro puched home the first goal, Hernandez earned another penalty kick and once again a Lafferty free kick shook La Favorita, his rifle leg scoring to close out the first day game of the season. But many problems persist on this team, of that there is no doubt. The only doubt is if Zamparini will give Iachini time to resolve them.

Gary Drake
Gary Drake
Gary Drake is American freelance writer who lives year-round in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily. Gary has lived in several big American cites and spent time in Milan before settling in Sicily. He is the author of "Silent Bell" "Digital Lives" "Daily News of Sicily" and "Conversation With A Settler". Gary's pastimes include, among many things, Palermo soccer, baseball, Dylan, Sicilian history, philosophy, and discussing the meaning of life with the wise sages that gather at the coffee shops of Castellammare del golfo.

Related Articles

Stay Connected

Digital nomads? Time off? Retiring? Here your place.. in Sicilyspot_img

Latest Articles