I’ve jaywalked. When I was young, I shoplifted some baseball cards. I’ve lied to my parents more times than I can count, and I can’t remember the last time I did meaningful exercise. From certain perspectives, I’m a terrible, sinful person.
I confess all this because end times are near, and I want to repent. The sun is starting to darken, and the earth is starting to tremble, though neither of those thing troubled me until I checked today’s results in Italian soccer. Last place Parma, embattled by financial and ownership woe, knocked off the reigning and future champions, Juventus, 1-0.
That’s 20th beating first, though that may the most flattering way to describe the divide between Italy’s cellar dwellers and it’s soon-to-be four-time defending champion. Juventus is 14 points ahead of Serie A’s second place team and had outscored its opponents by 43 goals going into today’s game. The club is one of eight teams that may still be crowned champion of Europe. Parma, on the other hand, had 13 points all season, four of which came in its last two games. The team had been outscored by 31 goals.
Yet at the hour mark of today’s game at the Estadio Enrico Tardini, those numbers become irrelevant. Thanks to the vision of forward Ishak Belfodil, who found his teammate, José Mauri, alone near the top of the penalty area, Parma was able to deliver its own sign of end times. As Juve midfielder Roberto Pereyra desperately tried to track down Mauri, the 18-year-old Argentine opened his foot onto the match-winner, fomenting the biggest shock of the Serie A season.
It was Juventus’ second loss of the season, not that it matters. With eight games to play, the team enjoys a four-plus game margin on second place. Even if Juve loses out, Roma would have to win more than half of its remaining nine matches to claim first. Though the giallorossi is now enjoying a two-game winning streak, it won only one of its previous seven games. Even if Juventus dropped the rest of its games, it might not be caught.
But Juventus is not going to lose out, if for no other reason than it’s likely to start stronger lineups going forward. On the road, at the worst team in the league, with UEFA Champions League action mid-week, head coach Massimiliano Allegri elected to rest a number of his stars. Add in injuries to players like star midfielder Paul Pogba and roughly half of Juve’s choice starting lineup was missing. Parma may have gotten three points, but it did so against an intentionally weakened opponent.
That said, this is still a great result for Parma. The club now has seven points in its last three games and is within 10 points of safety. With nine games to go and three terrible teams above it (none of Atalanta, Cesena or Cagliari have won any of their last four games), Parma could be hinting at the greatest of escapes. After all, the team’s seven points have come against relatively decent teams: 10th place Inter Milan, 13th place Udinese, and Juventus.
“We’re not mathematically relegated yet,” Mauri said after the match, noting it’s a shame Parma incurred a three-point penalty after falling into administration. Also a shame: Players not being paid all season, as well as the club having to auction off the most mundane of its possessions to help pay its bills.
Bankrupt, still facing debts and without stable ownership, it would be a joke if Parma stayed Italy’s top division. That’s not to say it can’t provide some drama. Serie A certainly needs something to talk about.