There’s an old, possibly exaggerated story that when Arsene Wenger took over at Arsenal, it was the first time English players had taken chips and pies out of their diet altogether.
It’s a nice thought, and paints a lovely picture of fleet-footed foreigners dancing past all the locals weighed down by carbs, so maybe people chose to believe it because they simply wanted to.
So, what’s the equivalent elsewhere? Belgian players unable to move under the weight of waffles and frites? A wily European manager weaning local MLS players off corndogs and deep fried Big Macs.
What about Italian players, though? Oh, I don’t know, they’re probably gorging on some nonsense like wine and pandoro, amirite?!
Chievo and Hellas Verona were drawn together in a local derby in the Coppa Italia, with the game taking place close enough to Christmas to justify the giving of gifts.
And what do Italians give each other at Christmas? Why, panettone, of course. Or, if you’re in Verona, pandoro – a similar cake, but without the fruit and with the addition of powdered sugar.
And what do Italians give each other at literally every waking opportunity? Yes, that’s where the wine comes in.
This is how Chievo captain Sergio Pelissier and Hellas skipper Rômulo ended up providing the unique gifts to one another in the centre circle. They literally exchanged panettone and wine before kick off.
The game ended 1-1, which obviously doesn’t give us much of an insight into how much of the cake and booze was consumed.
Either neither team had any, ensuring things stayed tight, or both XIs decided to dive straight in and cancelled each other out.
Hellas won the game on penalties. Were they buoyed by the powdered sugar of the gift their captain received? Well, we’d like to think not, because it’s a time of year for sharing, and surely they didn’t keep it all to themselves.