Followers of ASM Plus  sporting blogs will know that I maintain an interest in lower league football and have a soft spot for its underdogs. With this in mind spare a thought for Pro Piacenza of the Italian Seria C league who a couple of weeks ago were beaten 20-0 by their C league rivals, Cuneo. At half-time Piacenza were trailing 16-0 with Cuneo’s two strikers having notched up 11 goals between them.

Currently bottom of Italy’s third tier, Piacenza have had serious financial problems. Earlier this season they were deducted eight points because they had not fielded teams for their previous three fixtures, hence the resignation of the majority of their first team squad. Prior to this momentous defeat they had failed to play three fixtures. They managed to field the minimum number of required players for the match against Cuneo to go ahead, namely seven, with their 18-year-old captain doubling up as manager. During the match an eighth team member produced his registration documentation and was allowed to play.

The Italian Football Federation is not amused and described the result as “an insult to sport” and a farce. Intervention is anticipated, Piacenza’s registration may well be cancelled, and the club may well go into liquidation.

It would appear that the Italian authorities have not really given much consideration to the Piacenza players. As unsatisfactory an outcome as the 20-0 thrashing undoubtedly was, it was very noble of the eight team members to even contemplate let alone play for 90 minutes knowing they would be humiliated. This is a classic case of a small hapless band of players really doing the right thing and their bravery and commitment really should be acknowledged. One might even go so far as to say that in surviving the ordeal, the Piacenza players have participated to the full. In truth they are not so different to those who suffer heavy defeats in local tennis leagues or the unfit people who doggedly take up running or persevere in the gym. In a sense, to criticise Piacenza is to castigate all these people as well.

I suspect the full force of the Italian league authorities will be brought to bear and that the Piacenza club will disappear off the football radar sometime soon. There might be some irregularities to be addressed and blame to be apportioned but I sincerely hope that the authorities will acknowledge the eight players and allow them and however many supporters the club has to maintain some semblance of dignity.

In terms of a “classic” civil dispute there may be nothing to mediate.  However, I strongly suspect that any disciplinary or other proceedings that take place would benefit from the input of an independent facilitator who would be able to help the affected or interested parties to focus on the fundamentals and arrive at a solution. This input might not generate “happiness all round” but it might very well ensure that the qualities demonstrated by the Piacenza players are remembered for all the right reasons. An independent third party may well be able to facilitate some form of agreement to enable whoever is left at the club to pick up the pieces and move on at relatively little cost.