I Gufi

They know everything. They see everything. I Gufi are watching every move — every detail with expert eyes.

Except they are not. They are aloof, detached — they miss the point; regularly. They are so quick to swoop down and tell everyone where they are wrong, how I Gufi are right — that they invariably land themselves in a mess of arguments and insults; becoming the prey themselves. Prey, to fact. For in the food chain of football fandom, fact and belief will find I Gufi no matter where they are hiding.

As an outsider desperately trying to follow the comings and goings of pre-season in the lower leagues of Italian football, it is all too easy to be trapped by the words of I Gufi. They speak with confidence, authority — they push their viewpoints across as though thought and wisdom have gone into them. As you get to know them, as I Gufi are made known, they become the rantings of someone looking to be seen, rather than the sage wisdom of a loyal club fan they claim to be. Imposters!

They are ranters, impatient spouters. They want the club to be doing badly, because criticism is their comfort blanket. They only feel at peace when they are able to make the reader (the manager, the players?) feel uncomfortable through their words — not actions. So you try to ignore them. Take on face value that what they say, is being said for reaction. You move on. They don’t.

They are becoming easier to spot. As I spend another pre-season trying to break down, in my head and through the use of Google Translate, the comings, goings and stayings within the Pro Vercelli set up (my slice of lower league joy), I know that I Gufi are hovering. This is peak hunting time for them. The season is yet to start so they can point to where it will all go wrong. They can identify which players should have stayed, which ones should have gone and the star players the side needs in order to stay up in Serie B.

Without action on the pitch, their expertise cannot be challenged with facts. Responses are futile. Theirs is the lone, repetitive voice.

The real issue with I Gufi is that they make some go the other way — arguing a point they may not fully believe in, simply to add the much needed balance the non-debate (shouldn’t) needs. They swoop, they attack and the rest defend. They defend the vacuum caused by another tirade against the unknown. Often, the unimaginable — unless you are I Gufi.

But like all birds of prey they give up the hunt once they are all too easy to spot. The sun will come up on the start of the new season; a positive campaign will get underway and I Gufi will disappear into the shadows. Until darkness returns. A mistake, a poor run of form or a cup exit — all fuel I Gufi. In a highly competitive league such as Serie B, there’s every chance that the form will continue to dip. Luck, like part time fans buying cheap tickets, will desert the club. Yet I Gufi remain. Perched, high up, spreading their views like wings of misery across the Internet.

So positivity, brothers and sisters. Let’s do our level best to remain positive and keep I Gufi at bay. To back the team, to give them time and, above all else, give I Gufi nothing to sour this, our season together.

In other languages I Gufi are: “experts”, “In the Know” (or more commonly the acronym ITK) or “moaning #@!?*”

Chris King writes occasionally about Pro Vercelli, an Italian football club from the city of Vercelli, in Piemonte (Piedmont), halfway between Turin and Milan. His writing is informed more by the views of the fans based on the time he spends with them, than necessarily what happens on the pitch.