/ Euro 2012

Diary of a hard-working journalist: Mason in Montecatini

Updated: Friday, 01 Jun 2012 12:51

Giovanni Trapattoni addresses the 'hard-working' journalists in the spa town of Montecatini The Republic of Ireland squad was given a civic reception in Montecatini
Giovanni Trapattoni addresses the 'hard-working' journalists in the spa town of Montecatini The Republic of Ireland squad was given a civic reception in Montecatini

The spa town of Montecatini rolled out the green carpet to welcome Giovanni Trapattoni, his squad and backroom staff on Monday evening, writes Glenn Mason, who is with the Republic of Ireland squad in Montecatini.

Mayor Guiseppe Bellandi, in the full regalia of his office, hosted the reception and greeted the players as they entered the Stabilimento Tettuccio spa.

Irish Ambassador to Italy Patrick Hennessy and the well-dressed locals were joined by a large group of casually-dressed Irish journalists.

Another person wearing the sash of their title, and garnering way more attention than the dignitaries, was Miss Italy 2011 Stefania Bivone.

The hacks busied themselves frantically scribbling notes, taking pictures on their iPhones and generally trying to get close to the beautiful Stefania, who Mayor Bellandi referred to as a "lovely, sweet girl".

The reception was the first event of Irish Week as the town honours its famous visitors and several more items are on the agenda.

Even the local brass band joined in on the green theme by playing the tune that accompanies the terrace chant "Stand up for the Boys in Green".

There were several eloquent speeches and tributes paid to 'Mister Trapattoni', who responded by thanking the town for its hospitality on the team's behalf.

Some of the players looked relieved when they were allowed to leave early, while the blazers and a few hacks stayed behind to tuck into the Irish produce provided by Bord Bia.

The rest of Italy may be consumed by the Calcio Scommesse (match-fixing) scandal enveloping the national side, but the Irish have made their mark on Montecatini.

CAN WE HAVE OUR BALLS BACK?

This training camp was never going to be anything like as dramatic as that in Saipan in 2002. The excellent playing surface is certainly not a car park and the kit arrived on time.

The problem at this camp could be keeping hold of that kit, if Monday's training session is anything to go by.

Local children had gathered behind a fence to watch the team train at the Alberto Benedetti stadium, which is the home of Borgo A Buggiano.

Wayward shooting from the Ireland players sent several of the official Adidas Tango balls whizzing towards the fence.

The crafty kids managed to remove the balls from the training ground without climbing the fence and refused to return them.

Not even a plea from 1982 World Cup winner and local hero, Marco Tardelli, could persuade the children to part with their valuable souvenirs.

More balls went astray and kitman Dick Redmond was summoned to retrieve them from the trees behind the goal before the kids got to them. "It's a joke," said an exasperated Redmond.

MEN ABOUT TOWN

Earlier in the day, as the players worked in the gym, members of the backroom staff took some time out to browse the many shops in the pretty town centre.

In a sign of the relaxed atmosphere around the camp, the players were later given some time off to wander around and several mingled among the tourists.

There are numerous posters welcoming Trapattoni and the team to the town. Green, white and orange bunting hangs across many of the narrow streets.

However, one resident, perhaps keen to show some patriotism, has responded by hanging blue and white bunting across his street.

The town of around 20,000 people is best known as a spa town and tourist spot. It is a starting point for many trips to the major cities in the area, such as Pisa, Florence and Siena.

Its natural spas have given the town a reputation as "the capital of well-being, beauty and regeneration", according to a local information booklet.

The perfect place for hard-working journalists to unwind then.