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  • Monday, June 5, 2000

    Italian team wraps up tour in Toronto

     TORONTO (CP) -- It's been a long season for Reggina, put to the test in its first campaign in the cauldron of Italy's Serie A soccer.
     
     The club survived its initiation into the Italian top flight, finishing 12th in the 18-team league with a 9-12-13 record. Now it winds down a leisurely North American tour with a game tonight against the Toronto Lynx of the A-League.
     
     The Italians opened with a 0-0 draw with the Montreal Impact before 4,834 last Wednesday. Then it was on to Rochester for an 1-0 win Sunday over the Raging Rhinos before 8,886 before returning to Toronto for tonight's game at Varsity Stadium.
     
     The tour, budgeted at around $150,000, is the brainchild of the newly formed Reggina Calcio Association of Canada. The so-called Amaranto fan club (the Reggina colour is amaranto or burgundy maroon) has about 150 members.
     
     It's Reggina's first tour outside of Italy in its 86-year history.
     
     Given the size of Toronto's Italian community, a crowd approaching a sellout of 9,000 is expected tonight. That's good news for the Canadian backers of the trip, who had pledged to make good any shortfall out of their own pocket.
     
     The game doesn't count in the standings and Toronto coach and GM Peter Pinizzotto says he's trying to treat it as just another day at the office. But he admits to feeling some excitement and knows his squad is hyped about measuring themselves against an Italian first division team.
     
     "You watch these guys play every Sunday on TV and it's nice to have them here," Pinizzotto said after watching the Italians practise.
     
     "You want to show you're just as good, that you're not a step below anybody," Rhinos defender Scott Schweitzer told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
     
     Franco Colomba, the jut-jawed Reggina coach who used to play for Bologna, knows his team many not take these exhibition contests quite as seriously as their A-League opposition.
     
     "Inevitably the teams we are going to be playing are going to be geared up but we are not going to take it lightly and we're ready for the games," he said through an interpreter after practice at Varsity Stadium.
     
     Reggina is not at full strength for this tour. Midfielders Roberto Baronio, set to join Italian champion Lazio next season, and Andrea Pirlo and defender Bruno Cirillo are back home with the Italian under-21 side while Croatian midfielder Nenad Pralija is injured.
     
     Pirlo, on loan from Inter Milan, scored both goals Sunday as the Italians defeated the Czech Republic to win the European under-21 title.
     
     Goalkeeper Massimo Taibi, who did well upon joining Reggina on loan from Manchester United after some rocky moments with the English giant, is also absent. His loan period has ended and Taibi, who cost Manchester United $10.2 million Cdn, is expected to join Napoli.
     
     Two others, forward Mohamed Kallon of the Ivory Coast and defender Jeorge Vargas of Chile, are on national team duty.
     
     "There's no doubt that the quality of players missing . . . have had an effect. But this is an opportunity for the reserves to step in and show what can be done," said Colomba.
     
     The club is based in Reggio di Calabria in the south of Italy, located in the very tip of Italy's boot, facing Sicily. It's about 20 minutes from where Pinizzotto was born, although the Toronto coach remains an Inter Milan fan.
     
     Tonight's game will be Toronto's fourth in eight days. The Lynx are off to a hot start at 5-0-1.



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