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Affaire Fantunes: interview with Enrico Marchiori

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  Hi Enrico, I’m calling to discuss what by now we are calling the “Fantunes Affair” or in other words, the exclusion of Nunes and Fantoni from the national team which will represent Italy at the Ostend European championships. I warn you that I’ve prepared a lot of questions for you. I’m ready!

This exclusion was expected, or was it a surprise for you?

For me it was a complete surprise, above all because we’re talking about a solid and well tested pair. I already commented on your blog, as you have surely read, Sbarigia’s first interview on the subject. I repeat that Ms. Lavazza is the technical official (hereinafter TO) and she has the duty and right to do what she believes to be best. However it’s clear that sometimes all the decisions are not agreeable to all. Everyone may or may not agree with another person’s free choice. At one time the custom was to rotate the players because the European championships were less important and were felt to be a preparation for the world championships. The custom was to try out new pairs at the European championships. Today all sports have changed, including bridge. My idea is that the best players must always play on the national team, and the experiments should be made outside of the national team. I repeat: we should always send the strongest pairs.

In effect World Ranking shows Fantoni as number one and Nunes as number three: but how trustworthy is such a classification? If you are number one in this ranking, does it also mean you are the strongest?

The ranking additionally depends on how many tourneys you play, as in tennis. And the ranking is not always truthful, But Fantoni and Nunes in any event are two of the six strongest players and must perforce be included in the national team. It isn’t a question of ranking but a question of the strength of the pair. Now we are removing a proven pair to include an experimental pair.

You’ve always been close to the Angelini team, you’ve been a personal friend of the sponsor since you were children. Some of our readers are amazed that there hasn’t been any reaction from him, knowing his strong and decisive character.

Francesco Angelini is about to become a grandfather, within a few days his oldest daughter Francesca will have a baby girl. You understand that there’s a lot of agitation in the family, there are more important questions. I’ve spoken with Angelini but certainly in this situation I didn’t touch on the subject of the national team.

To sum up, Francesco Angelini is busy with serious and pleasant matters, on the other hand, how do you think Nunes and Fantoni reacted?

I remember my father-in-law (Belladonna, editor’s note) who went wild when he didn’t play. He liked to play always and I learned firsthand with what passion a champion would always want to play. For Giorgio Belladonna playing was not only carrying out his job, it was the pleasure of playing; even in the evening when he played small tournaments he became angry if he lost! The force of the champion is this: that’s why I think that excluding them may have repercussions even on solid players like them. An exclusion may always injure your trust in yourself or your opinion of yourself, causing you to dwell on the reasons for such a decision. It can never please a champion not to play in the important championships: it could, how can I say, chip away at their strength.

Well then of what importance are these European championships: are they important, are they a place to experiment, a tournament of secondary importance, or what?

I would consider them similar to the European soccer championships: both are important tournaments. At one time the other teams were not as strong as they are today, years ago Italy didn’t have rivals, today they do. The other national teams are also well prepared and the championship is more important.

Is Italy still the favored team to win the European championships?

There are always those three or four strong countries, think of Norway or even Germany.

Today we received and published a comment by Fabrizio Catarsi who raises an interesting question. He invites us to consider the hypothesis that at the basis of Ms. Lavazza’s choice there is the desire to take a team to Ostend whose members get on well together and are in harmony, mentioning a certain discord which today is clearly evident in the Angelini team between the two strongest pairs, who according to him, “ can hardly stand each other and don’t even tolerate each other”.

In my opinion this doesn’t make sense: The pairs who play on the national team all do it in order to win the championship! We are talking about professionals, whether or not they love each other; they are the strongest who go on the national team and they go to win. As regards the climate within the Angelini team I don’t think you can talk about a strong conflict or even a strong dislike within the group. It’s normal that both pairs would like to be the number one in the world, even if the other pair is on the same team. It’s normal and right that there is a bit of rivalry.

There were many rumors, especially at Salsomaggiore, about an imminent divorce between Lauria/Versace and Angelini …

These rumors have always existed in bridge. And even so I wouldn’t see anything so shocking. Remember that Sementa was Angelini’s closest friend, Angelini considered him to be the son he never had, and then? Sementa went to play on the Lavazza team. It’s normal, sometimes it’s even good for bridge that there are changes within a team.

But Catarsi states that at the basis of Fantunes’ exclusion from the national team, there is the lack of harmony within the Angelini team.. in a few words: one of the reasons they were not convened was because there are two pairs who cannot coexist amicably within the same team.

Well if this is the truth, then why didn’t the TO make a public statement? Why doesn’t she explain the situation, thus giving rise to gossip? I don’t think Ms. Lavazza has given such an explanation.

According to you though the climate which arose around the surprise convocations for the national team announced on April 15, could have created some problem within the Angelini team and in substance, this could have influenced the results at Salsomaggiore? After five consecutive years the Angelini team lost precisely to the Lavazza team?

What you are saying isn’t wrong, in fact Ms. Lavazza’s choices may cause an increase of some tension instead of toning down or eliminating it. If there has been some disaccord, Ms. Lavazza’s choice has certainly amplified it. Ms. Lavazza in addition to being the TO of the national team, is still the leader of her own team, and having become TO of the national, she removes one of the base pairs of the Angelini team. Two plus two make four?

Are you alluding to a possible conflict of interest?

If Fantunes had been convened, certainly no one would have invoked a conflict of interest

But is there high tension between Maria Teresa Lavazza and Francesco Angelini?

They certainly don’t love each other.

A lot of people complain about a lack of communication on this matter. It was easy to imagine that many bridge players and lovers of the game would be surprised. The average bridge player today asks, why is the number one bridge player in the world not on our national team? But above all, why does no one explain this officially?

I agree that the TO should give an explanation both to the members of the federation and to public opinion. In the last few years we have always sent the strongest possible team, now suddenly we change and make an experiment: why? It would be opportune to talk about it and explain it. You see, finally now an official communication would be appropriate, precisely in order not to leave room for so many improper conjectures. The crucial point is this: correct communication. In this connection I take the opportunity to praise new and interesting initiatives like yours (web radio, blog etc.) because the more we talk about bridge and give out information about it, the more we benefit this game, which is a source of pride to Italy and merits every attention from the media.


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