In his hometown of Massa, Roberto Mussi is still viewed with hatred and derision. People spit on him when he walks by. Shopkeepers refuse to serve him, and little children cry when his name is mentioned.
Mussi played right-back for Italy in the 1994 World Cup Final. Although he had a solid career, he wasn’t celebrated and few people would have selected him for a starting position.
Mussi will always be remembered for Roberto Baggio missing a penalty kick, thus handing the World Cup to Brazil. From his position at the bottom right of the pitch, Mussi spectacularly failed to prevent Baggio from missing the penalty.
When the tournament ended, his career limped on by nobody could forgive him for his role in Baggio missing the penalty. Today, across much of Italy, Roberto Mussi is still regarded as a hate figure for failing to stop Baggio’s error.
This story isn’t true.
Roberto Mussi is, for all I know, a very nice and respected man. To be honest, I’d never heard of him until I Googled “Italian right-back 1994 World Cup final” a few moments ago.
The point is that it would be ridiculous to blame Mussi for Baggio’s missed penalty. While both were ultimately responsible for the result of the match, clearly Baggio had the greater influence.
If we can agree that right-backs are ultimately less influential in football matches than strikers, why do we continue to blame junior government parties for the decisions of senior government parties?
The debate around this week’s general election has ignored the fundamental truth that the Irish political system is based on compromise.
Ireland has a coalition political system. It’s a system of government that ensures nobody is really happy – the bigger party has to tolerate some things it doesn’t like in return for most of the things it does, while the smaller party has to tolerate a lot of things it doesn’t like in return for some of the things it does.
It’s ridiculous, but so is life.
Only twice in the last 43 years has one party ruled – one of these governments bankrupted the state and the other lasted for eight months. Both were Fianna Fáil.
The only certainty we know about Friday’s election is that it will result in two, three or four of the seven parties currently in the Dáil being forced into relatively unhappy lives together. None will be able to get their way all of the time. None will be able to do all of what they are telling you they will.
Our elections determine which parties will be forced to compromise with each other, and what weighting they will be given in those negotiations.
Why do we continue with the lunacy of pretending all government parties agree with all of government policy when the entire system is designed to ensure they do not?
More importantly, why do we insist on repeatedly battering junior coalition members over the head when the simple reality is a) they can’t get everything they want in government, and b) they have to tolerate decisions they don’t like simply because they are outnumbered in cabinet.
Labour is currently being punished for not being able to implement 100% of its policies with 20% of the national vote. Our failure to grasp the problem here suggests that perhaps the Silicon Valley executives are right when they say Ireland needs to invest more in the teaching of mathematics.
Regardless of which party you vote for, we know three undeniable truths:
1) The best they can hope for is to be sitting around a table with another party they don’t particularly like trying to figure out a compromise government.
2) This compromise will ensure that they will not be able to implement all of what they are telling you they will.
3) When the next government ends, we will all lampoon them for failing to implement 100% of their policies.
Why are we so determined to ignore the simple reality of the system that governs us?
Why are we so determined to give Roberto Mussi the Number 2 jersey and then blame him for not being able to beat Brazil on his own?