That Time Gianfranco Zola Sent All of Liverpool For A Snack

When employees of a certain nature get fired, they make a scene and do some things that end up with Karen from HR filing a report. Papers get tossed, becoming airborne razors for exposed skin, but those don’t hurt as much as the words that are flung in every direction like a machine gun in the hands of the Tasmanian Devil.

This doesn’t describe the behavior of the vast majority of employees, but neither does the time Gianfranco Zola sent all of Liverpool, not just the club but the whole city (Everton supporters included, soz) for a snack.

Let’s set the table.

First off, Gianfranco Zola is an incredible name – one of the best any of us has ever heard – and it’s fun to say. He looked like a kid in those oversized kits from the 90s and was definitely the most gifted short person in sports you’ve ever seen during the period of 1989-2003, bar none. (He played before and after that, but we’re going to ignore all of it.)

If you couldn’t guess by his name, he’s Italian, and if you’re unfamiliar with soccer or ‘calcio’, Italians are really comfortable kicking a ball around. Like, really comfortable – as comfy as a Pendleton blanket and board shirt combo. Zola was truly ridiculous with a ball at his feet, so much so that you have to watch his highlights over and over out of disbelief that the things he did were real.

What he did to defenders was a joke. I only know from YouTube, as I was four and eating applesauce with my lunch by the time Zola joined Chelsea, but he was special; that you can tell from random highlight videos.

Gianfranco Zola (can’t say it enough) is 5’6″ with spikes on his boots, a fact much appreciated by Diego Maradona (mere centimeters taller) during their Napoli days. Zola would watch Diego take free-kicks during practice, trying to get the ball to move in a way that seemed like it was attached to a twirling zip line. Diego could do it, he had the sauce; Zola had to work to find his sauce, but damn, he sure as hell found the recipe.

(Diego got a little too saucy during his time as a deity in Napoli, but it’s mostly due to the fact that he was often very high on cocaine.)

When Chelsea FC imported Zola in 1996, English football gained a “clever little so-and-so,” in the words of Sir Alex Ferguson. Controlling the ball like he’s walking a seeing eye dog, it does what he wants without him having to look at it, allowing him to focus on potential targets – unwitting defenders with weak ankles and blacked out boots. They look hard, but with a faint, flick and a toss, a man smaller than Spud Webb brings them to the ground or puts them in a spin cycle, sent whirling into the advertising boards.

He’s scored goals that would win beauty pageants, won trophies shinier than Charles Barkley’s forehead during ‘serious’ interviews.

Gianfranco Zola accomplished a lot during his career, but one of his finest moments was during his last match in a Chelsea shirt. He only played twenty minutes, but during a very brief period, he managed to commit three murders, all of which occurred on live television. .

Holy shit. Even the FBI agent watching your screen uttered ”fuck me” under his breath before momentarily locking eyes with the agent who shares the same table at the new open office plan at Langley. (He won’t speak of it again, even as a little inside joke between the two of them, and it’ll only get more awkward; he never even introduced himself to his deskmate; your assigned FBI agent is a fucking wimp. When you bought that leather jacket that looks like it was made for Steve McQueen, he gasped and wondered where he could wear it; he knows he would never wear it out, just sadly looking at it hanging in the closet before he goes for his ’safe’ sweater instead.)

You should probably watch that ten more times. Oh, you did? Star pupil.


That was something. It all happened so fast – Jamie Carragher swept up in Zola’s essence and sent to the floor twice. Twice in four seconds. Mercy.

Who cares who the two other guys were, ’cause they’re dead too. Slaughtered with footwork so silky that it’d make your dance instructor blush, and it was all recorded on television, and then uploaded to the internet for everyone to enjoy in perpetuity.

Go ahead, watch it again.

It’s nasty, but in a way that would get your mom to kick a deflated ball around in the safety of the backyard, instead of placing her hands over your eyes.

It’s fucking brutal, ruthless bone collecting that should have forced Chelsea into locking up Lil Zola with an extension to his contract, but instead, it’s a final goodbye, a perfect message of thanks from the brilliant man, only with some Christian Bale in American Psycho vibes.

Those feet are like Chris Paul’s hands, perfectly coordinated and created specifically for kicking a ball, whether it’s a running backheel that squeaks into the lower corner at the near post, or curling over a wall of 5’10 defenders with questionable haircuts. Goalkeepers of the highest caliber are utterly useless, frozen in place with synapses going off at a pace too rapid to calculate in time, rendering them motionless. Even if they dove in the right direction, there’s too much behind the ball for a gloved hand to affect the ball’s trajectory.

He was in his bag every day, but on his final day as a Blue, Gianfranco Zola destroyed the livelihood of three men, simply going about his business.

What a player.

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