Football: No rest for the big cheeses: Europe's aristocrats visit Tottenham while England's youngsters dent Dutch confidence at Portsmouth

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The Independent Online
A CLUE as to why Internazionale and Real Madrid flew all the way to London to play Spurs in a triangular tournament at White Hart Lane last night came in a note from the sponsors, Fiorucci. They are, it said, about to launch a range of mozzarella and ricotta cheeses in Britain. Never mind 'too much football', bring on the fromage.

There had to be some reason why Inter and Real Madrid should allow themselves to be thus distracted at such highly delicate moments in their own league championships.

'It's good to take a break from our tough domestic programme and to try ourselves against different styles and tactics,' Terry Venables, Spurs' chief executive, wrote unconvincingly.

It looked anything but 'a break' for the players as they sped through three 45-minute matches with a purpose that belied the global (in)significance of the 'Fiorucci Cup'.

You could tell which side Fiorucci sponsor without having to look at logos on shirts. Why else, if not to please their backers, would Inter risk Darko Pancev, Luigi De Agostini and Toto Schillaci when they are just four points behind their city neighbours, Milan, at the top of Italy's Serie A? Pipe down, anybody who says: to support the spirit of Maastricht.

Football clubs treat fixture lists like crosswords. If they see an empty box they try to fill it. Last night's competition was arranged at just two weeks' notice and came only five days after Spurs had travelled to Spain to play Real Zaragoza in another supposedly educational encounter. While parliament fiddles, European integration continues apace in football.

And Britain is winning, in a sense. Both Inter and Real were sucked into a frantic, barging style of play at odds with our romantic notions of how it is done in the Bernabeu or San Siro stadiums. Schillaci - who looks alarmingly like Peter Richardson from The Comic Strip - managed to dash and dart without looking as if his life depended on it.

For the 7,651 fans who forsook pubs and living rooms, it was treat enough to see some of the best of Italy plus Emilio Butragueno, the great stalwart of Real. It may not be our last view of such triangular trivia: Fiorucci assure us that the format is highly popular in Spain and Italy because it places the emphasis on attack and adventure (frenzy seems a better word). This was only 'the first in a series of (such) appointments', the company said.

Buy the cheeses, see the stars. Not such a bad exchange.

FIORUCCI CUP: Real Madrid 1 Tottenham 0; Internazionale 6 Tottenham 5 (on penalties); Real Madrid 2 Internazionale 1. Real win tournament.

(Photograph omitted)

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