An edited version of this article appeared in the Cambridge United programme for the game against Tranmere on Saturday, 16 February 2019.
We’ve all seen some stupid bookings in our time, and we’ve all wished refs would wave the yellow a bit more freely when visiting teams start slowing the game down.
But cautioning a player for time-wasting before the game has even started seems a bit previous.
It happened to a United player on 9 December 1995, when Mr S Bennett booked Carlo Corazzin before a home Division Three match against Lincoln City.
The incident didn’t seem to affect the ref’s career: under the better-known moniker of Steve Bennett, he went on to attain a place among the ranks of FIFA-appointed officials.
What happened to incur his wrath? Depends on whom you ask.
According to Clive Vedmore, who wrote in to The Guardian’s The Knowledge column in January 2014, Carlo was entirely to blame for the booking, having repeatedly failed to kick off the match in the approved manner.
‘Carlo didn't seem to understand that the ball has to go forward and kept tapping it backwards,’ claimed Mr Vedmore. ‘After three or four attempts at retaking the kick-off, the official finally had enough and booked him.’
It fell to our old friend and U’s supporter Nader Khalifa to put the record straight. In a reply to the newspaper the following week, he pointed out where the first correspondent was mistaken: the incident he had attempted to describe was in fact even weirder.
‘Corazzin didn't touch the ball, only to see a Lincoln player steam in and take the ball off him, before the ref halted play and demanded a restart,’ wrote Nader. ‘However, after three starts, and three infringements by Lincoln players, the ref inexplicably booked Corazzin for time-wasting.’
Thanks for clearing that up, Nader. You seem to have understood what was going on, unlike most of us in the ground. We thought we were hallucinating.
If Mr Bennett’s actions that day didn’t impede his progress in the game, neither did they have much impact on Carlo’s. Our much-loved Canadian striker shook off the insult to star for United and several other clubs here and in his own country, and earn 59 international caps.
In 116 appearances for the U’s (plus one as sub) he scored 43 goals, and enhanced his tally with 23 strikes for Plymouth, 30 for Northampton and 20 for Oldham, before returning home and netting 14 times for Vancouver Whitecaps. His international career yielded 11 goals.
Born Giancarlo Michele Corazzin on Christmas Day 1971 in Westminster, British Columbia, he made his first big steps in football at the age of 16 in Italy, his parents’ native country to which the family had returned for a while. After spells with Fourth Division Giorgione and a level higher with Pievigina 1924, he returned to Canada and signed for Winnipeg Fury.
He was on his way up, and it was after being selected for his country’s 1992 Olympic squad that Carlo gained his first experience of playing against an English team. It was at the Abbey Stadium and it was another bizarre occurrence.
Some years before, our county FA had decided to broaden the horizons of the Cambridgeshire Professional Cup somewhat: it had already been won by Norwich and Northampton, and the following year would see Chester claiming the trophy. In March 1992, however, the association went all international on us and invited Canada’s Olympians to compete against the U’s in the ‘final’.
The visitors lost 4-0 in front of 600 semi-interested spectators, most of whom took note of the lively, all-action forward with a nose for goal.
Back in Canada, Carlo won the domestic title with Winnipeg then signed for Vancouver 86ers, where former Arsenal full back Bob McNab saw him and recommended him to Stoke.
His trial period in the Potteries ended when manager Lou Macari moved to Celtic, but ex-United keeper Graham Smith was instrumental in getting him a five-week trial at the Abbey. ‘I’d love to make a career in the League over here, and my family back home are right behind me on that,’ said the young hopeful.
United fought off competition from Coventry and Peterborough and paid £20,000 (bolstered by a generous sell-on clause) for the 22-year-old in December 1993. He scored his first goal in his third game in amber and scored one and made one in the next, a 3-0 defeat of Exeter after which manager Gary Johnson described him as ‘brilliant’.
Carlo gradually built up a lethal striking partnership with Steve Butler that culminated in a thrilling finish to the 1993/94 season in which United won 3-0 at Plymouth, 5-0 at Exeter and 7-2 at Cardiff. His full international call-up was not long in coming.
The following season saw Carlo sometimes adopting a deeper role behind Butler and Jason Lillis. But nothing seemed to be going right, and he was dropped for the first time in March 1995. He made a point by equalising as a sub in the last minute, only to see Oxford break upfield and score the winner.
He was recalled to the starting line-up but United’s results still weren’t good enough. After a goalless draw at Orient, O’s joint manager John Sitton mused: ‘If we had the likes of Corazzin and Butler in our side, I think we would be in the top six rather than the bottom six.’
Johnson was sacked, Tommy Taylor couldn’t save the team from relegation (the U’s finished fifth from bottom but went down as part of a rejig of the divisions) and Carlo, top scorer with 19 League goals, made it clear he was not enthusiastic about football in the basement.
A pre-season trial at Derby proved fruitless; Oxford offered £300,000 in cash for his services but were rebuffed. In October Carlo saw red for the first time in a 3-0 defeat at Northampton, after informing a linesman – correctly but a little too vehemently – that the ball had not in fact gone out of play. ‘I didn’t swear at him,’ he insisted.
He felt that he and Butler were under too much pressure to score goals because the U’s defence was leaking too many at the other end. ‘At the moment we’ve got to score three or four times to get anything out of the game,' he told the Cambridge Evening News.
Butler was sold to Gillingham soon after the Lincoln kick-off fiasco, and goals became harder to come by. In transfer deadline week Oxford were back with a bid for Carlo, and Luton and Plymouth also made their interest plain. Argyle won the auction and shelled out £150,000 for the Abbey favourite’s signature.
United had had little choice but to sell, observed Taylor: ‘[Carlo] made it clear he wanted to leave at the end of the season and might have gone to Portugal, which would have meant we wouldn’t have got a penny for him.’
So ended a stint at the U’s that had been adorned by frequent goals and the somersault goal celebrations that inevitably followed. His return to Canada saw him strike up a fruitful relationship in the national side with Paul Peschisolido and claim the golden boot for the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
He’s now an enthusiastic member of Cambridge United Former Players’ Association (managed by 100 Years of Coconuts) and earns a living as a pundit on a semi-national sports radio network in Canada.