1 December 2015

Salvatore 'Toto' Schillaci - footballer

Golden boy of Italia ‘90 now coaches future players

The star of Italy’s 1990 World Cup campaign, Toto Schillaci, was born on this day in Palermo in Sicily in 1964.
Toto Schillaci in action
Toto Schillaci in action

Schillaci was born into a struggling, working class household in Palermo. He began his football career with Messina in Sicily, playing in Serie B, but his goals earned him a move to Serie A giants Juventus in 1989.

He continued his scoring form, hitting 21 goals in his first season for Juventus, earning a call-up to the national team for the first time. He made his debut in a friendly in March, just three months before the World Cup finals began.

Small in stature, but agile, he owed many of his goals to his quick reactions in the box, which enabled him to snap up half-chances. 

Despite his status as a novice in terms of international football, coach Azeglio Vicini named him for the Italy squad seeking to win the World Cup as hosts.

Schillaci was the sensation of the tournament, coming off the bench to score the only goal in Italy's opening match against Austria.

Relive all of Toto Schillaci's six goals in Italia '90

After going on as sub again in Italy's second match, he made his first start against Czechoslovakia in the third of their group games and scored again, playing alongside Robert Baggio up front.

As Italy progressed, Schillaci grabbed further goals against Uruguay in the first knock-out round and Ireland in the quarter-finals, taking his team to a semi-final against Argentina in Naples, where he scored again but Italy's adventure ended in a penalty shoot-out.

A goal against England in the match to decide third place increased Schillaci's total to six for the tournament. He matched Paoli Rossi in 1982 by winning the Golden Boot as leading marksman, as well as the Golden Ball award as best player of the tournament.

Sadly, after Italia ‘90, Schillaci suffered a downturn in fortunes and would score only one more international goal, against Norway in 1991, in what would prove to be the last of his 23 appearances for the Azzurri.
Toto Schillaci in familiar pose
Toto Schillaci in familiar pose

Pundits began labelling him a one-hit wonder. The goals dried up at Juventus and he had a number of injuries. He fared no better when he moved to Internazionale in Milan in 1992. He fell out of favour with coach Osvaldo Bagnoli and the fans booed him. 

He was to enjoy a renaissance in Japan. Signing for Jubilo Iwata in the fledgling J-League, he became the first Italian to play professional football in Japan and scored 56 goals in just 78 appearances.

He retired in 1999, returning to his native Palermo, where he set up his own football academy and also served as a local councillor. 

Travel tip:

Palermo is the capital of Sicily, a vibrant city with a wealth of beautiful architecture bearing testament to its rich history. There are plenty of shops and markets to browse in and a large opera house.

Travel tip:
Juventus Football Club, colloquially known as Juve, play at Juventus Stadium in Turin in Piedmont (Piemonte). They are currently in fifth place in Serie A. Last Sunday (29 November) they beat Palermo 3-0.