4 September 2023

4 September

Giacinto Facchetti - footballer

The original - and best - attacking full back

The footballer Giacinto Facchetti, who captained Italy at two World Cups and won four Serie A titles plus two European Cups for Inter Milan, died on this day in 2006 in Milan at the age of 64.  He had been suffering from pancreatic cancer. When his funeral took place at the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio in Milan, more than 12,000 fans joined the mourners marking his life. His remains were then taken back to his home town of Treviglio in the province of Bergamo.  Apart from being regarded as the model professional and a pillar of moral decency, Facchetti was seen as a player ahead of his time, the first attacking full back who was a master in both disciplines of his game.  Under the coaching of Internazionale’s great Argentine-born coach, Helenio Herrera, he became integral to the defensive system known as catenaccio, of which Herrera was one of the highest profile advocates.  But Facchetti also knew exactly when to turn defence into attack and to exploit his speed and athleticism going forward. Inter were known as a defensive team but they were also one of the best at punishing opponents with rapid breakaway attacks. In more than 600 appearances for Inter, Facchetti scored 75 goals, the most by any defender in the history of football in Italy.  Read more…


Rita Atria - witness of justice

Tragic teenager who broke Mafia code of omertà

Rita Atria, the girl from a Mafia family in southwest Sicily who famously went to the police after her father and brother were both killed by criminal rivals, was born on this day in 1974 in Partanna, in the province of Trapani. She was just 11 years old when her father, Vito, ostensibly a shepherd but in reality a local Mafia boss, was shot dead by a hit man hired by a rival family. The killing took place in 1985, nine days before her brother, Nicolò, was due to be married. He vowed to avenge his father’s death and spoke openly about knowing who was responsible.  He and his bride, Piera Aiella, a local girl, were both 18 at the time of their marriage. Piera, who had known Nicolò since he was 14, did not wish to marry him but Vito had thought she would make his son a suitable wife, and had made it clear to her that she had little choice in the matter.  They had a child in 1988 and in 1991 moved to the nearby village of Montevago, where Nicolò set up a pizzeria.  The day he opened for business, in June, 1991, he and Piera invited a few friends to a modest celebration party. Read more…


Amadeus - TV presenter

Former DJ now one of Italian TV’s most familiar faces

The entertainment and game show presenter Amedeo Sebastiani - known professionally as Amadeus - was born on this day in 1962 in Ravenna.  In a small screen career spanning almost 35 years, Amadeus has fronted several major shows for both national broadcaster RAI and for the channels of the privately-owned Mediaset network.  He was the original face of the hit game show L'eredità - The Inheritance - which has been a fixture on Rai Uno since 2002 - and more recently he has become the regular host of Rai Uno’s annual New Year’s Eve variety show L’anno che verrà - The Coming Year.  Amadeus has also presented two of Italy’s biggest song contests, Festivalbar, and the Sanremo Music Festival, of which he is the current host and artistic director.  Sebastiani’s parents were both Sicilian, his father Corrado an accomplished horseman who taught his son to ride and passed on a passion for horses.  After doing his national service at a base in San Giorgio a Cremano near Naples, he worked in radio for the first time in 1979 for a small station in Verona, where he had moved with his family at the age of seven.  Read more…


Luigi Cadorna – Marshall of Italy

Tough military leader was blamed for losing crucial battle

Luigi Cadorna, a military General who was made a Marshall of Italy, was born on this day in 1850 in Verbania, on the shore of Lake Maggiore in the Piedmont region.  Cadorna is most remembered for his role as Chief of Staff of the Italian Army during the first part of the First World War.  His father was General Raffaele Cadorna, the Piedmontese military leader whose capture of Rome in 1870 completed the unification of Italy.  Sent by his father to a military school in Milan from the age of 10, he entered the Turin Military Academy when he was 15 and, after graduating at the age of 18, was commissioned as a second lieutenant of artillery.  He participated in the occupation of Rome in 1870 as part of the force commanded by his father.  After becoming a Major, Cadorna was appointed to the staff of General Pianelli and became Chief of Staff of the Verona Divisional Command.  From 1892 he was the Colonel commanding the 10th Regiment of Bersaglieri, where he acquired a reputation for strict discipline and harsh punishment.  He was promoted to lieutenant general in 1898 and subsequently held a number of senior command positions.  Read more…


Saint Rosalia

Little Saint ended the plague in Palermo

The Feast Day of Saint Rosalia is being celebrated today in Sicily, throughout the rest of Italy, in America, Venezuela and in many other countries.  Saint Rosalia, also known as La santuzza, or the Little Saint, is the patron saint of Palermo as well as three towns in Venezuela.  Centuries after Rosalia’s death, the people of Palermo believed she ended the plague when what they thought were her remains were carried in a procession through the city.  Rosalia was born in Palermo in about 1130 into a noble Norman family that claimed to descend from Charlemagne.  She became devoutly religious and eventually went to live as a hermit in a cave on Mount Pellegrino in Sicily.  There is a story that she was led by two angels to live in the cave and that she wrote on the wall that she had chosen to live there out of her love for Jesus. She is believed to have died in 1166 when she would have been about 36.  In 1624 when Palermo was afflicted by the plague, Rosalia appeared first to a sick woman and then to a hunter to tell them where her remains were to be found. She told the hunter to bring her bones to Palermo to be carried in a procession through the city.  Read more…


Book of the Day: Holding the Line: 25 Great Defenders and How They Changed Football, by Michael Herron 

There are many football books about the great goal-scorers and the entertainers of the game. There are even some biographies of great defenders. However, there has not been a book on defending as an art that also explains how a number of great defenders over time have either individually changed the game of football or did so as key members of important teams.  The book begins by highlighting the key principles of defending, not only for defenders but for midfielders and forwards. The main aim of Holding the Line, however, is to show how over the past 50 years, 25 great defenders have made significant contributions to changing the game of football primarily in World Cups and Champions League finals.  Michael Herron highlights how these players through their styles of play and roles within their teams helped their teams to become successful. By defining the roles of these players within their respective coaching systems the book explains how football has evolved over the past 50 years to its present state of play.

Having supported Celtic all of his life, Michael Herron might himself have been a footballer. Instead, he pursued a political career, working in Washington D.C. and for the Labour party in London. He was recently awarded a PHD in genocide studies from Kingston University in London. His first book was On the One Road to Lisbon, published in 2017.

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