Showing posts with label 1959. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1959. Show all posts

10 January 2019

Maurizio Sarri - football manager

Chelsea’s former Napoli coach is 60 today

Maurizio Sarri spent more than 20 years working in global finance before devoting himself to football
Maurizio Sarri spent more than 20 years working in
global finance before devoting himself to football
The football coach Maurizio Sarri - currently manager of Chelsea in the English Premier League - was born on this day in 1959 in Naples.

Sarri, who has an unusual background for a professional football coach in that he spent more than 20 years in banking before devoting himself to the game full-time, took over as Chelsea manager last summer, succeeding another Italian, Antonio Conte.

Previously, he had spent three seasons as head coach at SSC Napoli, twice finishing second and once third in Serie A.  He never played professionally, yet he has now held coaching positions at 19 different clubs.

Sarri was born in the Bagnoli district of Naples, where his father, Amerigo, a former professional cyclist, worked in the sprawling but now derelict Italsider steel plant.  It was not long, however, before the family moved away, however, first to Castro, a village on the shore of Lago d’Iseo, near Bergamo, and then to Figline Valdarno, in Tuscany, his father’s birthplace.

It was there that Sarri grew up and played football for the local amateur team. A centre half, he had trials with Torino and Fiorentina but was deemed not quite good enough for the professional game.

Sarri's Napoli team twice finished runners-up in  Serie A but were unable to overhaul Juventus
Sarri's Napoli team twice finished runners-up in
Serie A but were unable to overhaul Juventus
Instead, he focussed on a career in banking, finding employment with the prestigious Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, which has a history going back more than 500 years. He was held in such high regard as a currency trader he was posted to London, Zurich, Frankfurt and Luxembourg at times.

His love of football remained with him, however, and in 1990 he began coaching alongside his high-flying day job, first with the local amateur team at Stia, a pretty town in the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, close to the sources of the Arno river.  They were in the eighth tier of the Italian football pyramid.

Sarri left Stia after one season and continued to work with small Tuscan clubs, winning promotion promotion with Faellese, Cavriglia and Antella. When in 2000 he took over at Sansovino, the team representing the historic town of Monte San Savino, near Arezzo, he was so certain he could win promotion to Serie D in his first season he vowed to quit coaching and concentrate on his banking career if they failed.

As it was, they were promoted and he decided instead to quit banking, relinquishing a good salary and job security to focus full time on football.

Sarri achieved promotion with several small clubs in Italy
Sarri achieved promotion with
several small clubs in Italy
The decision looked a good one when he achieved more promotion success with another Tuscan club, Sangiovannese, whom he took to Serie C1, but less so over the following few years when spells in Serie B with Pescara, Arezzo (where he succeeded - and was replaced by - Antonio Conte, ironically), Verona and Perugia, and even a return to the lower tiers with Grosseto, Alessandria and Sorrento, yielded largely frustration and several sackings.

Sarri’s big break came in the summer of 2012 when, six months after being dismissed by Sorrento, he was hired as coach by Fabrizio Corsi, the chairman of ambitious Tuscan Serie B club Empoli, who judged that Sarri was a technically gifted coach who, given a squad of better quality than some of those he had worked with, would be able to achieve success.

His assessment was correct. Corsi backed him with some strong signings and, after just missing promotion in his first season in charge, when Empoli were beaten in the play-off final, Sarri led the team directly to Serie A at the second attempt.

After keeping Empoli safely in the top flight in the 2014-15, Sarri was taken on by Napoli, the club of the city of his birth, of which he had been a lifelong fan.  It seemed a bold choice to replace the proven Rafa Benitez but, it transpired, a shrewd one.

Having honed to perfection his fluid, attacking 4-3-3 system over the years, Napoli enjoyed three exceptional seasons. Playing the most exciting football in Serie A, Napoli set a club record by scoring 80 goals in the 2015-16 campaign, yet despite selling top scorer Gonzalo Higuain to arch rivals Juventus, surpassed it by a staggering 14 goals - the most scored by any team in one season in Serie A history - the following year.

Sarri is a heavy smoker - even during matches, although at  most grounds regulations do not permit him to do so
Sarri is a heavy smoker - even during matches, although at
most grounds regulations do not permit him to do so
They did so thanks to a Sarri masterstroke, converted wide player Dries Mertens into a free-scoring centre forward so that he could invest the €90 million from the Higuain sale in other areas of the team.

Napoli were Serie A’s campioni d’inverno - the accolade given to the team top at the halfway stage - twice in Sarri’s three seasons, even though he was never able to hold off Juventus in the late stages of the campaign. His reputation received a further boost, ahead of his move to England, when no less a coach than Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola described Sarri’s Napoli as the “best team I have faced in my career” following their meeting in the Champions League.

Famously a heavy smoker - he would chain-smoke even during matches in Italy - he is married to Marina with one son. He keeps his private life quiet, spending his downtime at his villa on the Italian riviera.

Sarri's assistant manager at Chelsea is the club's former star player, the Sardinian Gianfanco Zola.

The Piazza Marsilio Ficino is the main square in Figline Valdarno
The Piazza Marsilio Ficino is the main
square in Figline Valdarno
Travel tip:

Figline Valdarno, situated in the upper reaches of the Arno valley some 35km (22 miles) southeast of Florence, is an historic town that was a major cultural centre during the Renaissance. The centre is the Piazza Marsilio Ficino, an attractive market square, at the end of which is the church of Santa Maria Assunta, which adjoins the Museum of Sacred Art, in which can be found a panel painting from the late 1400s of the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, attributed to Cigoli.  An Annunciation painted by the young Cigoli can also be found in the Chapel of the Villa San Cerbone, where the refectory contains a Last Supper by Giorgio Vasari.  L'Antico Caffe Greco, in the centre, is run by a Napoli supporter, Agostino Iaiunese.

The Loggia dei Mercanti in Monte San Savino, where Sarri enjoyed success with the local team, Sansovino
The Loggia dei Mercanti in Monte San Savino, where
Sarri enjoyed success with the local team, Sansovino
Travel tip:

Perched on a mountain that overlooks the Esse Valley, about 22km (14 miles) southwest of Arezzo and inhabited since the Etruscan period, Monte San Savino, where Maurizio Sarri coached the local team to promotion, was the home of the notable 15th century sculptor and architect Andrea Sansovino, who lived in the town’s most prosperous era. Relics of that golden period include the Porta Fiorentina, the striking Sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Vertighe, several picturesque small churches, the Palazzo Di Monte, the Logge dei Mercanti and an impressive Synagogue. The town has an annual porchetta festival to celebrate the traditional Tuscan speciality of slow-roasted pig.

More reading:

The southern Italian roots of top coach Antonio Conte

Why Chelsea fans rate Gianfranco Zola their greatest player of all time

Ottavio Bianchi - the northerner who steered Maradona's Napoli to the club's first Serie A title

Also on this day:

987: The death of powerful Venetian Doge Pietro Orseolo

1890: The birth of silent movie star Pina Menichelli

1903: The birth of car designer Flaminio Bertoni


20 July 2018

Giovanna Amati - racing driver

Kidnap survivor who drove in Formula One

Giovanna Amati survived a 75-day kidnap ordeal when she was 18 years old
Giovanna Amati survived a 75-day kidnap
ordeal when she was 18 years old
Racing driver Giovanna Amati, the last female to have been entered for a Formula One Grand Prix, was born on this day in 1959 in Rome.

The story of Amati’s signing for the Brabham F1 team in 1992 was all the more remarkable for the fact that 14 years earlier, as an 18-year-old girl, she had been kidnapped by a ransom gang and held for 75 days in a wooden cage.

Kidnaps happened with alarming frequency in Italy in 1970s, a period marked by social unrest and acts of violence committed by political extremists, often referred to as the Years of Lead. Young people with rich parents were often the targets and Amati, whose father Giovanni was a wealthy industrialist who owned a chain of cinemas, fitted the bill.

She was snatched outside the family’s villa in Rome in February 1978 and held first in a house only a short distance away and then at a secret location, where she was physically abused and threatened with having her ear cut off while her captors negotiated with her 72-year-old father.

Critics accused Brabham of hiring  Amati as a publicity stunt
Critics accused Brabham of hiring
Amati as a publicity stunt
Eventually, Giovanni is said to have paid 800 million lira (about $933,000 dollars), for her release, having raised the money through a combination of box office receipts from the Star Wars movie playing at his cinemas, and from the sale of some of his 42-year-old former actress wife’s jewellery.

Seven of the kidnappers were arrested but the ringleader, a gangster from Marseille called Jean Daniel Nieto, evaded the police and got away. He was caught later after contacting Amati, with whom he had allegedly become infatuated, and agreeing to meet her on the fashionable Via Vittorio Veneto in the centre of Rome.

Amati, who has dismissed as untrue newspaper stories at the time that she and Nieto had become romantically involved, returned to normal life and the love of driving she had developed as an eight-year-old, when her father allowed her to drive a tractor on the family estate.

She bought a Honda motorcycle when she was 15 and was inspired to race cars by her friend, the dashing young Roman racing driver Elio de Angelis, with whom she attended a motor racing school.

She first raced professionally in the Formula Abarth series - effectively Formula Four - before graduating to Formula Three. She won some races in both yet it still came as something of bombshell when she was contacted by the then-Brabham boss Bernie Ecclestone in January 1992 and offered a drive in Formula One.

Giovanna Amati failed to qualify in any of the three Grand Prix she entered
Giovanna Amati failed to qualify in each of
the three Grand Prix she entered
With only weeks to raise the budget she needed to take up the offer, Amati feared she would have to turn down the chance of a lifetime. But at the 11th hour her dream was made possible by an unlikely benefactor, the prime minister, Giulio Andreotti, who had been a friend of her father, by then passed away.

Sadly, her excursion into F1 was not a success.  She failed to qualify for the first three races of the season, in South Africa, Mexico and Brazil, and was promptly sacked, to be replaced by Damon Hill, amid suspicions that, at a time when the Brabham team was desperately in need of exposure and cash, hiring a driver who happened to be an attractive, photogenic young woman was all a publicity stunt.

It was not the end of Amati’s career. She competed in sports and touring cars for a number of years with some success but by the end of the 1990s she was more often sitting alongside TV commentary teams than in the cockpit of a car.  Her compatriot, Lella Lombardi, who started 12 World Championship races between 1974 and 1976, remains in the last female to race in a Formula One Grand Prix.

The Vallelunga autodrome was the home of the Rome Grand Prix between 1925 and 1991
The Vallelunga autodrome was the home of the Rome
Grand Prix between 1925 and 1991
Travel tip:

Racing drivers in Rome have never had their own home Formula One event but a Rome Grand Prix took place at the Vallelunga circuit between 1925 and 1991. The Vallelunga track is near the town of Campagnano, about 32km (20 miles) north of Rome. It still hosts race meetings and is used by various F1 teams for testing. The city did almost get its first F1 World Championship event in 2013, when plans had been put forward for a street circuit in the EUR district of the city. The idea was eventually abandoned through lack of support and amid fears that it would undermine the supremacy of Monza, home of the Italian Grand Prix, as Italy’s number one racing circuit.

Monza's striking Duomo is one of a number of attractive architectural features in the city
Monza's striking Duomo is one of a number of
attractive architectural features in the city
Travel tip:

Monza, which has hosted the Italian Grand Prix every year since 1950, is situated about 15km (9 miles) north of Milan.  Because so many visitors are interested in little more than cars, Monza’s many notable architectural attractions tend to be under-appreciated. These include the Gothic Duomo, with its white-and-green banded facade, which contains the Corona Ferrea (Iron Crown), which according to legend features one of the nails from the Crucifixion. The crown is on show in the chapel dedicated to the Lombard queen Theodolinda.  The adjoining Museo e Tesoro del Duomo contains one of the greatest collections of religious art in Europe.

More reading:

How Lella Lombardi became the only female racing driver to win a point in a Formula One GP

Maria Teresa de Filippis - the first woman to start a Formula One world championship event

Elio de Angelis - the last of the 'gentleman racers'

Also on this day:

1890: The birth of 20th century still life 'master' Giorgio Morandi

1937: The death of radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi


14 June 2018

Salvatore Quasimodo - Nobel Prize winner

Civil engineer wrote poetry in his spare time

Salvatore Quasimodo is one of six Italians to win the Nobel Prize in Literature
Salvatore Quasimodo is one of six Italians to win
the Nobel Prize in Literature
Salvatore Quasimodo, who was one of six Italians to have won a Nobel Prize in Literature, died on this day in 1968 in Naples.

The former civil engineer, who was working for the Italian government in Reggio Calabria when he published his first collection of poems and won the coveted and historic Nobel Prize in 1959, suffered a cerebral haemorrhage in Amalfi, in Campania, where he had gone to preside over a poetry prize.

He was taken by car to Naples but died in hospital a few hours later, at the age of 66.  He had suffered a heart attack previously during a visit to the Soviet Union.

The committee of the Swedish Academy, who meet to decide each year’s Nobel laureates, cited Quasimodo’s “lyrical poetics, which with ardent classicism expresses the tragic experiences of the life of our times".

The formative experiences that shaped his literary life began when he was a child when his father, a station master in Modica, the small city in the province of Ragusa in Sicily, where Salvatore was born in 1901, was transferred in January 1909 to Messina, at the tip of the island closest to the mainland, to supervise the reorganisation of train services in the wake of the devastating earthquake of December 1908.

Much of the city had been destroyed in the quake, as had Reggio Calabria, just across the Straits of Messina, and Quasimodo’s family lived in a freight wagon in an abandoned station. The physical devastation all around them had a profound effect on Salvatore, as did his daily contact with survivors in their struggle to come to terms with the destruction of their surroundings and the catastrophic loss of human lives, with perhaps as many as 120,000 killed in the areas worst hit.

Quasimodo worked as a civil engineer before turning to writing full time
Quasimodo worked as a civil engineer before
turning to writing full time
Quasimodo attended college in Palermo and, later, the rebuilt Messina, where he was able to publish his poetry for the first time in a journal he founded with a couple of fellow students.

He graduated in maths and physics and moved to Rome, hoping to continue his studies with a view to becoming an engineer.  But he had little money and had to abandon his studies in order to earn a living, taking a number of short-term jobs. In time he moved to Florence, where he got to know a number of poets and developed an interest in the hermetic movement, a form of poetry in which the sounds of the words are as important as their meaning.

Eventually in 1926 he handed a position with the Ministry of Public Works in Reggio Calabria, working with civil engineers as a surveyor.  He continued to write and to study Greek and Latin, making friends both in literary and political circles, including an anti-fascist group in the city. He also married for the first time. His published his first collection of poetry, called Acque e terre (Waters and Lands) in 1930.

He was transferred a number of times with his job, to Imperia, Genoa and Milan, before he quit to write full time from 1938.  In 1941 he was appointed professor of Italian literature at the "Giuseppe Verdi" Conservatory of Music in Milan, a position he held until his death.

After the Second World War, in which he was an outspoken critic of Mussolini but did not join the Italian resistance movement, his poetry shifted from the hermetic movement to a style that reflected his increasing engagement with social criticism.

The area of the Sicilian town of Modica in which  Salvatore Quasimodo was born in 1901
The area of the Sicilian town of Modica in which
Salvatore Quasimodo was born in 1901
Among his best-known volumes were Giorno dopo giorno (Day After Day), La vita non è sogno (Life Is Not a Dream), Il falso e il vero verde (The False and True Green) and La terra impareggiabile (The Incomparable Land).

He won numerous prizes in addition to the Nobel Prize, in which he joined Giosuè Carducci (1906), Grazia Deledda (1926) and Luigi Pirandello (1934) as Italian winners of the Literature award. Eugenio Montale (1975) and Dario Fo (1997) followed him.

After his first wife had died in 1948, he was married for a second time to the film actress and dancer, Maria Cumani, with whom he had a tumultuous relationship that produced a son, Alessandro, before they were legally separated in 1960.

After his death in Naples, he was buried in the Monumental Cemetery in Milan in the Famedio - a place reserved for the tombs of famous people - alongside another great writer, novelist, poet and playwright, Alessando Manzoni.

Modica's spectacular cathedral of San Giorgio
Modica's spectacular cathedral of San Giorgio
Travel tip:

Built amid the dramatic landscape of the Monti Iblei, with its hills and deep valleys, the steep streets and stairways of the medieval centre combined with many examples of more recent Baroque architecture, including a spectacular cathedral, make UNESCO-listed Modica is one of southern Sicily's most atmospheric towns, with numerous things to see in its two parts, Modica Alta, the older, upper town, and Modica Bassa, which is the more modern but still historic lower town. Famous in Sicily for its chocolate, it has the reputation of a warm and welcoming city with an authentic Sicilian character.

Part of the dramatic cityscape of Ragusa
Part of the dramatic cityscape of Ragusa
Travel tip:

Nearby Ragusa, the principal city of the province and just 15km (9 miles) from Modica, is arguably even more picturesque. Set in the same rugged landscape with a similar mix of medieval and Baroque architecture. again it has two parts - Ragusa Ibla, a town on top of a hill rebuilt on the site of the original settlement destroyed in a major earthquake in 1693, and Ragusa Superiore, which was built on flatter ground nearby in the wake of the earthquake.  A spectacular sight in its own right and affording wonderful views as well, Ragusa Ibla may seem familiar to viewers of the TV detective series Inspector Montalbano as the dramatic hillside city in the title sequence. The city streets also feature regular in location filming for the series, based on the books of Andrea Camilleri.

More reading:

Giosuè Carducci - Italy's first winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

Dario Fo - the outspoken genius whose work put spotlight on corruption

The playwright born in a village called Chaos

Also on this day:

1800: Napoleon defeats the Austrians at the Battle of Marengo

1837: The death of the poet and philosopher Giacomo Leopardi


10 June 2018

Carlo Ancelotti - football manager

Four-times winner of the Champions League

Carlo Ancelotti in the Milan colours in which he twice won European football's top prize as both a player and a manager
Carlo Ancelotti in the Milan colours in which he twice won
European football's top prize as both a player and a manager
Carlo Ancelotti, a former top-level player who has become one of football’s most accomplished managers, was born on this day in 1959 in Reggiolo, a small town in Emilia-Romagna.

With Real Madrid's defeat of Liverpool in the 2022 final, he became the only manager to have won the UEFA Champions League four times - twice with AC Milan and twice with Real Madrid. He is also the only coach to have managed teams in five finals.

Ancelotti, who has managed title-winning teams in four countries, is also one of only seven to have won the European Cup or Champions League as a player and gone on to do so as a manager too.

As a boy, Ancelotti often helped his father, Giuseppe, who made and sold cheese for a living, in the fields on the family farm, which is where he claims he acquired his appreciation of hard work.

But despite the cheeses of Emilia-Romagna having international renown, especially the famous Parmigiana-Reggiano, he saw how his father struggled to make enough money to feed his family and vowed to make more of his own life.

Ancelotti is one of the most accomplished coaches in world football
Ancelotti is one of the most accomplished
coaches in world football
His talent for football, allied to that work ethic, enabled him to fulfil that promise.

After playing for his local youth team in Reggiolo, Ancelotti was snapped up as a teenager by Parma, making his debut in Serie C - the third tier in Italian football - in the 1976–77 season, at the age of 18. His two goals in the decisive play-off earned the gialloblu promotion to Serie B the following year.

He joined Roma in 1979, staying in the capital for eight trophy-laden seasons, winning the Coppa Italia four times and his first Serie A title in 1983, under the great Swedish coach Nils Liedholm.

Then came six seasons with Arrigo Sacchi’s magnificent AC Milan team, which won the Scudetto - the Serie A title - in 1988, and the European Cup in both 1989 and 1990. He won his third Scudetto when Fabio Capello replaced Sacchi as manager.

An efficient and assiduous midfield player, he could create goals and score them, which earned him a place in the Italian national team, although injuries restricted him to 26 senior caps and caused him to miss the 1982 and 1986 World Cups as well as the Olympics in Seoul in 1988.  He did win a bronze medal as part of the Azzurri squad at the 1990 World Cup on home soil.

As a mentor to several future top-class players, including Giuseppe Giannini, Demetrio Albertini and Andrea Pirlo, Ancelotti displayed burgeoning man-management skills even while still a player.

Ancelotti with the Champions League trophy after winning it for the third time with Real Madrid in 2014
Ancelotti with the Champions League trophy after winning
it for the third time with Real Madrid in 2014
Persistent knee injuries forced him to quit at the age of 33. He moved immediately into coaching with the Italian Football Federation at the national training headquarters at Coverciano, near Florence, where he rose to be assistant to his former Milan manager Arrigo Sacchi on the Azzurri coaching staff as Italy reached the final of the 1994 World Cup.

Ancelotti stepped on to the club management ladder in familiar territory with Reggiana in Serie B in 1995. He had to wait seven years for his first major trophy, but claimed the biggest prize first as AC Milan, his fourth club after Reggiana, Parma and Juventus, won the 2002-03 Champions League final, defeating Juventus in the final on penalties.

Now major trophies came thick and fast: a Serie A title with Milan in 2004 and a second Champions League in 2007, when victory over Liverpool in the final in Athens made up for the catastrophe of losing the 2005 final to the same opponents in Istanbul after being 3-0 up at half-time.

The Stadio San Paolo in Naples, where Ancelotti takes up his next management position in July
The Stadio San Paolo in Naples, where Ancelotti takes
up his next management position in July
Moving to England, he led Chelsea to a Premier League-FA Cup double in 2009-10, won the French Ligue 1 title with Paris St Germain in 2013, followed by a third Champions League with Spanish giants Real Madrid in 2014.

After taking some time off for a back operation, Ancelotti resurfaced at Bayern Munich, where he succeeded Pep Guardiola and led the German giants to their fifth consecutive Bundesliga title. But lack of success in the Champions League led to his dismissal in September 2017.

He later had spells with Napoli back in Italy and Everton in England, before returning to Real Madrid in 2021.

Having been with his first wife, Luisa, for 25 years before they divorced in 2008, Ancelotti is now married to the Canadian businesswoman Barrena McClay, whom he met while they were both working in London. He has two children, Katia and Davide, from his first marriage. Davide was on his father’s coaching staff at Bayern Munich.

(Updated on 09-06-22)

The Rocca di Reggiolo in Ancelotti's home town
The Rocca di Reggiolo in Ancelotti's home town
Travel tip:

Ancelotti’s home town of Reggiolo is close to the border of Emilia-Romagna and Veneto, about 32km (20 miles) north of Reggio Emilia in the Padana plain. It is the same distance from Mantua in the Veneto and was the frequent target of attacks between the 12th and 14th centuries, when Mantua and Reggio disputed possession. This led to the construction of the impressive walled castle that remains the town’s main feature.

Piazza San Prospero in Reggio Emilia often hosts a market
Piazza San Prospero in Reggio Emilia often hosts a market
Travel tip:

Although the city of Reggio Emilia is often described as the home of Italy's world famous hard cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano - known in English as Parmesan - is thought to have originated in the commune of Bibbiano, in the Reggio Emilia province, about 15km (9 miles) to the southeast.  The province is also believed to have given Italy its tricolore national flag, with evidence that a short-lived 18th century republic, the Repubblica Cispadana, had a flag of red, white and green.  The city lacks the cultural wealth of neighbouring Parma and is consequently less visited but it has an attractive historic centre with a number of notable buildings, including the Basilica della Ghiara and the 10th century Basilica di San Prospero, which overlooks the elegant Piazza of the same name.

More reading:

How Arrigo Sacchi started a tactical and technical revolution in Italian football

The genius of Andrea Pirlo

Coaching veteran Fabio Capello has won Serie A five times

Also on this day:

1918: The death of writer and composer Arrigo Boito

1940: Italy enters the Second World War


2 April 2017

Gelindo Bordin - marathon champion

First Italian to win Olympic gold in ultimate endurance test

Bordin on his way to victory in Seoul, pursued by the Djibouti runner Hussain Ahmed Salah
Bordin on his way to victory in Seoul, pursued
by the Djibouti runner Hussain Ahmed Salah
Gelindo Bordin, the first Italian to win the gold medal in the Olympic Marathon, was born on this day in 1959 in Longare, a small town about 10km (six miles) south-east of Vicenza.

Twice European marathon champion, in 1986 and 1990, he won the Olympic competition in Seoul, South Korea in 1988.

Until Stefano Baldini matched his achievements by winning the marathon at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and claiming his second European title in Gothenburg in 2006, Bordin was Italy’s greatest long-distance runner.

He attained that status somewhat against the odds, too, having been sidelined for a year with a serious intestinal illness at the age of 20 and then being hit by a car while on a training run.

Bordin’s victory in Seoul at last made up for the disappointment the Italy team had suffered 80 years earlier when Dorando Pietri crossed the line first in the marathon at the London Olympics of 1908 only to be disqualified. In a bizarre finish to the race, Pietri took a wrong turning on entering the White City Stadium and had to be helped to his feet five times after collapsing on the track through exhaustion.

Relive Bordin's Olympic triumph

Bordin went on to win the Boston Marathon in the United States in 1990, the first reigning Olympic champion to win an event in which Olympians had seemed previously to be jinxed. His time of two hours, eight minutes and 19 seconds was the best of his career.

That year was a special one all round for Bordin. In September he successfully defended his European title in Split, Yugoslavia, becoming the first man to win the event twice, and just 35 days later he won the city marathon in Venice.

Earlier in his career he had won the city marathons of Milan, on his marathon debut in 1984, and Rome, three years later.

Bordin interviewed for a 2016 TV  documentary about his career
Bordin interviewed for a 2016 TV
documentary about his career
Venice was his last major success. In the World Championships in Tokyo in 1991, where he was hoping to improve on his bronze medal in Rome in 1987, he finished a disappointing eighth.

The following year, in Barcelona, his defence of his Olympic title ended at the halfway stage, when he strained a groin muscle jumping over a fallen runner. He was unable to finish the race and announced his retirement soon afterwards.

Like many Italian boys and girls, football was Bordin’s first sporting passion and he played as a goalkeeper for a junior team in Vicenza.

But after he was invited to take part in a cross-country race in his home village he fell in love with running and decided to give up his football ambitions.

He focussed at first on mountain cross-country running and at 17 he was one of the top Italian distance runners. Then came two major setbacks that might have finished a less determined athlete.

Bordin wins the European title Stuttgart in 1986
Bordin wins the European title
Stuttgart in 1986
The first came during a training camp in Mexico City, when he picked up a bug and developed intestinal problems that forced him out of competition for a year.

Then, shortly after making his comeback, he was hit by a car, suffering injuries that put him out of action for another year.

At 22, he made a second comeback and after winning in Milan on his marathon debut decided to become a professional runner.

At a time when doping scandals were beginning to damage the reputation of athletics – the sprinter Ben Johnson was stripped of his 100m gold three days before the marathon in Seoul – Bordin takes pride in having never been tempted to do anything that could be seen as cheating.

Following his retirement, he did not run again for 16 years until he was persuaded to take part in the Turin marathon on its 25th anniversary in 2009.

He began working for the Italian sports apparel manufacturer Diadora immediately after his retirement and today is the sports merchandising and marketing director of the company, which is based at Caerano, 25km (15 miles) north-west of Treviso.

A church in Longare made in Costozza limestone
Travel tip:

Longare, a town of 5,700 inhabitants, is on the road between Vicenza and Este in the Veneto region, skirting an area known as the Berici Hills of which the peak is Monte Barico. The architect Andrea Palladio used the area’s characteristic Costozza limestone in the construction of many of his famous villas. The area is popular with hikers although its tourist economy suffered after the US Army’s base just outside the town was chosen as a cold war site for nuclear weapons, giving rise to fears of contamination.

Travel tip:

Caerano – or Caerano di San Marco to use its full name – is a largely modern town today but was once a signoria – a medieval city-state – that belonged first to the Ezzelini family, who were powerful in the 13th century, before passing into the hands of the Scaligeri family and eventually coming under the rule of the Republic of Venice. There are a few remnants of the ancient Venetians and some Roman artefacts, but the town’s main claim to fame today lies in being the home not only of the Diadora brand but also the Sanremo and Sanmarco labels.

More reading: