Showing posts with label Antonio Cabrini. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Antonio Cabrini. Show all posts

25 May 2019

Gaetano Scirea - footballer

Multiple champion who died tragically young

Gaetano Scirea made 78 appearances for the Italian national team
Gaetano Scirea made 78 appearances
for the Italian national team
The World Cup-winning footballer Gaetano Scirea, one of the most accomplished players in the history of the game, was born on this day in 1953 in the town of Cernusco sul Naviglio in Lombardy.

Scirea, who became an outstanding performer in the so-called libero role, was a key member of the Italy team that won the 1982 World Cup in Spain and enjoyed huge success also in club football.

In a career spent mostly with Juventus, he won every medal that was available to a club player in Italy, some several times over.

During his time there, the Turin club won the scudetto - the popular name for the Serie A championship - seven times and the Coppa Italia twice.

He also won the UEFA Cup, the European Cup-Winners’ Cup, the European Cup (forerunner of the Champions League), the UEFA Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup.

Scirea retired in 1988 but continued to work for Juventus. Tragically, while visiting Poland in 1989 to make a scouting report on an upcoming opponent in a UEFA Cup match, the car he was travelling in collided head-on with a truck in heavy rain and he was killed, along with two fellow passengers.  Their deaths were caused by the explosion of several cans containing petrol, which drivers in Poland habitually carried because of frequent fuel shortages.

Gaetano Scirea spent most of his playing career with Juventus
Gaetano Scirea spent most of his
playing career with Juventus
He was just 36 years old. Thousands of supporters and many major figures from the Italian football world gathered for his funeral, after which his body was buried at the cemetery in Morsasco, in Piedmont, between Alessandria and Genoa, the home village of his widow, Mariella.

From a family of Sicilian origin, Scirea’s home town was on the northern outskirts of Milan, yet it was in Bergamo, 40km (25 miles) away, that he began his career with Atalanta, making his debut in Serie A at the age of 18.

He remained with Atalanta for two seasons, before Juventus moved to take him to Turin at the age of 21. He would stay there until the end of his playing career, making 397 appearances in Serie A, scoring 24 goals.

A midfield player with Atalanta, Scirea was turned into a sweeper at Juventus, a position at the time that was seen primarily as defensive. It was when the great coach Giovanni Trapattoni arrived in Turin that he was given the role in which he was to excel.

Trapattoni felt Scirea had more to offer than simply to defend. While he had Claudio Gentile as his hard man at the back, he gave Scirea the licence to roam into midfield, to make passes, set up attacks. Elegant and composed, and with the ability to anticipate the direction of play, he made the role of libero his own.

Scirea is one of only a handful of footballers to have won every club competition in which he played
Scirea is one of only a handful of footballers to have won
every club competition in which he played
In contrast to the ruthless Gentile, who played at the limits of what was legal, Scirea was renowned for fair play and sportsmanship. He was sent off and only occasionally cautioned. He was a natural leader, captaining both Juventus and the Italian national side.

His leadership qualities were never needed more than at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels in May 1985, when the European Cup final between Juventus and Liverpool became a scene of tragedy as an outbreak of crowd violence culminated in the collapse of a wall within the stadium, which was in a poor state of repair. Some 39 spectators died, mainly Italians. The match went ahead, but only after Scirea and his fellow captain, Liverpool’s Phil Neal, had addressed the supporters directly to ask for calm.

Juventus’s 1-0 win was a hollow victory in the circumstances, yet remains on Scirea’s record, which makes him one of only nine players in the history of the European football that won all three major UEFA football competitions.

Scirea made his debut for the Italy national team in December 1975 and quickly became an irreplaceable component of the team managed by Enzo Bearzot, playing in three World Cups and one European Championship (in 1980, when Italy finished fourth as tournament hosts).

Pipe smoking coach Enzo Bearzot  made Scirea a fixture in his team
Pipe smoking coach Enzo Bearzot
made Scirea a fixture in his team
Alongside clubmates Gentile, goalkeeper Dino Zoff and Antonio Cabrini, plus Inter Milan’s Giuseppe Bergomi and Fulvio Collovati, he was part of the defensive backbone of the strongest Azzurri side of the post-war period.

Scirea was one of Italy’s best players at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, where the Azzurri finished in fourth place. At the 1982 World Cup, after a quiet start in the first round group stage, Italy beat Argentina and then Brazil in the second round, later overcoming Poland 2–0 in the semi-final before the 3-1 victory over West Germany in the final saw Scirea and his teammates earn a place in World Cup history.

He bowed out after the 1986 World Cup, in which an Italian team in the throes of rebuilding lost to France in the second round. This was to be Scirea's last match for Italy, having won 78 caps.

Scirea’s death had a huge impact on his club and country. Among the steps taken to honour his name was the creation of an award given to players deemed to have had an exemplary career, while part of the Juventus Stadium is called the Curva Scirea. Bearzot, his former international manager, proposed that his No 6 shirt be retired by both the Azzurri and Juventus.

After his death, his widow, Mariella, had a career in politics, serving two terms in the Chamber of Deputies as an elected member, first under a Forza Italia ticket, then as a member of the Democratic Union for Europe. His son, Riccardo, works for Juventus on their technical staff as head of match analysis.

Cernusco sul Naviglio takes its name from the Naviglio Martesana canal, linking it with Milan
Cernusco sul Naviglio takes its name from the Naviglio
Martesana canal, linking it with Milan
Travel tip:

About 16km (10 miles) from the centre of Milan, Scirea’s home town Cernusco sul Naviglio is an elegant town rich in art and history and known for its majestic villas. It is located on the Naviglio Martesana canal.  Its attractions include the Sanctuary of Santa Maria Addolorata, the Italian Gardens of Via Cavour and the 18th century Villa Alari. One of the features of the Piazza Unità d'Italia, the main square, is a mulberry tree reputed to be 130 years old.

The village of Morsasco sits on a hill between Alessandria in Piedmont and Genoa on the coast
The village of Morsasco sits on a hill between
Alessandria in Piedmont and Genoa on the coast
Travel tip:

The village of Morsasco is best known for its castle, which rises majestically above the neighbouring houses and linked by a small paved lane to the 16th-century parish church dedicated to San Bartolomeo. The castle, mentioned in records from the 13th century, has passed through the hands of the Del Bosco, Malaspina, Lodron, Gonzaga, Centurione Scotto and Pallavicino families.  A lot of the original building’s military characteristics have been removed and it is now a refined noble residence, with grand halls and beautiful rooms as the result of 18th-century expansions.

More reading:

How 'Trap' became the most successful coach in the history of Serie A

The pipe-smoking genius who turned the Azzurri into world champions

Franco Baresi: AC Milan star voted 'player of the century'

Also on this day:

1887: The birth of controversial saint Padre Pio

1922: The birth of Communist politician Enrico Berlinguer

1971: The birth of Olympic marathon champion Stefano Baldini


26 September 2018

Enzo Bearzot - World Cup-winning coach

Led Italy to 1982 triumph in Spain

The pipe-smoking Enzo Bearzot was in
charge of the azzurri for a record 104 games
Enzo Bearzot, the pipe-smoking coach who plotted Italy’s victory at the 1982 World Cup in Spain and at the same time changed the way the national team traditionally played, was born on September 26, 1927 in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northwest Italy.

Italy had a reputation for ultra-defensive and sometimes cynical football but in 44 years had won only one major competition, the 1968 European championships, a much lower-key affair than the current four-yearly Euros, which Italy hosted.

But Bearzot was an admirer of the so-called ‘total football’ philosophy advanced by the Dutch coach Rinus Michels, with which the Netherlands national team reached two World Cup finals in the 1970s, albeit without winning.

Italy did not impress at the start of their Spain adventure, recording three fairly lacklustre draws in their group matches, and were expected to be eliminated in the second group phase when they were obliged to play Argentina, the holders, and a Brazil side brimming with brilliant players.

Bearzot and the team attracted scathing criticism in the Italian press, to the extent that the players and management refused to speak any more to journalists during the tournament, imposing their so-called silenzio stampa - press silence.

Bearzot, right, playing cards on the plane home from Spain with Dino Zoff, Franco Causio and the Italian president Sandro Pertini
Bearzot, right, playing cards on the plane home from Spain with
Dino Zoff, Franco Causio and the Italian president Sandro Pertini
Instead, they made their critics eat their words by beating both Argentina (2-1) and Brazil (3-2), the latter hailed as one of the greatest World Cup matches of all time after Italy led twice and Brazil equalised twice before Italy took the lead again 16 minutes from the end and goalkeeper Dino Zoff pulled off a miraculous late save to deny Brazil another equaliser, which would have taken them through to the semi-finals on goal difference.

All three goals against Brazil were scored by Italy’s wiry centre-forward, Paolo Rossi, whose selection had brought Bearzot more criticism. Rossi had just returned from a two-year suspension for alleged match-fixing, which was controversial enough. He was also a long way behind the rest of the squad in fitness, yet he had scored three goals in the World Cup finals in Argentina in 1978, from which Italy were eliminated by the Netherlands in their final second-phase match, and Bearzot wanted him on board.

Not content with destroying Brazil’s hopes, Rossi scored both goals in Italy’s 2-0 semi-final victory against Poland, and another in the 3-1 win over West Germany in the final, to take the tournament Golden Boot award as top goalscorer, with six.

Bearzot in his playing days at Torino
Bearzot in his playing days at Torino
Although Italy delighted their fans with the gusto of their attacking, they did not entirely abandon tried and trusted methods. Deployed as an old-fashioned man-marker, Claudio Gentile fulfilled his duties to the letter, kicking a young Diego Maradona out of the match with Argentina and doing a similar job on the Brazilian magician Zico, albeit at the cost of a booking that ruled him out of the semi-final.

The final confirmed Bearzot’s transformation from villain to hero in the eyes of the press and earned him four more years in the job, although the 1986 World Cup in Mexico earned him renewed criticism, this time for showing too much faith in his 1982 players, who had lost some of their edge and went out to France in the round of 16.

Bearzot resigned after that defeat but his 104 matches as national coach - seven more even than the legendary Vittorio Pozzo, who was in the dug-out for 97 games - is unlikely ever to be surpassed.

Born in the village of Aiello del Friuli, about 45km (28 miles) northwest of Trieste and about 25km (16 miles) southeast of Udine, Bearzot was the son of a bank manager who had little interest in football and whose wrath he risked by missing two crucial university exams to play in the first team for his club, Pro Gorizia, ruining his chances of completing his degree.

Marcello Lippi, who won the World Cup in 2006, was mentored by Bearzot
Marcello Lippi, who won the World Cup in
2006, was mentored by Bearzot
Tall and strongly built, Bearzot usually played as what would now be described as a defensive midfielder. In his club career, he helped the Sicilian team Catania win promotion to Serie A and had long spells with both Inter Milan and Torino. He made one appearance for the azzurri - the  national team.

He took up coaching with Torino but his only head coach role before he joined the technical staff of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) was with the Serie C club Prato. This lack of club experience meant that, when he worked his way through the ranks to be under-23 coach and then senior coach in 1975 meant there was scepticism from the start over his credentials for the job, even among his fellow coaches.

Bearzot’s success, however, silenced them all.  After Mexico ‘86, he disappeared from football for the most part, never taking another coaching job. He rejoined the FIGC as president of the technical sector in 2002 and was a mentor to Marcello Lippi, who was to match Bearzot’s achievement  by winning the World Cup himself as coach in 2006.

Bearzot retired for good in 2005. He died in 2010 after a long illness and was buried at the church of Santa Maria al Paradiso in Milan, where goalkeeper Zoff and midfielder Bruno Conti were among the pallbearers, with Rossi part of a congregation that included Antonio Cabrini, Giuseppe Bergomi Alessandro Altobelli and Marco Tardelli among other members of the 1982 World Cup winning team.

The beautiful Piazza della Libertà is one of the features of the Friulian city of Udine
The beautiful Piazza della Libertà is one of the features
of the Friulian city of Udine
Travel tip:

Udine, the nearest city to Bearzot’s home village of Aiello, is an attractive and wealthy provincial city which is the gastronomic capital of Friuli. Udine's most attractive area lies within the medieval centre, which has Venetian, Greek and Roman influences. The main square, Piazza della Libertà, features the town hall, the Loggia del Lionello, built in 1448–1457 in the Venetian-Gothic style, and a clock tower, the Torre dell’Orologio, which is similar to the clock tower in Piazza San Marco - St Mark's Square - in Venice.

The church of Santa Maria at Paradiso in Milan, where Bearzot is buried
The church of Santa Maria at Paradiso
in Milan, where Bearzot is buried
Travel tip:

The church of Santa Maria al Paradiso is in the Ticinese district of Milan, about 1.5km (1 mile) south of the city centre, near the Crocetta metro station. It was begun in 1590 for the Third Order of Saint Francis, after designs by Martino Bassi. The facade, however, was only added in 1897 in a Neo-Baroque style by the architect Ernesto Pirovano. Ticinese is one of the oldest parts of central Milan. It takes its name from Porta Ticinese, a 16th century gate to the city rebuilt in the early 19th century with large ionic order columns. The area also includes the remains of a Roman amphitheatre and the basilicas of San Lorenzo and Sant'Eustorgio, and has a thriving nightlife with a large choice of bars and restaurants.

More reading:

How Paolo Rossi made the difference in a World Cup classic

Marco Tardelli and THAT celebration

How Marcello Lippi led Italy to glory in 2006

Also on this day:

1973: The death of the actress Anna Magnani

1977: The Assisi earthquake


8 October 2016

Antonio Cabrini - World Cup winner

Star of 1982 became coach of Italy's women

Antonio Cabrini starred in the bianconeri strip of Juventus
Antonio Cabrini starred in the
bianconeri strip of Juventus
World Cup winner and former Juventus defender Antonio Cabrini celebrates his 59th birthday today.

Cabrini, who went on to becone head coach of the Italian women's national team, was born on October 8, 1957 in Cremona.

He took his first steps in professional football with his local team, Cremonese, and moved from there to Atalanta of Bergamo, but it was with the Turin club Juventus that he made his mark, forming part of a formidable defence that included goalkeeper Dino Zoff plus the centre-back Claudio Gentile and the sweeper Gaetano Scirea.

During Cabrini's 13 seasons in Turin, the Bianconeri won the Serie A title six times, as well as the 1985 European Cup, plus the Coppa Italia twice, the UEFA Cup and the European Super Cup, and the Intercontinental Cup.

Milan's Paolo Maldini tends to be recognised as the greatest defensive player produced by Italy but Cabrini's abilities put him only just behind.

Known by his fans as Bell'Antonio for his good looks and the elegance of his football, Cabrini's game possessed all the qualities required of a left-back.  His positional sense and speed of thought served him well in defensive duties and he was also exceptional going forward.

He was a key figure in the defeat of Liverpool in the 1985 European Cup final, although the memories of the Juventus victory in the Heysel Stadium in Brussels will forever be tarnished because of the deaths of 39 supporters - mainly Italians - when a wall collapsed during disturbances before the match began.

Antonio Cabrini starred in the bianconeri strip of Juventus
Italy's team to play Argentina at the 1982 World Cup. Back
 row (l-r): Zoff, Antognoni, Scirea, Graziani, Collovati,
Gentile; Front: Rossi, Conti, Cabrini, Oriali, Tardelli.
Cabrini scored 33 goals for Juventus and his tally of nine for the national team is the most by any defender for the Azzurri.

One of these came in the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain, when he scored the winner in a 2-1 victory over holders Argentina in the second group round, in which the Azzurri also beat Brazil to emerge as a force to be reckoned with.

Cabrini missed a first-half penalty in the final, but it was forgotten when second-half goals by Paolo Rossi, Marco Tardelli and Alessandro Altobelli enabled Italy to defeat West Germany and win the trophy for the third time.

In all Cabrini won 73 caps for the national side.  He made his debut aged only 20 in the opening match of the 1978 World Cup finals in Argentina, at the end of which he was named Best Young Player of the Tournament after Italy reached the semi-finals.

He also played in the 1986 finals in Mexico, finishing his career with the distinction of having been picked in the starting line-up for every match played by the Azzurri in three consecutive World Cup tournaments.

Cabrini, who captained Italy on 10 occasions, played his last international match in 1987 but continued in club football for another four years, eventually leaving Juventus for Bologna, where he spent his final two seasons.

He did not begin his coaching career for almost 10 years.  Starting out in Serie C1 with the Tuscan club Arezzo, he almost won a promotion in his first season, his team losing in the play-offs.  Yet subsequent spells in charge at Crotone, Pisa and Navaro brought no success.

Antonio Cabrini today
Antonio Cabrini today
In 2007 he accepted the position of head coach of Syria's national team only for the contract to be cancelled amid the fall-out from a row between the Syrian FA and the national team's sponsors.

Therefore his appointment in 2012 to coach the women's Italian national team came as a surprise to many but Cabrini's record so far has been good.

The Azzurri women reached the quarter-finals of the 2013 European Championships and were considered unlucky not to qualify for the 2015 World Cup, finishing second in the qualifying group but losing 3-2 on aggregate to the Netherlands in the final of a play-off involving the four best runners-up.

Italy's women have never won an international tournament but Cabrini will have another chance to put that right at Euro 2017, which is being hosted by the Netherlands next summer.

Italy qualified by finishing runners-up to Switzerland in their qualifying group, in which they lost at home and away to the group winners but won at home and away against the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland and Georgia, scoring 26 goals and conceding only eight.

Away from football, Cabrini has been politically active as a member of the centre-left Italia dei Valori (Italy of Values) party founded by the former anti-corruption magistrate, Antonio di Pietro.

He was married in 1983 and has two children, 32-year-old Martina and Edoardo, 28, but has now separated from his wife, Consuelo.  He has been with his current partner, fashion manager Marta Sannito, for seven years.

UPDATE: Cabrini spent five years as coach of Italy's national women's team before being replaced by Milena Bertolini in 2017.

A statue of the violin-maker Stradivari in Cremona
A statue of the violin-maker
Stradivari in Cremona
Travel tip:

Although Antonio Cabrini is not the only notable footballer to be born in Cremona - the former Italy, Juventus and Chelsea striker Gianluca Vialli is another - the northern Italian city is more famous for its long association with music.  It hosts a number of important music festivals and has been a centre for the manufacture of musical instruments since the 16th century.  The great violin makers of the Amati family, as well as Andrea Guarneri and Antonio Stradivari, both of whom learned the craft from Nicolò Amati, established Cremona's reputation for producing the best violins in the world.  Violins are still made in the city to this day.

Travel tip:

Juventus is one of the two major football clubs in Turin, the other being Torino.  Although Juventus now play at a stadium on the northern perimeter of the city in the Vallette district, the club's roots are in the city centre.  Their original ground was in what is now known as the Parco Cavalieri di Vittorio Veneto, a large green space between Corso IV Novembre and Corso Galileo Ferraris just south of the city centre, which in the late 19th century was Piazza d'Armi, an army parade ground.  Nearby is the Stadio Olimpico, now the home of Torino, which was formerly called Stadio Comunale, where the two clubs co-habited until 1990.

More reading: