Showing posts with label Franco Baresi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Franco Baresi. 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


8 May 2017

Franco Baresi - AC Milan great

Defender voted club's 'player of the century'

Franco Baresi made 719 appearances for AC Milan
Franco Baresi made 719 appearances for AC Milan
The great AC Milan and Italy footballer Franco Baresi was born on this day in 1960 in Travagliato, a town in Lombardy about 13km (8 miles) south-west of Brescia.

Baresi, a central defender who was at his most effective playing in the libero – sweeper – role, made 719 competitive appearances for the rossoneri, with whom he spent his entire playing career, spanning 20 years.

During that time he won the Italian championship – the Scudetto – six times and the European Cup three times, as well as many other trophies. He was made captain of the team at just 22 years old.

At Milan he was part of one of the most formidable defences of all time, alongside Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta, Mauro Tassotti, and later Christian Panucci, with Giovanni Galli in goal.  He and Maldini shared the extraordinary record that in 196 matches they played together, AC Milan conceded only 23 goals.

Baresi also won 81 caps for the Azzurri in an international career in which he went to three World Cups. 

Although he did not make an appearance, he was part of the Azzurri squad that won the competition in Spain in 1982, was an integral member of the team that finished third on home soil in Italia ’90 and captained the side in the United States in 1994. There he heroically battled back from a meniscus injury to lead the team in the final in Pasadena, where he suffered the cruel misfortune, in common with another Azzurri legend, Roberto Baggio, of missing a penalty in a shoot-out won by Brazil.

Franco Baresi with his brother Giuseppe (left), who played for Milan's city rivals Internazionale
Franco Baresi with his brother Giuseppe (left), who played
for Milan's city rivals Internazionale
At his peak, Baresi earned the right to be considered the equal of some of the greatest defensive players in the history of football.  Although he was not a giant physically – he stood only 1.76m (5ft 9ins) and weighed just 70kg (11st 4lb) – he tackled ferociously and headed powerfully. The gifts that made him stand out, however, were his ability to read the game, to anticipate trouble and to launch attacks with his accurate passing. In that respect, he was spoken of in the same breath as the sweeper of the West German team of the 1960s and 70s, the redoubtable Franz Beckenbauer.

Baresi lost both his parents by the age of 16, which meant that he and his older brother, Giuseppe, had to grow up quickly. Both were determined to make their careers in football. Giuseppe was taken on by AC Milan’s rivals, Internazionale, at the age of 14. Franco tried to follow the same path but was rejected as too small.  Undaunted, he went for trials with the rossoneri and won a contract, claiming that he was “always a Milanista” as a fan and was therefore fulfilling his dream.

His potential was recognised almost immediately and Nils Liedholm, Milan’s legendary Swedish player and then coach, gave him his debut towards the end of the 1977-78 season, in the same team as Fabio Capello and Gianni Rivera.  His nickname in the Milan dressing room was Piscinin, a Milanese dialect word meaning ‘the little one’, yet he quickly established himself as one of the key members of the team, winning the Scudetto in his first full season.

Franco Baresi as he is today
Franco Baresi as he is today
Milan subsequently went through some tough times, which included relegation from Serie A in a match-fixing scandal, but Baresi stuck with them and became a vital component in some of the finest Milan teams of all time, notably the squad coached by Arrigo Sacchi to win the 1989 European Cup, beating Real Madrid 6-1 on aggregate in the semi-final before thumping Steaua Bucharest 4-0 on the final.  Apart from the aforementioned defensive combination of Baresi, Costacurta, Tassotti and Maldini, the team included the great midfielders Roberto Donadoni and Carlo Ancelotti and the brilliant Dutch trio of Frank Rijkaard, Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit.

In 1999, he was voted Milan's Player of the Century. He was named by Pelé one of the 125 Greatest Living Footballers at the FIFA centenary awards ceremony in 2004, and inducted into the Italian Football Hall of Fame in 2013.  After his final season at Milan in 1997, the club retired Baresi's number six shirt in his honour.

His coaching career included a short spell working in England as director of football at Fulham and he has worked for AC Milan in various capacities, as executive, youth team coach and in the club’s marketing department.. The father of a 16-year-old son, Eduardo, and the uncle of Inter women’s star Regina Baresi, his opinion nowadays is regularly sort by the Italian media as he remains a high-profile figure. 

The Piazza Libertà in Travagliato
The Piazza Libertà in Travagliato
Travel tip:

Baresi’s hometown, Travagliato, just outside Brescia, is sometimes called the Citadel of Horses on account of the equestrian festivals hosted there every April and May, which feature polo matches, harness racing and show jumping events among other things. The town also has a number of fine churches, including the church of Our Lady of Lourdes and the church of Santa Maria dei Campi.

Travel tip:

Brescia is a rich industrial city not on the main tourist track but has numerous things to see, including the old and new Duomos, one built in the 12th century, one in the 19th century, which are next door to one another.  It is also famous for its museums, one of which is dedicated to the Mille Miglia, the former car race from Brescia to Rome and back.