Showing posts with label Internazionale. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Internazionale. Show all posts

10 December 2018

Giuseppe 'Peppino' Prisco - lawyer and football administrator

Vice-president who became Inter Milan icon

Giuseppe Prisco, a legend at Inter, proudly wears the feathered hat from his Alpini uniform
Giuseppe Prisco, a legend at Inter, proudly
wears the feathered hat from his Alpini uniform
The lawyer and football administrator Giuseppe Prisco, who served as a senior figure in the running of the Internazionale football club in Milan for more than half a century, was born on this day in 1921.

Universally known as Peppino, he managed to combine a career in legal practice with a passion for Inter that he would share so publicly he became a symbol of the club whose name was chanted on the terraces.

Born in Milan into a family with its roots in Torre Annunziata, near Naples, he was said to have fallen in love with the nerazzurri at seven years old in 1929, when he witnessed his first derby against AC Milan at Inter’s old stadium, the Campo Virgilio Fossati, between Via Goldoni and Piazza Novelli to the east of the city centre.

His career as a lawyer did not begin until after he had served with the Alpini - the mountain troops of the Italian Army - on the Russian front in the Second World War. He was only 18 when he joined up but reached the rank of lieutenant in the “L’Aquila” battalion of the 9th Alpine Regiment, and as one of only three officers from 53 to return alive from the Russian front was awarded a Silver Medal for Military Valour by the Italian government.

On returning to civilian life, he graduated in law at the University of Milan and became a registered practising lawyer in 1946, opening his own office in the city, the start of a business that would bring him success and kudos for decades.

Prisco was for many years the president of the Milanese Bar Association
Prisco was for many years the president of the
Milanese Bar Association
He was president of the Milanese Bar Association for many years and participated in numerous high profile trials, including that of the controversial Milan banker Roberto Calvi on embezzlement charges in 1981.  Calvi was released on bail pending an appeal and a year later was found in dead in London.

Prisco joined his beloved Inter in 1949 as club secretary and thereafter served as a legal advisor to the board of directors before being elected vice-president in 1963, a position he held until his death in 2001, two days after his 80th birthday.

During his time as a director of the club, Inter won six Serie A titles, two European Cups, two Intercontinental Cups, three UEFA Cups, two Coppa Italia titles and one Italian Super Cup.

Fans took him to their hearts after he used his legal expertise to force UEFA to overturn a defeat against Borussia Moenchengladbach in the UEFA Cup in 1971 after the Inter forward Roberto Boninsegna had to be taken off after being struck by a can thrown from the crowd.  Inter won the rematch.

He also endeared himself to the nerazzurri faithful with the sharp one-liners he would frequently deliver during television interviews when he was given the opportunity to talk about the club’s great rivals.

Prisco was presented with a special Inter shirt to mark his 50 years with the club
Prisco was presented with a special Inter
shirt to mark his 50 years with the club
Famously, he once said: "If I shake hands with a Milanese, I wash my hands, if I shake hands with a Juventus (fan), I count my fingers.”

On another occasion, he declared: “I’m against every form of racism but I’d never allow my daughter to marry a Milan player.”

At the end of the 1990s, he became a regular guest on TV sports shows such as Controcampo, in which he would often have humourous spats with presenters Diego Abatantuono and Giampiero Mughini.

Married to Maria Irene, he had two children: Luigi Maria, who followed him into the legal profession, and Anna Maria.  After his death from a heart attack, he was buried at Arcisate, a town in the province of Varese, about 70km (43 miles) north of Milan.

One of the neoclassical arches that form the entrances to Napoleon's Arena Civica in Milan
One of the neoclassical arches that form the entrances
to Napoleon's Arena Civica in Milan
Travel tip:

Inter have shared the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in San Siro with rivals AC Milan since 1947, but before that played at a number of stadiums around the city, including the Campo di Ripa Ticinese in the Ticinese district souith of the centre, the Campo Virgilio Fossati and the Arena Civica, the grandiose neoclassical stadium commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte after he had proclaimed himself King of Italy in 1905. Inter played their home games at the Arena, a kind of mini-Colosseum in the Parco Sempione, behind the Sforza Castle, from 1930 until 1958.

Travel tip:

A view over the rooftops at Torre Annunziata, looking towards the waters of Bay of Naples
A view over the rooftops at Torre Annunziata, looking
towards the waters of Bay of Naples
Torre Annunziata, where Prisco had family roots, is a city in the metropolitan area of Naples. Close to Mount Vesuvius, the original city was destroyed in the eruption of 79 AD and a new one built over the ruins. Its name derives from a watch tower - torre - built to warn people of imminent Saracen raids and a chapel consecrated to the Annunziata (Virgin Mary). It became a centre for pasta production in the early 19th century. The Villa Poppaea, also known as Villa Oplontis, believed to be owned by Nero, was discovered about 10 metres below ground level just outside the town and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

More reading:

Massimo Moratti, the business tycoon who presided over Inter's golden age

How Giuseppe Meazza became Italian football's first superstar

Why mystery still surrounds the death of 'God's banker' Roberto Calvi

Also on this day:

1813: The birth of forgotten composer Errico Petrella

1907: The birth of postwar movie star Amedeo Nazzari

1936: The death of playwright Luigi Pirandello


6 October 2018

Ottavio Bianchi - football coach

The northerner who steered Napoli to first scudetto

Ottavio Bianchi was Napoli's coach for
four seasons from 1985 to 1989
Ottavio Bianchi, the coach who guided Napoli to their first Serie A title in the Italian football championship, was born on this day in 1943 in the northern Italian city of Brescia.

Napoli, who had been runners-up four times in Italy's elite league, broke their duck by winning the scudetto in the 1986-87 season, when Bianchi built his side around the forward line consisting initially of the World Cup-winning Argentina star Diego Maradona, the Italy strikers Bruno Giordano and Andrea Carnevale.  After the arrival of the Brazilian forward Careca to partner Maradona and Giordano, the trio become collectively known as MaGiCa

Bianchi’s team began the 1986-87 season with a 13-match unbeaten run. It came to an end with an away defeat against Fiorentina but Napoli lost only two more matches all season, winning the title by three points from Juventus to spark wild celebrations in Naples.

It is a reflection of how defensively-minded Italian football coaches were at the time that Napoli won the title despite scoring only 41 goals in 30 matches, with Maradona (10) the only individual player to reach double figures.

Bianchi, a midfielder, spent five years  with Napoli as a player
Bianchi, a midfielder, spent five years
 with Napoli as a player
Bianchi’s team also won the Coppa Italia in 1987 and, after finishing second in Serie A in 1987-88, the UEFA Cup in 1989, which is the club’s only European trophy so far.

Napoli won the Serie A title for a second time in 1989-90 but by then Bianchi had left to become coach of AS Roma.

Bianchi was born in the Borgo Trento area of Brescia, a city in Lombardy about 90km (56 miles) east of Milan, about halfway between the lakes of Iseo and Garda.

He joined the Brescia youth system and worked his way through the ranks to make his debut in the senior side in the Serie A in 1965.

A midfielder, he went on to enjoy an 18-year career in which me made 330 league appearances for six clubs, a third of which were in the colours of Napoli during a five-season spell at the Stadio San Paolo, as well as winning two caps for the Italy national team.

In addition, Bianchi had stints with Atalanta, AC Milan and Cagliari and finished his playing career with Ferrara-based SPAL.

Bianchi began his coaching career at lower division clubs such as Siena, Mantova, Triestina and Atalanta, where he won the Serie C1 championship.

Ottavio Bianchi, front row, centre, with his 1986-87 Serie A title-winning Napoli squad
Ottavio Bianchi, front row, centre, with his 1986-87
Serie A title-winning Napoli squad
He moved south for the first time in 1983-84 when he accepted an offer from Avellino, with whom he finished in 11th place in the Serie A. From there he returned to the north and newly-promoted Como where again he managed to reach a mid-table position.

The chance to join Napoli came a year after the arrival of Maradona, who was then in his early 20s and reaching his physical peak. The young South American, who had cost £6.9 million (15.87 billion lire) - at the time a world record fee - from Barcelona, had made an immediate impact, scoring 14 goals in his debut season as Napoli finished eighth in the Serie A table.

Bianchi’s success made him a coach in demand.  After four seasons, he moved to Roma, where he again won the Coppa Italia, and reached the final of the UEFA Cup, where they were beaten by domestic rivals Inter-Milan.

The fabled MaGiCa forward line - Diego Maradona (right), Bruno Giordano (left) and Careca (centre)
The fabled MaGiCa forward line - Diego Maradona (right),
Bruno Giordano (left) and Careca (centre)
Then came a return to Napoli in 1992 to replace Claudio Ranieri. Again he was successful, managing to transform a relegation-threatened team into one challenging for a UEFA Cup place. He remained as technical director, with Marcello Lippi as coach, but the lost important players such as Gianfranco Zola, Careca and Giovanni Galli due to financial difficulties as the club’s fortunes began to wane.

The following season Bianchi returned to the bench as coach of Inter-Milan. But he was not able to generate the success the Milan club had hoped for and he lost his job there in 1995, ironically sacked after a defeat against Napoli.

Since then, apart from a brief spell as Fiorentina’s coach in 2002, Bianchi’s involvement with football has been limited. He lives in Bergamo, which he made his home during his time with Atalanta, the city’s team, and confines his football watching largely to matches on TV.

The Piazza della Loggia, with the Torre dell'Orologio, is at the centre of the historic city of Brescia
The Piazza della Loggia, with the Torre dell'Orologio, is
at the centre of the historic city of Brescia
Travel tip:

The city of Brescia tends not to attract many tourists compared with nearby Bergamo or Verona, partly because of the counter-attraction of the lakes.  Yet it has plenty of history, going back to Roman times, and many points of interest, including two cathedrals – the unusually-shaped Duomo Vecchio and its neighbour, the Duomo Nuovo – and the attractive Piazza della Loggia, with a Renaissance palace, the Palazzo della Loggia, which is the town’s municipal centre.  The Torre dell’Orologio clock tower bears similarities to the one in St Mark’s Square in Venice, a reflection of the town becoming a protectorate of Venice in the 15th century.

Napoli's Stadio San Paolo has a capacity of more than 60,000, making it Italy's third largest football ground
Napoli's Stadio San Paolo has a capacity of more than
60,000, making it Italy's third largest football ground
Travel tip:

The home of SSC Napoli is the Stadio San Paolo, built in the Fuorigrotta neighbourhood on the north side of the city and completed in 1959, more than 10 years after work began.  It is the third largest football ground in Italy with a capacity of 60,240, and hosted the 1990 World Cup semi-final between Italy and Argentina. The local council wanted to rename the ground Stadio Diego Maradona but Italian law prohibits the naming of a public building after any person who has not been dead at least 10 years.

More reading:

Gianfranco Zola, the Napoli favourite who became a great in England

Walter Mazzarri and the return of fallen giants Napoli

How Marcello Lippi won the World Cup in Germany

Also on this day:

1888: The birth of wartime nurse Saint Maria Bertilla Boscardin

1935: The birth of champion wrestler Bruno Sammartino


1 October 2018

Walter Mazzarri - football coach

Former Watford manager with outstanding record in Italy

Walter Mazzarri has coached nine teams in Italy and England
Walter Mazzarri has coached nine
teams in Italy and England
The football coach Walter Mazzarri, whose disappointing spell in English football as Watford manager contrasts with a fine record as a coach in his native Italy, was born on this day in 1961 in San Vincenzo, a resort on the coast of Tuscany.

Mazzarri won promotion to Serie A with his local club Livorno and kept tiny Calabrian team Reggina in Serie A against the odds for three consecutive seasons, on the last occasion despite an 11-point deduction for involvement in an alleged match-fixing scandal.

He subsequently had two seasons as coach of Sampdoria, qualifying for the UEFA Cup by finishing sixth in the first of those campaigns and then reaching the final of the Coppa Italia with a team that included the potent attacking duo Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini.

After that he returned to Napoli, where he had previously been assistant to Renzo Ulivieri, to be appointed head coach in 2009, guiding the azzurri to sixth place - their best Serie A finish for 25 years - to qualify for the Europa League in his first season in charge, and doing even better in his second season, when Napoli were third, their highest placing since the golden days of the late 1980s, when Diego Maradona inspired them to win the scudetto twice in four seasons.

They qualified for the Champions League for the first time as a result and won the Coppa Italia, beating Juventus in the final - Napoli’s first major silverware since 1989-90 at the end of the Maradona era.

The striker Edinson Cavani became a star under Mazzarri at Napoli
The striker Edinson Cavani became
a star under Mazzarri at Napoli
He moved to Internazionale for the 2013-14 season but could not replicate his success with Napoli. After finishing fifth in his first season at the helm he won a contract extension but was sacked in November 2014 after a disappointing run of results.

Mazzarri’s move to England came in July 2016 as Watford, the English team acquired by Serie A club Udinese’s owner Giampaolo Pozzo, appointed him as their sixth head coach in four years, his predecessors having included fellow Italians Gianfranco Zola and Giuseppe Sannino.

He replaced the Spaniard Quique Sanchez Flores, who was dismissed despite reaching the semi-finals of the FA Cup and finishing 13th in the Premier League.  He argued that he had a successful season in that his brief had been to keep Watford in the division despite being a small club, which he seemed to have achieved comfortably by reaching his target of 40 points - a total that in most years is proof against relegation - with six fixtures still to play.

But the Hornets, the club once owned by the pop music superstar Elton John, lost all of those matches and Mazzarri was dismissed even before the season concluded with a 5-0 home defeat to Manchester City.

Mazzarri's spell in charge at Napoli saw the club achieve its most successful period since the days of Diego Maradona
Mazzarri's spell in charge at Napoli saw the club achieve
its most successful period since the days of Diego Maradona
Mazzarri’s biggest triumph so far has undoubtedly been with Napoli. Under Mazzarri, Napoli become renowned for lightning counter-attacks and a 3–4–3 formation in which the Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani was supported by Argentine winger Ezequiel Lavezzi and creative Slovakian star Marek Hamšík.

They finished second in their group in their debut Champions League campaign, behind Germany's Bayern Munich and ahead of Manchester City and Villareal of Spain. But in the last 16 they suffered a difficult exit against another English side, Chelsea, who overturned a 3-1 defeat at Napoli’s Stadio San Paolo in the first leg with a stunning 4–1 win after extra time in the return leg in England.

Napoli recovered from the disappointment to end the season with a trophy as they won the Coppa Italia final, inflicting Serie A champions Juventus's only defeat of the season, and finished second in Serie A the following season, their highest position in over 20 years.

Since January of this year, Mazzarri, a former midfielder who played more than 250 matches in a fairly low-key career on the pitch, has been coach of Torino in Serie A, his ninth team since he took his first head coach position at the minor Sicilian club Acireale in 2001.

Sand dunes in the beautiful Rimigliano nature park, which is next to the resort of San Vincenzo
Sand dunes in the beautiful Rimigliano nature park,
which is next to the resort of San Vincenzo
Travel tip:

Mazzarri’s home town of San Vincenzo is a coastal resort at the southern end of the Ligurian Sea, roughly 50km (31 miles) south of Livorno, almost level with the northern tip of the island of Corsica.  The resort is notable for the long stretches of soft, sandy beaches that are characteristic of the area. It is also adjacent to the Rimigliano nature park, which covers the shoreline between San Vincenzo and the Gulf of Baratti, where visitors can admire sea lilies and juniper-covered sand dunes or explore forests of cork and pine trees.

The elegant Piazza Duomo in the centre of the Sicilian town of Acireale, north of Catania
The elegant Piazza Duomo in the centre of the Sicilian
town of Acireale, north of Catania
Travel tip:

Acireale, where Mazzarri played for a while and began his coaching career, is an elegant town rich in Baroque architecture, built on a series of lava terraces that drop to the sea about 17km (11 miles) north of Catania on the southeast coast of Sicily.  It has a beautiful cathedral dedicated to Maria Santissima Annunziata, located in Piazza Duomo in the historic centre. Built in the fifth century, it was reconstructed after the 1693 earthquake. The nearby fishing village of Santa Maria la Scala has some charming restaurants at the harbour’s edge.

More reading:

How Gianfranco Zola 'learned everything' from Diego Maradona

The three-times Champions League winner now in charge of Napoli

The founding of Milan giants Internazionale

Also on this day:

1450: The death of Leonello d'Este, patron of Ferrara's artistic heritage

1910: The birth of Olympic cycling champion Attilio Pavese


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


4 September 2018

Giacinto Facchetti - footballer

The original - and best - attacking full back

Giacinto Facchetti in the famous blue and black striped shirt of the all-conquering Inter-Milan
Giacinto Facchetti in the famous blue and black
striped shirt of the all-conquering Inter-Milan
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.

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.

The Italy team that won the 1968 European Championships with Facchetti, the captain, at the back, on the far right
The Italy team that won the 1968 European Championships
with Facchetti, the captain, at the back, on the far right
Some commentators believe he was the inspiration for West Germany's Frans Beckenbauer, who watched Facchetti's spectacular incursions from left back, his thundering right-footed shots, and asked himself why he, as a libero or sweeper, should not also make forward runs. He did, and came to be seen as one of the greatest all-round players the game has seen.

Facchetti’s prowess as a goalscorer was no accident. When Herrera spotted him playing for the youth team at his local club CS Trevigliese, he was a centre forward, but Herrera knew instantly he was the kind of player he wanted at full back.

Born in 1942, Facchetti had been a bright student. He once had ambitions to become a doctor but the chance to play professional football won the day. He made his Serie A debut for Inter against Roma in May 1961, at the age of 19.

Apart from Trevigliese, Facchetti played for no other club than Inter. With the so-called ‘Grande Inter’ team of the 1960s and early ‘70s, he won the scudetto in 1963, 1965, 1966 and 1971, the European Cup in 1964 and 1965, and two Intercontinental Cups in 1964 and 1965.

Facchetti remained with Inter after his playing career ended, as a coach and then club president
Facchetti remained with Inter after his playing
career ended, as a coach and then club president
In an era where the European Cup - unlike today’s Champions League - was a straight knock-out, Herrera’s Inter were the perfect team, sitting deep and soaking up pressure, then pouncing on the break, utilising the creative brilliance of Sandro Mazzola, Mario Corso and Luis Suárez up front. Only Jock Stein’s Celtic - the so-called Lions of Lisbon - denied Inter a European Cup hat-trick when they reached the final again in 1966.

Selected for the national team for the first time in May 1963, Facchetti went on to win 94 caps, a total surpassed only by Dino Zoff, Paolo Maldini, Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluigi Buffon.

He captained the azzurri 70 times, leading them at the World Cup finals 1970 and 1974, having played at his first World Cup in England in 1966, when Italy suffered the humiliation of being beaten by North Korea.

But Italy bounced back to win the European Championships in 1968 and then took part in two of the finest World Cup matches of all time in Mexico in 1970, first defeating West Germany 4-3 after extra time in the semi-finals in front of 102,000 fans in a baking hot Azteca Stadium, with Facchetti leading by unstinting example, followed by the final in which the Brazil of Pele, Rivelino, Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto put on one of the greatest exhibitions of exhilarating attacking football ever seen to win 4-1.

Facchetti saw out his career at Inter, first on the technical staff and latterly as nominal president, effectively protecting the actual owner and besieged ex-president, Massimo Moratti.

The Basilica of San Martino in Treviglio was originally built in 1008
The Basilica of San Martino in Treviglio
was originally built in 1008
Travel tip:

Treviglio, where Facchetti was born, is situated about 20km (12 miles) south of Bergamo and about 40km (25 miles) east of Milan. Known as the town of courtyards, its main sights are the Palazzo Municipale, which dates back to 1300, and the Basilica of San Martino, originally built in 1008 and remade in the in Lombard-Gothic style in 1482, with a Baroque facade added in 1740. The bell tower dates to the early 11th century.  The historical Bar Milano, in Piazza Manara, was founded in 1896 and still retains the original furniture of the century and a counter in Art Nouveau style.

The Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio in Milan, where 12,000 Inter fans turned out for Facchetti's funeral
The Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio in Milan, where 12,000
Inter fans turned out for Facchetti's funeral
Travel tip:

The Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio is in south west Milan in Piazza Sant’Ambrogio. It was originally built by Aurelius Ambrosius, who was a lawyer who became Bishop of Milan by popular demand, on the site of an earlier Christian burial ground. It was named after him after his remains were placed there, before being rebuilt in the 11th century and further modified in the 15th century.

More reading:

The record-breaking career of Paolo Maldini

Gianluigi Buffon's long-running success story

The brilliance of Luigi Riva

Also on this day:

The Feast Day of Saint Rosalia

1850: The birth of military leader Luigi Cadorna


7 April 2018

Marco Delvecchio - footballer

Striker who became TV dance show star

Marco Delvecchio scored four goals in 22 appearances for the Italy national team
Marco Delvecchio scored four goals in 22
appearances for the Italy national team
The former Roma and Italy striker Marco Delvecchio, who launched a new career in television after finishing runner-up in the Italian equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing, was born on this day in 1973 in Milan.

Delvecchio scored 83 goals in exactly 300 appearances for Roma, where he was part of the side that won the Scudetto in 2000-01 and where he became a huge favourite with fans of the giallorossi because of his penchant for scoring against city rivals Lazio.

His record of nine goals in the Rome derby between 2002 and 2009 was the best by any player in the club’s history until that mark was overtaken by the Roma great Francesco Totti, whose career tally against Lazio was 11.

Delvecchio’s talents were somewhat underappreciated at international level. He made 22 appearances for the azzurri and the first of his four goals was in the final of Euro 2000 against France, although he finished on the losing side. Yet after being favoured by Dino Zoff, he was not so popular with Zoff’s successor as head coach, Giovanni Trapattoni, who took him to the 2002 World Cup but did not give him a game, and omitted him from his squad for the 2004 Euros.

Delvecchio enjoyed his best days in a Roma shirt
Delvecchio enjoyed his best
days in a Roma shirt
Unusually, after 17 seasons, 395 appearances and 94 goals in professional football, Delvecchio ended his career with an amateur club in the Rome area, Pescatori Ostia, for whom he scored 34 goals in one season.

Three years after quitting football, Delvecchio accepted an invitation to appear in the 2012 edition of Ballando con le Stelle (Dancing with the Stars) and finished second with professional partner Sara Di Vaira. 

Popular with viewers, Delvecchio then teamed up with former Internazionale and Italy striker Christian Vieri in their own show, called Bobo e Marco - i re del ballo (Bobo and Marco - the kings of dance) - on satellite channel Sky Uno, in which the two ex-players went on their travels to examine dance culture around the world.

Delvecchio’s TV career has continued to develop. A regular football pundit on Sky Sports, Teleradiostereo, Retesport and Radio 105, he has recently taken part in a third dance show, Dance Dance Dance, on FoxLife, paired with his 18-year-old daughter Federica.

Almost 6ft 2ins (1.86m) in height, Delvecchio was characteristically strong in the air as a player but with quick feet too.  Brought up through the youth system at Inter, he made his senior debut shortly before he turned 19 in a Coppa Italia match against Juventus and his first appearance in Serie A came against Fiorentina a few days later.

He established himself in the Inter team after gaining experience on loan at Venezia and Udinese but was then sold to Roma, where he became a key player in a team bursting with attacking talent, playing initially alongside Daniel Fonseca and Abel Balbo and later with Gabriel Batistuta and Vincenzo Montella, as well as the emerging Francesco Totti.

Delvecchio with professional partner Sara Di Vaira in the 2012 edition of Ballando con le stelle
Delvecchio with professional partner Sara Di Vaira
in the 2012 edition of Ballando con le stelle
Trophy success came his way under the coaching of Fabio Capello, who led Roma to the Serie A title in 2000-01 and the Supercoppa Italiana later in 2001.

In international football, Delvecchio was a member of the Italian team that won the UEFA European Under-21 championships in 1994 and 1996 and played for the Italy team at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, before making his senior azzurri debut under Zoff in December 1998.

Established in the Zoff team that qualified for Euro 2000, hosted by Belgium and the Netherlands, Delvecchio was close to scoring a winner under the now defunct Golden Goal rule in the semi-final against the Netherlands, which the azzurri ultimately won on penalties, before scoring his first senior international goal to put Italy ahead in the final against France in Rotterdam, which ended in heartache for the Italians after Sylvain Wiltord equalised in the last minute of stoppage time, forcing a period of extra time in which David Trezeguet hit a Golden Goal winner for France.

In domestic football, Delvecchio left Roma in 2005 and had spells with Brescia, Parma and Ascoli, where injury forced the termination of his contract and obliged him to have a year out of the game. He came out of retirement to help a former Roma teammate, Massimiliano Cappioli, launch his coaching career with Pescatori Ostia in Eccellenza Lazio, an amateur regional league.

Ostia has a wide sandy beach, which makes it a popular destination for holiday-makers and day-trippers from Rome
Ostia has a wide sandy beach, which makes it a popular
destination for holiday-makers and day-trippers from Rome
Travel tip:

The seaside resort of Ostia, where Delvecchio finished his career, lies 30km (19 miles) to the southwest of Rome, situated just across the Tiber river from Fiumicino, home of Rome’s largest international airport, it adjoins the remains of the ancient Roman city of Ostia Antica. Many Romans spend their summer holidays in the modern town, swelling a population of about 85,000.

The Stadio Olimpico in Rome has hosted numerous major football matches
The Stadio Olimpico in Rome has hosted numerous
major football matches
Travel tip:

FC Roma’s home ground is the Stadio Olimpico, the largest sports facility in the city, located within the Foro Italico sports complex, north of the city. The athletics stadium for the 1960 Olympics, the structure belongs to the Italian National Olympic Committee but is primarily a football stadium. Roma are joint tenants with city rivals Lazio and the ground also hosts the Coppa Italia final. It was rebuilt for the 1990 FIFA World Cup and it hosted the tournament final. Originally called Stadio dei Cipressi as part of the Foro Mussolini complex, the 70,000-capacity stadium has been the venue for four European Cup/Champions League finals, two European championship and one World Cup final, in 1990, as well as numerous high-profile athletics events.


1 April 2018

Alberto Zaccheroni - football coach

First Italian coach to lead a foreign nation to success

Alberto Zaccheroni achieved success at many levels in Italian football
Alberto Zaccheroni achieved success at many
levels in Italian football
The football coach Alberto Zaccheroni, who won the Serie A title with AC Milan and steered the Japan national team to success in the Asia Cup, was born on this day in 1953 in Meldola, a town in Emilia-Romagna.

In a long coaching career, Zaccheroni has taken charge of 13 teams in Italy, a club side in China and two international teams, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.

In common with many coaches in Italy, Zaccheroni began at semi-professional level and worked his way up through the professional leagues.  Before winning the Scudetto with Milan in 1999, he had twice won titles at Serie D (fourth tier) level and twice in Serie C.

Zaccheroni played as a fullback, with the youth team at Bologna and the Serie D team Cesenatico in Emilia-Romagna, but his career was hampered by a lung disease he contracted at the age of 17, which meant he could not train or play for two years.

He quit playing in his mid-20s and began to coach Cesenatico’s youth teams.  His coaching talents began to attract attention when, in two consecutive seasons, he was asked to take over on the bench for Cesenatico’s first team following the sacking of the head coach and on each occasion saved them from relegation.

This brought him a head coach’s position in his own right at Riccione, near Rimini, where he won promotion to Serie C2, and then at Baracca Lugo, the team near Ravenna that takes its name from Francesco Baracca, the First World War flying ace who was born in the town.

The German striker Oliver Bierhoff served  Zaccheroni at Udinese and AC Milan
The German striker Oliver Bierhoff served
Zaccheroni at Udinese and AC Milan
He achieved promotion in consecutive seasons with Baracca Lugo, taking them into Serie C2 and then C1, before continuing his rapid rise with Venezia, where he won the Serie C1 play-off to take the club of La Serenissima into Serie B for the first time in 24 years.

After Venezia, Zaccheroni spent a season with Bologna before taking up his first post outside northern Italy at Cosenza in Calabria, where he had a remarkable Serie B season, taking over a team that had began the campaign with a nine-point penalty yet not only avoided relegation but at one point were in contention for promotion to Serie A.

As a result, he landed his first Serie A post with Udinese, where he became known as the father of 3-4-3, the tactical formation he favoured and which became the stock system for other coaches, such as Antonio Conte, who employed it with great success at Juventus and Chelsea at club level, and with the Italian national team.

Bringing together an Italian (Paolo Poggi), a German (Oliver Bierhoff) and a Brazilian (Marcio Amoroso) in his forward line, Zaccheroni steered Udinese to 10th place, fifth and third in consecutive seasons.  The fifth place in 1997 meant the Friulian club qualified for the UEFA Cup for the first time in its history.

This opened the door to even bigger challenges, this time with AC Milan, one of the giants of Italian football.  Zaccheroni was successful immediately, delivering the club’s 16th Scudetto in their centenary season, with his former Lazio star Oliver Bierhoff the leading goalscorer.

Zaccheroni took charge of the Japan national team in 2011
Zaccheroni took charge of the Japan
national team in 2011
Only then did Zaccheroni’s almost continuous record of success come to a halt. He could not replicate his domestic success in the Champions League and when Milan finished sixth in 2000-01, his third season in charge, and therefore qualified only for a UEFA Cup place, he was dismissed by president Silvio Berlusconi.

Faced with much higher demands, he subsequently spent only one season at Lazio, qualifying for the UEFA Cup, and one season with Internazionale, where he finished fourth and thereby clinched a Champions League place, but on each occasion he was replaced as head coach with Roberto Mancini.  

From Inter, Zaccheroni went to Torino and then Juventus, again without success, before the chance arose to take charge of the Japan national team in 2011.

Despite language problems - Zaccheroni struggled to learn any Japanese and had to communicate with his players either via an interpreter or, as one of his players later explained, with only gestures when no interpreter was available - he led the Japan to the Asia Cup in his first season in charge, the first Italian coach to be successful with an international team other than Italy.

Subsequently, Zaccheroni’s Japan won the East Asia Cup in 2013 and qualified for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.

He left after the 2014 World Cup, when Japan finished bottom of their group. Following an unsuccessful stint in the up-and-coming Chinese professional league as coach of of Beijing Guoan, Zaccheroni accepted his second international posting as head coach of the United Arab Emirates, with whom he reached the final of the Gulf Nations Cup in January this year.

The castle at Zaccheroni's home town of Meldola
The castle at Zaccheroni's home town of Meldola
Travel tip:

Zaccheroni’s home town of Meldola, situated some 14km (9 miles) south of Forli in the foothills of the Apennines, with a population of just over 10,000, was once notable for the production of silk.  The site of a large Roman aqueduct, now submerged, it has a well-preserved medieval castle. The Rocca della Caminate fortress was a former holiday home of the Fascist leader Benito Mussolini.

The canal-port at Cesenatico was built to designs by Leonardo da Vinci
The canal-port at Cesenatico was built to designs
by Leonardo da Vinci
Travel tip:

The Adriatic resort of Cesenatico, where Zaccheroni began his coaching career, is 16km (10 miles) from the city of Cesena, on the stretch of coast between Rimini and Ravenna, has a number of distinctions, including an 118-metre office and apartment building that was once the tallest building in Italy and a port and canal built from designs commissioned of Leonardo da Vinci. It also has a handsome, Liberty-style Grand Hotel and a museum dedicated to the former cycling champion Marco Pantani.

More reading:

Massimiliano Allegri, the former Milan coach who broke records at Juventus

Roberto Mancini - the Italian who led Manchester City to their first title for 44 years

Why Milan great Franco Baresi was called the player of the century

Also on this day:

April Fools' Day - Italian style

1946: The birth of former AC Milan and Italy coach Arrigo Sacchi


22 December 2017

Giuseppe Bergomi – footballer

World Cup winner who spent his whole career with Inter

Giuseppe Bergomi made 87  appearances for the national team
Giuseppe Bergomi made 87
appearances for the national team
The footballer Giuseppe Bergomi, renowned as one of the best defenders in the history of Italian football and a member of the World Cup-winning Azzurri side of 1982, was born on this day in 1963 in Milan.

Bergomi spent his entire club career with the Milan side Internazionale, spanning 20 years in which he made 756 appearances, including 519 in Serie A, which was a club record until it was overtaken by the Argentine-born defender Javier Zanetti, who went on to total 856 club appearances before he retired in 2014.

In international football, Bergomi played 87 times for the Italian national team, of which he was captain during the 1990 World Cup finals, in which Italy reached the semi-finals as hosts.

Alongside the brothers Franco, of AC Milan, and Giuseppe Baresi, his team-mate at Inter, and the Juventus trio Gaetano Scirea, Antonio Cabrini and Claudio Gentile, he was part of the backbone of the Italian national team for much of the 1980s.

He made his Azzurri debut in April 1982, only a couple of months before the World Cup finals in Spain, aged just 18 years and 3 months, making him the youngest player to feature in a match for Italy since the Second World War.

Not surprisingly, given his young age, he was not a first-choice in the 1982 side under coach Enzo Bearzot.

Bergomi in his early days 
But he came on as a substitute against Brazil in the memorable 3-2 second phase win and on the strength of that was named in the starting line-up against Poland in the semi-final because Gentile was suspended.

Such was his performance, displaying a maturity beyond his years, that Bearzot felt he could not drop him for the final against West Germany.

In the event, given the job of marking the dangerous Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, he was one of Italy’s best players, rendering the German star so ineffective he was substituted in the second half as Italy ran out 3-1 winners. Bergomi also played a part in the build-up to Marco Tardelli’s famous goal.

Italy did not progress beyond the last 16 in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico but under his captaincy the Azzurri to a third-place finish, losing to Argentina on penalties in the semi-final before beating England in the play-off for third place.

Bergomi’s international career seemed to be over after he was sent off against Norway in a qualifying match for the 1992 European Championships, prefacing a long period in which he was not selected.

Yet he made a surprise comeback to play in his fourth World Cup finals in France in 1998, at the age of 34.  Alongside Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Costacurta and Paolo Maldini, he played in three matches as Italy reached the last eight before being eliminated on penalties by the hosts and eventual champions France.

Add caption
Versatile enough to play in any defensive role, as full back, centre back or sweeper, he was renowned for his positional strength and his ability to make surging forward runs in his favoured position of right back.

He was also a fierce tackler, although he had a short fuse at times.  Much admired as a sportsman with an innate sense of fairness, he sometimes struggled to contain his emotions and was actually sent off a total of 12 times in his career.

The highlights of his career with Inter included the Serie A title in 1988-89 and three UEFA Cup medals in the 1990s, Inter lifting the trophy in 1991, 1994 and 1998.

Affectionately referred to as Lo zio – the uncle – during his playing career, he was named as one of the 100 best players in the history of football in 2004 in a list compiled by the Brazil legend Pelé to mark the 100th anniversary of FIFA 100.

Since retiring as a player, Bergomi has done some coaching and currently works as a pundit at Sky Sports Italia. He frequently co-commentates on Serie A matches alongside Fabio Caressa, with whom he described Italy’s victory in the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Inter was formed by a group of friends who met in a Milan restaurant
Inter was formed by a group of friends
who met in a Milan restaurant
Travel tip:

Bergomi’s home-town club, Internazionale, was originally established by expatriate British football enthusiasts but after a dispute over whether foreign players should be signed that a breakaway group formed following a meeting at the Ristorante L'Orologio in Via Giuseppe Mengoni in Milan, a short distance from the opera house, Teatro alla Scala.  An artist, Giorgio Muggiani, who had developed an enthusiasm for football while studying in Switzerland, was the driving force behind the new club and it was he who designed the club's famous logo, featuring the colours blue, black and gold. 

The Arena Civica was Inter's home for 37 years
The Arena Civica was Inter's home for 37 years
Travel tip:

For many years, Internazionale's home ground was the Arena Civica, in the heart of Milan. Opened in 1807 in the city's Parco Sempione, behind the Castello Sforzesco, the arena is one of Milan's main examples of neoclassical architecture, an elliptical amphitheatre commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte soon after he became King of Italy in 1805.  Napoleon wanted it to be Milan's equivalent of the Colosseum in Rome.  It was Inter’s home for 37 years until they moved to the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium in the San Siro district of Milan, which they share with AC Milan.

18 December 2017

Gianluca Pagliuca – record-breaking goalkeeper

No one has saved more penalties in Serie A matches

Gianluca Pagliuca played for Italy in the 1994 World Cup final
Gianluca Pagliuca played for Italy
in the 1994 World Cup final
The footballer Gianluca Pagliuca, once the most expensive goalkeeper in the world, record-holder for the most appearances by a goalkeeper in the Italian soccer championship and still the stopper with the most penalty saves in Serie A, was born on this day in 1966 in Ceretolo, a small town about 10km (6 miles) from the centre of Bologna.

Pagliuca made 592 appearances in Serie A, taking the record previously held by Italy’s World Cup-winning captain Dino Zoff for the most by a goalkeeper in the top division of the Italian League. He held the record for 10 years from September 2006 until it was overtaken by another of Italy’s greatest goalkeepers, Gianluigi Buffon, in 2016.

He played for four major clubs in his career, starting with Sampdoria, with whom he won the Serie A title – the Scudetto – in 1990-91, playing in the team that included Gianluca Vialli, Roberto Mancini, Beppe Dossena, Attilio Lombardo and Ivano Bonetti.

After Sampdoria, he represented Internazionale in Milan, his home-town club Bologna and the small club Ascoli, from Ascoli Piceno in Marche.

He also made 39 appearances for the Italian national team and was chosen for three World Cup finals squads, picking up a runners-up medal in the United States in 1994, even though his participation was marred by a suspension for two matches.

Pagliuca was renowned for saving penalties
Pagliuca was renowned for saving penalties
This followed his red card in Italy’s group match against Norway, when he was sent off for handling the ball outside his penalty area, in the process becoming the first goalkeeper to be dismissed in the history of the World Cup finals.

Pagliuca’s achievements with Sampdoria, where he also won a European Cup-winners’ Cup medal and a runners-up medal in the Champions League following a 1-0 defeat against Barcelona at Wembley, earned him a move to Inter in 1994 for a fee of £7 million, which at the time was the highest fee to be paid for a goalkeeper.

At Inter he played in two consecutive UEFA Cup finals, defeating Italian rivals Lazio in the second, and might have stayed in Milan longer had new coach Marcello Lippi not brought in Angelo Peruzzi from his former club, Juventus, to be first choice.

At that time, in 1999, Pagliuca had the possibility of continuing his career in England with Aston Villa, a club he had followed as a teenager when satellite TV channels first allowed Italian audiences to follow English football.

He chose instead to join Bologna, his first love as a boy growing up in the city’s outskirts, although he said that playing at Villa Park for Inter in a UEFA Cup tie in 1994 had been one of the proudest moments of his career.

Pagliuca won the Serie A title with Sampdoria
Pagliuca won the Serie A title
with Sampdoria
Inter lost that tie on a penalty shoot-out, although in keeping with his reputation Pagliuca did save one of Villa’s penalties. In Serie A, his tally of 24 penalty saves has still not been beaten.

He also saved a penalty in the shoot-put that settled the 1994 World Cup final in Pasadena, although Italy were beaten by Brazil after both Franco Baresi and Roberto Baggio missed with their kicks and Daniele Massaro saw his attempt saved.

When Pagliuca announced his retirement while playing for Ascoli in 2007, he was 40 years old and had racked up an incredible 786 competitive appearances in all competitions.

Since quitting as a player, Pagliuca has combined working for Bologna as a member of the coaching staff with appearing on Sky Italia and the Mediaset subscription channels as a pundit.

Ceretolo is a popular residential area outside Bologna
Ceretolo is a popular residential area outside Bologna
Travel tip:

Ceretolo, where Pagliuca was born and played his first football with the Polisportiva Ceretolese amateur club, was for many centuries a hamlet outside the larger town of Casalecchio di Reno, a few kilometres outside Bologna in the Emilia-Romagna region.  It has an 18th century church, dedicated to the saints Antonio and Andrea and a bell tower that survived both an earthquake in 1928 and bombing in the Second World War. In more recent years it has grown into popular residential area.

The church of San Michele in Bosco offers panoramic views over the city of Bologna
The church of San Michele in Bosco offers panoramic views
over the city of Bologna
Travel tip:

Visitors to Bologna can enjoy impressive panoramic views across the city by taking only a short trip out of the city centre into the Colli Bolognesi, the hills just to the south of the city, which itself is built on a flat plain at the southern edge of the Po Valley. One good vantage point is the church of San Michele in Bosco, which was built during the Middle Ages and refurbished by Olivetan monks in the 17th century as part of a religious complex that included a convent. The churchyard can be reached by a 10-minute bus ride or on foot from the centre and offers a view across the whole city.

Also on this day: