Showing posts with label Parliament. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Parliament. Show all posts

18 August 2016

Gianni Rivera - footballer and politician

Milan legend served in the Italian Parliament and as MEP

Gianni Rivera, idol of AC Milan fans for almost two decades
Gianni Rivera, idol of AC Milan fans
for almost two decades
Gianni Rivera, a footballer regarded as one of Italy's all-time greats, was born on this day in 1943 in Alessandria, a city in Piedmont some 90km east of Turin and a similar distance south-west of Milan.

Rivera played for 19 years for AC Milan, winning an array of trophies that included the Italian championship three times, the Italian Cup four times, two European Cup-Winners' Cups and two European Cups.

He won 63 caps for the Italian national team, playing in four World Cups, including the 1970 tournament in Mexico, when Italy reached the final.

Later in life, he entered politics, sitting in the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament from 1987 to 2001 and serving as a Member of the European Parliament from 2005 to 2009.

Rivera had a tough upbringing in Alessandria, which suffered heavy bombing during the later stages of the Second World War, with hundreds of residents killed.  His family were not wealthy but Rivera found distraction playing football with his friends in the street and it was obvious at an early age that he had talent.

His father, a railway mechanic, arranged for him to have a trial with the local football club when he was 13 and he was quickly taken on as a youth team player.   The club, US Alessandria, competes in the semi-professional Lega Pro nowadays but was a much grander concern as Rivera was growing up and when he made his senior debut in 1959, aged just 15 years and 288 days, it was in a top-flight Serie A match against Internazionale.

He was the second youngest player in Serie A history.  By the age of 17, Rivera had been sold to AC Milan for 90 million lire.

Small and slight, Rivera had to win over his critics, some of whom decried him as a 'luxury' player in that he was never one for the physical side of football.  Gianni Brera, one of Italy's foremost football writers, dubbed him abatino - literally 'little abbot' - and did not intend it as a compliment.

Rivera (right) with his international team-mate and rival in club football, Sandro Mazzola
Rivera (right) with his international team-mate
and rival in club football, Sandro Mazzola
Yet Rivera's intelligence and imagination, first as a winger and in time as a classical 'number 10', playing just behind the forwards, enabled him to score and create goals in abundance.

Rivera helped Milan win the 1962 scudetto - the Serie A title - when he was only 18 and when the rossoneri became the first Italian club to win the European Cup a year later, beating Benfica 2-1 at Wembley, it was Rivera who set up both Milan's goals for José Altafini.

In his international career, Rivera was a member of the Italy team that won the European Championships on home soil in 1968 and scored the winning goal in an epic semi-final against West Germany in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico as the Italians triumphed 4-3.

This was the tournament in which Ferruccio Valcareggi, Italy's coach, could not decide between Rivera and the similarly gifted Sandro Mazzola as his playmaker and ended up reaching a bizarre compromise that he termed the staffetta - 'relay' - in which Rivera, captain of AC Milan, and Mazzola, captain of their fierce city rivals Internazionale, would play one half each, with Rivera often coming on at half-time.

It worked effectively in the quarter-finals, when Italy overwhelmed the hosts Mexico 4-1 with three goals in the second half, and against the Germans, when Rivera's influence in extra time was decisive, although Valcareggi abandoned the policy in the final, with Rivera kept on the bench until the final six minutes, by which time the brilliant Brazilians were well on their way to a 4-1 win.

Rivera played his last match for Milan in 1979, retiring after 658 club appearances, having scored 164 goals.  As with many outstanding club servants in Italian football, he was given what was assumed would be a job for life with the rossoneri, who made him a vice-president.

Gianni Rivera in his days as a politician
Gianni Rivera in his days as
a politician 
All that changed, however, when Silvio Berlusconi bought the club in 1986. Rivera and the future Italian Prime Minister were diametrically opposed politically.  The former player made outspoken comments about the controversial Berlusconi's involvement, as a politician of the right, in what was traditionally regarded as the club of Milan's working class, after which he was stripped of his status as vice-president and had his right to match tickets withdrawn.  Not surprisingly, Rivera resigned.

It was soon afterwards that he stood for election to the Italian Parliament, initially winning election as a centrist but moving to the centre-left.  As a member of the Italian Renewal movement set up by former Prime Minister Lamberto Dini, he served in the Olive Tree coalition led by Romano Prodi that defeated Berlusconi in 1996.  For a while, Rivera was under-secretary of state for defence.

After his stint as an MEP, Rivera returned to football in 2013, appointed by the Italian Federation as President of the Technical Sector, overseeing the training and qualification of coaches.

The Cittadella di Alessandria, viewed from the air
The Cittadella di Alessandria, viewed from the air
Travel tip:

Alessandria is notable among other things for the Cittadella di Alessandria, a star-shaped hexagonal fortress built in the 18th century when the city was part of the Kingdom of Sardinia.  Situated just outside the city across the Tanaro River and surrounded by a wide moat linked to the river, it covers more than 180 acres and is one of the best preserved fortifications of its type.  It remained a military establishment until as recently as 2007 and now holds a permanent exhibition of about 1500 uniforms, weapons and memorabilia.

Travel tip:

Milan is the most populous metropolitan area in Italy and the fifth largest in Europe with an urban population of around 5.5 million.  It is the wealthiest city in Italy with the third largest economy in Europe after London and Paris.  Its many notable tourist attractions include the magnificent Gothic cathedral, the Sforza Castle and Leonardo da Vinci's mural painting of The Last Supper, in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria della Grazie.

More reading:


19 March 2016

Mario Monti – Prime Minister

‘Super Mario’ steps in during debt crisis

Mario Monti was Prime Minister of Italy from 2011 to 2013
Mario Monti was Prime Minister of Italy
from 2011 to 2013
Economist Mario Monti, who was Prime Minister of Italy from 2011 to 2013, was born on this day in 1943 in Varese in Lombardy.

Monti was invited by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano to form a new Government after the resignation of Silvio Berlusconi in November 2011 in the middle of the European debt crisis.

Monti, who was the 54th Prime Minister of Italy, led a Government of technocrats, who introduced austerity measures in Italy.

Monti was born in Varese and, after attending a private school, went to Bocconi University in Milan, where he obtained a degree in Economics.

He was a European Commissioner from 1994 to 1999, where he obtained the nickname ‘Super Mario’ from his colleagues and the Press.

In 1999 the Prime Minister at the time, Massimo D’Alema, appointed him to the new Prodi Commission, giving him responsibility for Competition.

Berlusconi's resignation in 2011 paved the way for Monti to be invited to form a government
Silvio Berlusconi
He was made a lifetime senator by Giorgio Napolitano in November 2011 and a few days later he was invited to form a new Government following Berlusconi’s resignation.

He appointed a technocratic cabinet composed entirely of unelected professionals.

They introduced austerity measures to try to stem the worsening economic conditions in Italy. He announced that he would be giving up his own salary as part of the reforms.

Monti resigned as Prime Minister after the 2012 Budget was passed, as he had always pledged he would do.

Since January 2014, Monti has been Chairman of the High Level group on Own Resources, a consultative committee of the European Union that will propose new forms of revenue for the European Union’s budget.

Lake Varese is set among rolling hills below the town
A view over the beautiful Lake Varese
Photo: Idéfix (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Travel tip:

Varese is a city in Lombardy, 55 kilometres north of Milan and close to Lago Maggiore. It is rich in castles, villas and gardens, many connected with the Borromeo family, who are from the area. Lake Varese is 8.5 kilometres long, set in low rolling hills just below Varese.

Hotels in Varese by

Travel tip:

Bocconi University is a private university in Milan that provides education in the fields of economics, management, finance, law and public administration. It was founded in 1902 by Ferdinanado Bocconi and was originally located in Via Statuto near the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan.

16 March 2016

Aldo Moro - Italy's tragic former prime minister

Politician kidnapped and murdered by Red Brigades

Aldo Moro pictured in 1978, not long before his kidnap by the Red Brigades
Aldo Moro pictured in 1978, not long
before his kidnap by the Red Brigades
Italy and the wider world were deeply shocked on this day in 1978 when the former Italian prime minister, Aldo Moro, was kidnapped on the streets of Rome in a violent ambush that claimed the lives of his five bodyguards.

The attack took place on Via Mario Fani, a few minutes from Signor Moro's home in the Monte Mario area, at shortly after 9am during the morning rush hour.  Moro, a 61-year-old Christian Democrat politician who had formed a total of five Italian governments, between 1963 and 1968 and again from 1974-76, was being driven to the Palazzo Montecitorio in central Rome for a session of the Chamber of Deputies.

As the traffic forced Moro's car to pause outside a café, one of four small Fiat saloon cars used by the kidnappers reversed into a space in front of Moro's larger Fiat, in which the front seats were occupied by two carabinieri officers with Moro sitting behind them.  Another of the kidnappers' Fiats pulled in behind the Alfa Romeo immediately following Moro's, which contained three more bodyguards.  At that moment, four gunmen emerged from bushes close to the roadside and began firing automatic weapons.

Moro's five bodyguards were killed before he was pulled from his vehicle and bundled into another of the kidnappers' cars, which had stopped alongside and was then driven away at speed.

La Repubblica's headline: Moro rapito (Moro kidnapped)
The front page of La Repubblica
brings news of the dramatic events
"Moro rapito (kidnapped)"
Soon afterwards, responsibility for the kidnapping was claimed by the Red Brigades, the notorious left-wing terrorist organisation that had been carrying out violent acts since the early 1970s, aimed at destabilising the country.

Moro was held captive for 55 days before his body was found in the boot of a Renault car in Via Michelangelo Caetani in Rome's historic centre on the afternoon of May 9 following a tip-off. During his period of captivity, members of the Red Brigades communicated with the authorities that Moro had been tried and condemned to death for what they perceived as his "political crimes" but that they would consider a pardon in return for the release of 13 members of the organisation, including the founder, Renato Curcio, who were on trial in Turin.

However, the state's position was that it would not negotiate with terrorists, despite personal pleas from Moro himself.  Numerous attempts to locate his place of imprisonment were unsuccessful.

The authorities ultimately identified 10 individuals involved in the kidnapping, eight of whom were arrested.

The motives for the kidnapping appeared to be linked to Moro's role as a negotiator between the Christian Democrats and the Italian Communist Party - the PCI - who at the time were gaining considerable support in Italy as a left-wing group who supported democracy and parliament.  Moro was an advocate of the so-called 'historic compromise' between the two ideologically-opposed groups.

The memorial to Aldo Moro in Via Caetani
(Photo: Torvindus (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The PCI had condemned the Red Brigades for their violent tactics and revolutionary aims and in turn the Red Brigades had accused the PCI of allowing themselves to be manipulated by the right.

On the day of the kidnap, the Chamber of Deputies had been due to vote on an alliance between the Christian Democrats and the PCI, brokered by Moro in what became known as the 'historic compromise', that would have given the Communists a direct role in Italy's government for the first time.

The Red Brigades are said to have wanted this process to be derailed and if this was their objective they succeeded. A vote of confidence in Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti's right-wing coalition government went ahead as planned later in the day and Andreotti won with a large majority, with even members of the PCI voting with him in the interests of national security and stability.

Yet although there were four subsequent trials relating to the Moro murder and 38 years have passed, conspiracy theories still circulate that forces other than the terrorist group were involved.

Given that the kidnap took place with the Cold War between east and west still a long way from resolution, the most popular theories link his death with American opposition to the involvement of the PCI in any Italian government, preferring Italy to retain its position as a bulwark between western Europe and the Eastern Bloc which it bordered.

Others suspect the involvement of the subsequently outlawed Masonic lodge Propaganda Due, which had among its members many politicians, industrialists, prominent journalists and military leaders who saw the Italian communists as a threat.

Travel tip:

Visitors to Rome can pay their respects to Aldo Moro at a modest monument in Via Michelangelo Caetani, close to the place his body was discovered.  There is a plaque and a bronze bas-relief portrait on a wall opposite the Palazzo Caetani.  The street can be found in central Rome a short walk from the Largo di Torre Argentina, scene of the death of Julius Caesar on 15 March 44BC. A plaque in Via Mario Fani remembers the five policeman killed in the kidnap.

Piazza Aldo Moro in Lecce
Photo: Lupiae (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Travel tip:

Aldo Moro was born in the far south of Italy in Maglie, an inland town of just under 15,000 inhabitants in Apulia, in the Province of Lecce. The historic city of Lecce, famous for its baroque architecture, is 25 kilometres to the north.  Moro has been honoured with the naming of a square, the Piazza Aldo Moro, in the centre of the town.

More reading:

Why Socialist politician Bettino Craxi opposed Aldo Moro's 'historic compromise'

How the Moro tragedy cast a shadow over the political career of president Francesco Cossiga

Enrico Berlinguer - the leader who turned Italy's Communists into a political force

Also on this day:

1886: The birth of athlete Emilio Lunghi, Italy's first Olympic medal winner

1940: The birth of controversial film director Bernardo Bertolucci