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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Book Review: "Cercando Scirea: A Novel About A Mythical Juventus Player" by Gianluca Iovine

Image courtesy of Gianluca Iovine.
Please click the image to learn more about
the book at Amazon.it.


 

















"Con 552 presenze in maglia bianconera e un palmares che comprende sette scudetti, una coppa dei campioni e un titolo di campione del mondo, Gaetano Scirea è un’autentica bandiera juventina, nonché un giocatore rispettato da chiunque ami il gioco del calcio. Perché non sono soltanto le vittorie che danno a Scirea, uno dei liberi più forti di tutti i tempi, un posto di rilievo nella storia dello sport italiano.

Dietro i successi, infatti, c’è una vita intera a dimostrare come al di là del campione ci fosse un uomo capace di passare da un polveroso campetto di Cinisello Balsamo ai palcoscenici internazionali con la stessa umiltà, la stessa correttezza, la stessa volontà di essere prima che di apparire. Racconto profondo ed emozionante, Cercando Scirea è un libro dedicato a una vita vera, scritto in punta di penna affinché il ricordo vivo dell’uomo non sfumi nell’immensità del calciatore, e perché piccole paure, errori e persino sconfitte lo restituiscano com’era, fino a un minuto prima del fischio finale: un uomo limpido, pulito, leale".


"With 552 appearances for Juventus and a C.V. that totals seven Scudetti (Italian Serie A titles), a European Cup and a World Cup title, Gaetano Scirea is an authentic Juventus flag-bearer. As well as a player respected by everyone who loves football.

Because there are not only victories that were given by Scirea, one of the strongest
liberos of all time, a reference point for Italian football. Behind his successes, in fact, there was a whole life to show that beyond the great player there was a man capable of coming from a dusty little field in
Cinisello Balsamo to famous international arenas with the same humility, the same comportment, the same desire to be the first one to show up.

A profound and emotional story, Cercando Scirea ('Looking For Scirea') is a book dedicated to a real life, written in a perspective so that the true remembrance isn't lost in the immensity of the footballer. And because a few fears, mistakes and even defeats portray him as he was, up until the minute before the final whistle: a clear, clean and loyal man."


--- Gianluca Iovine, (@cercandoscirea) author of "Looking For Scirea: A Novel About A Mythical Juventus Player," published initially by Boopen LED in 2010 and Castelvecchi Editore in 2011 with a price of 18.
  
Gaetano Scirea.
Image courtesy of Sito Ufficiale Cinisello Balsamo.
Scirea won the Cup Winners' Cup, European Cup,
Intercontinental Cup,
Italian Cup, UEFA Cup, the World Cup,
and seven Italian titles (Scudetti).























Gaetano Scirea. When I hear that iconic name, the first thought that comes to mind is composed elegance. We normally don't associate "elegance" with one of the best defenders to ever play the game; however, that was how he played. His life was tragically cut short at the young age of 36 during a scouting trip for Juventus in Poland during September, 1989. An entire nation mourned Scirea. Not only for his prowess on the soccer pitch as one of the best liberos/sweepers of his generation, but also for Scirea the man. 

Gaetano Scirea was someone who did not seek out attention or fame during his life. His composed, disciplined and quietly confident manner spoke volumes. This story needed to be shared with a younger generation that never had the privilege to watch Scirea lead the Azzurri and Juventus to glory. We are fortunate that Gianluca Iovine decided to tell it in such brilliant detail. This novel is not only about Scirea but chronicles Italian football from the 1960s to 1980s: From the agony of the Heysel Stadium tragedy, to the ecstasy of the World Cup triumph in 1982, with many less compelling events included for good measure. If you love calcio history, you will not put this book down easily.

Unique Narrative Voice

I liked how the Italian journalist and screenwriter, Gianluca Iovine, decided how to tell this story. He used a unique literary device to great affect: the entire story about Scirea is told by Nino Jeranò, a childhood friend of Gaetano. This book is structured into six diaries that Scirea's old friend maintained. Many years later, Jeranò sent the faded notebooks to Riccardo Scirea so that the younger man could learn more about his father.

 «Quei quaderni sono tuoi, ora. Quando senti il bisogno di pensare a tuo padre, aprili. Scoprirai tanto di lui, un mondo segreto, che nessuno ti ha mai raccontato. È vero, era il migliore di tutti, ma solo leggendo capirai il perché». (Page 11)

"Those notebooks are now yours. When you feel the need to to think of your father, open them. You'll discover so much about him, a secret world, that nobody has ever told you about. It's true. He was the best of them all, but only by reading will you understand why."

Unusual Level of Access and Authenticity for a Work of Fiction

Gaetano Scirea and his son, Riccardo.
Image courtesy of Comune di Torino.
  














The widow of Gaetano Scirea, Mariella, along with his brother, Paolo, and son Riccardo, collaborated wtih Gianluca Iovine. Both for this novel, along with a screenplay he wrote with Paolo Spotti and Claudia Carlino for a television documentary called, Scirea. The author also spoke to the following luminaries from Italian calcio and world football to lend their expertise: "Adelio Moro, Paolo Rossi, Marco Tardelli, Giovanni Trapattoni, Beniamino Vignola, Pietro Paolo Virdis, Dino Zoff." (Page 298)

In my opinion, this level of access provided a great deal of authority and credibility. This novel reads more like a biography in its precise detail, historical research, esoterica and overall portrayal than a work of fiction. For example, this quote by German great, Uwe Seeler:

«Ne ho visti di giovani, gente, ma questo Scirea spaventa. Io dico che diventerà uno dei calciatori più
forti del mondo. Parola di Seeler». (Page 88)


"I have seen young players, people, but this Scirea is frightening. I say that he'll become one of the best footballers in the world. Word of Seeler."

And this reference from Scirea's professional debut for Atalanta against the Cagliari of Azzurri legend, Gigi Riva:

«Al fischio finale, il match si era chiuso 0-0, e Gigi Riva per primo si era sorpreso del giovane avversario che l’aveva fermato: Scirea. A fine partita, a Riva era sfuggita una gran pacca sulle spalle dell’avversario. Poi, uno sguardo di ghiaccio e una risata nervosa: Gaetano aveva vinto la sfida, e Corsini la sua scommessa. Forse era nata una stella del calcio, che usciva dalla difesa con il portamento di un principe, a testa alta, il pallone incollato al piede». (Page 95)

"At the final whistle, the match ended, 0-0, and Gigi Riva for the first time was surprised by the young opponent who had stopped him: Scirea. At the end of the game, a great pat on the shoulders escaped from Riva on his opponent's shoulders. Then, an icy look and a nervous laugh: Gaetano had won the challenge, and (Giulio) Corsini (Atalanta's manager) his bet. Perhaps a football star was born who came out from the defensive phase with the poise of a prince, head held high and the ball glued to his feet."

Career Highlights
 



Other Notable Quotes


«Gaetano Scirea a quattro anni era già un bambino dalla sensibilità speciale; non parlava molto, ma le poche frasi che diceva erano illuminanti. Aveva un suo mondo, nel quale, invece di altri bambini vocianti con i quali giocare a palla avvelenata, o a Trentuno salvi tutti, esistevano partite interminabili, campionati lunghi interi pomeriggi, dove la Juventus, l’Internazionale, il Milan, si affrontavano sempre e solo nella sua fantasia. Immaginava al posto del muro un prato verde e un portiere da battere, forte almeno quanto Mattrel, o come il grande Ghezzi. Non era solo uno spensierato marmocchio di quattro anni, ma piuttosto un piccolo adulto». Page 13 

"Gaetano Scirea, at four years of age, was already a child with special sensibilities. He didn't talk a lot but the few phrases he did say were enlightening. He had his own world which instead of being characterized by children playing games, or Trentuno Saves Everyone, endless matches existed, seasons that lasted whole afternoons. Where Juventus, Internazionale and AC Milan always faced him and only in his dreams.

He imagined in the place of a wall a green pitch and a goalkeeper to beat. Strong like Mattrel, or like the great Ghezzi. It wasn't only a wild daydream of a four-year-old, but above all, a little adult." 

«Bambini, la composizione di quest’oggi è: “Da grande vorrei essere”.«…Ma se non ci riuscirò, quando sarò grande, farò il maestro. Aiuterò le persone, insegnando. Così, mio padre e mia madre saranno davvero orgogliosi di me». Il maestro Bosetti era curioso, decise di approfondire. Congedò tutta la classe, restando da solo con il piccolo Gae. Aveva intuito che il suo alunno non sognava una cattedra ma uno stadio.
«E quindi sogni di fare il calciatore… Sono i tuoi genitori che vorrebbero farti fare il maestro, se ho capito bene». «È che mio padre non vuole, dice che devo pensare solo a studiare». Page 17


"Children, today's composition is 'What would I like to be when I grow up.' "... But if I don't succeed, when I'm grown up, I'll be a teacher. I'll help people by teaching. So, my parents will really be proud of me."

The schoolteacher, Mr. Bosetti, was curious, and decided to do further research. He dismissed the entire class except for little Gaetano who remained alone. He guessed that his student didn't dream of a classroom but of a stadium. 'And therefore, you dream of being a footballer... Your parents want you to become a schoolteacher if I've understood properly?' 'It's that my father doesn't want it. He says that I must only think of my studies.' "

«Stefano e Giovanni Trapattoni erano diventati amici. Parlavano di tutto, anche della fabbrica, degli operai, persino di calcio, nonostante l’allergia di Stefano. Trapattoni a sentirlo sembrava uno che masticava politica. Per Gae restava l’uomo che aveva fermato Pelè, ed era lì, nel salotto di casa, che beveva caffè e conversava. Quell’uomo aveva giocato e vinto in Coppa dei Campioni con il grande Milan e giocato in Azzurro. Era una Leggenda, che ora gli si rivolgeva: «E tu cos’ hai, diciannove anni?» «Sì, quasi compiuti, mister!» «Chiamami Giovanni, poi magari mi chiamerai mister se avrò la fortuna di allenarti». Page 78

"Stefano (Scirea) and Giovanni Trapattoni had become friends. They spoke about everything, including the factory, about workers, even football, notwithstanding Stefano's allergy (he disliked soccer). Listening to Trapattoni, it seemed that he ate up politics. For Gaetano, he remained the man who stopped Pelè, and there he was, in his living room, drinking coffee and talking away. He was a legend and now he addressed Gaetano: 

'And you, how old are you, about 19?' 'Yes, almost 19 years old, coach!' 'Call me Giovanni. Then you might call me coach if I'll have the good fortune to manage you.' "


Andrea Agnelli, President of Juventus FC, dedicating "Corso Gaetano Scirea," in 2012.

«Luciano Moggi era un ferroviere con l’hobby del calcio. Con il fido Galletti scovava giovani talenti. E alcune sue scoperte lo avevano reso indispensabile a molte squadre di A. «Presidente, lei prenda intanto Scirea, è il libero che serve alla Juve, a Causio ci pensiamo poi. Franco lo mettiamo all’ala, con quei dribbling può far arrivare la squadra dove vuole, e ormai, dopo aver girato per qualche anno, è maturo» Page 105     

"Luciano Moggi was a railwayman with a hobby of soccer. With the trusted Galletti, he used to scout talented young players. And a few of his discoveries had made themselves indispensable to many Serie A teams. 'President (Boniperti), take Scirea instead. He's the sweeper that is useful to Juventus. On (Franco) Causio, we'll think about it later. Let's put Franco on the wing. With his dribbling, he can go for some years. He's mature."

 «Era la prima vera intervista a Scirea in bianconero. Sul nastro che girava rimase impressa tutta la semplicità del ragazzo Scirea, arrivato a Torino, ma inguaribilmente legato alla sua provincia, alla famiglia, a piccole abitudini che lo rendevano molto diverso da tanti colleghi. Una cosa però colpì Carlo più di tutte: quel “grazie” sussurrato alla fine, al momento del saluto. Di solito toccava al giornalista ringraziare il campione e doveva anche starci molto accorto, l’intervistatore, a non beccarsi il “vaffa” di rito. Nessuno aveva mai ringraziato il cronista e Scirea mostrava personalità anche in questo» Page 142

"It was the first real interview for Scirea as a Juventus player. As the tape recorder rolled, the impression remained of all the simplicity of this young man Scirea, now in Turin, but undoubtedly tied to his province, to his family, to the little customs that made him very different than so many of his teammates. One thing, however, struck Carlo (Nesti) more than anything: that 'thank you' whispered at the end when they said good-bye. Usually, it fell upon journalists to thank the star players and the interviewer had to be wary not to be told the customary, 'screw off.' Nobody had ever thanked the pundit and Scirea demonstrated personality even in this."


«Ma vedere Gaetano Scirea fare il pompiere per contrastare le fiammate offensive di Sala e Graziani,
era stato uno spettacolo. L’Avvocato, che si emozionava solo a leggere la J sui giornali, e Boniperti, che moriva d’ansia in tribuna, o Edoardo, appassionato e mai cieco nel riconoscere i meriti all’avversario, erano costretti a vedere i cugini contrastare alla pari Madama, e Castellini valere almeno Zoff
» Page 167

"But to see Gaetano Scirea being a fireman to put out the offensive flames of Claudio Sala and Francesco Graziani (Torino players), had been a spectacle. Gianni Agnelli, who only became emotional when he read "J" in the newspapers, and Giampiero Boniperti, who died of anxiety in the stands, or Edoardo Agnelli, a passionate fan, but who was blind to recognize the merits of the opponents, they were forced to see the Torino 'cousins' on par with Juventus, and Castellini (Torino's goalkeeper) was as at least as good Dino Zoff."

«Tuo padre si era inventato un tacco del diavolo, che si era trasformato in assist per Tardelli e Marco aveva agganciato a stento, quel che bastava a far esplodere in scivolata una bomba di sinistro. Sembravano due pistoleri di un film di Sergio Leone, Gaetano e Marco. Il goal del 69’, il tempo si dilatò. Tutto apparve congelato per lunghi roboanti attimi: Gaetano che guardava il compagno correre verso la telecamera, nella sua gioia incontenibile, Harald Schumacher, il roccioso portiere avversario immobile e Marco che esultava correndo per il campo, in una scena al rallenty che sarebbe diventata l’icona del calcio». Page 204

"Your father invented a back heel worthy of the devil himself that was transformed into an assist for Tardelli. And Marco latched on enough to make it explode into a left-footed bomb as he was falling down. They seemed like two gunmen in a film by Sergio Leone, Gaetano and Marco. The goal in the 69th minute and time stopped. Everything seemed frozen for long screaming moments. Gaetano watched as his teammate ran towards the camera in sheer joy. Harald Schumacher, the rock-solid German keeper, was motionless, and Marco celebrated by running around the pitch in a time-warped scene that would become an icon of football."

«La voce di Tacconi e Scirea era chiara, anche se scossa dall’emozione: la Juventus si rifiutava di giocare, Boniperti voleva che a parlare fosse il solo Scirea, e tuo padre ribadì la volontà della squadra... Dall’altoparlante si levò come un sospiro. Era la voce di Gaetano Scirea, pacata e tremante al microfono: «La partita verrà giocata per consentire alle forze dell’ordine di organizzare l’evacuazione del terreno.
State calmi, non rispondete alle provocazioni. Giochiamo per voi».
Pages 215-216

"The voice of (Stefano) Tacconi and Scirea was clear even if full of emotion: Juventus was refusing to play, (Giampiero) Boniperti only wanted Scirea to speak. And your father voiced the desire of the team... From the public address speaker, a sigh arose. It was the voice of Gaetano Scirea, calm and trembling, at the microphone: 'The game will be played to comply with the authorities to organize an evacuation of the playing field. Stay calm. Don't respond to provocations. We'll play for you.' "

«Con sarcasmo amaro Michel Platini spiegò la sua verità: «È triste, però è la legge dello spettacolo, si doveva giocare. Quando al circo muore il trapezista, lo portano via ed entrano i clown». Pages 217-218

"With bitter sarcasm, Michel Platini explained his truth: 'It's sad, but it's the law of the spectacle. You must play. When a trapeze artist dies at the circus, they take him away and the clowns come in."

«Diego aveva i capelli bagnati e un po’ di barba, gli occhi da pirata. Smise di parlare, restando come incantato. Gaetano con il suo immancabile sorriso, un po’ arrossì. «Fatelo passare, è Scirea!» La fila si allargò, Gaetano voleva tenere la fila con umiltà, poi con un cenno andò oltre. I capitani che si erano appena scontrati in campo in una battaglia sportiva tra città e culture opposte, si guardarono. «Ma cosa fai, la fila anche tu? Che ci fai con un quaderno?» «Diego, è per Riccardo, ci tiene moltissimo. Posso?» Maradona prese il quaderno borbottando qualcosa. Glielo porse. Ecco: «A Riccardo con amicizia. Diego Maradona El Diez». Gae gli strinse la mano e stava per andare. Maradona lo fermò: «Non ho dimenticato il fallo di Espaňa 82, hombre», e gli diede uno schiaffetto, «tuo figlio un campione ce l’ha già in casa… ehi, capitano, ora voglio il tuo autografo. Per me!» Page 239

"Diego (Maradona) had wet hair with a little bit of stubble. The eyes of a pirate. He stopped talking still remaining enchanted. Gaetano with his inevitable smile blushing a little. 'Let him through. It's Scirea!' The line parted. Gaetano wanted to stay in line with humility. Then with a nod he went forward. The two captains, who had just faced each other on the pitch in sporting battle between cities and opposing cultures, looked at each other. 'But what are you doing also in line? What are you doing with a notebook?' 'Diego, it's for Riccardo. He likes you very much. Can I?' 

Maradona took the notebook and scribbled something. He gave it back. Here it was: 'To Riccardo with friendship. Diego Maradona, El Diez (Number 10).' Gaetano shook his hand was getting ready to leave. Maradona stopped him. 'I didn't forget that foul at the 1982 World Cup, hombre,' and he gave him an affectionate barb: 'Your son already has a champion in his house... Well, Captain, now I want your autograph. For me!' "

«Dopo la benedizione, mentre i compagni di squadra e i fratelli di Gaetano portavano a spalla il feretro, tra gli applausi scroscianti, il Presidente cercò di avvicinarsi a tua madre che lo respinse: non era il momento di parlare. Boniperti ricordò allora la fretta del viaggio inutile e Gaetano che in Polonia non voleva andarci. Ce lo aveva mandato lui, e non riusciva a perdonarselo. Poi, nel silenzio, il corteo si avviò mestamente verso l’esterno della città. Gaetano sarebbe stato sepolto nel cimitero di Morsasco, il paesino dove amava fermarsi a chiacchierare con la gente, insegnando ai ragazzini il segreto di ogni grande calciatore: il sacrificio». Page 273

"After the benediction, while the teammates and brothers of Gaetano carried the casket on their shoulders, among the applause that rained down, the President (Boniperti) looked to get close to your mother who avoided him. It wasn't the time to talk. Boniperti then remembered the haste of a wasteful trip and Gaetano who didn't want to go to Poland. He sent him there, and wasn't able to forgive himself. Then, in silence, the funeral procession slowly approached the outskirts of the city. Gaetano was to be buried in the cemetery at Morsasco, the small village where he loved to stop and chat with people, teaching the children the secret of every great footballer: sacrifice."

A Chance Meeting with Gaetano Scirea

I took this picture at RFK Stadium in August 1983 for the Team
America vs. Juventus friendly.
In the center were
Stefano Tacconi, Gaetano Scirea and
Antonio Cabrini. Walking on the left were
Sergio Brio, Michel Platini and Paolo Rossi.
 


















On a hot summer day in August, 1983, Gaetano Scirea and his Juventus teammates walked right by me on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. They were going to meet Vice President George Bush in his office. Mr. Bush, who actually played high school soccer, was a friend of Gianni Agnelli. I was too timid to address Scirea, his teammates or to even ask for an autograph. All that I could manage was a "Forza Juve!" and Sergio Brio smiled, and gave me a thumbs up.

I caught a brief glimpse of the Scirea's legendary elegance and Stile Juve, and it never left me. Reading this novel brought back great memories of the glory days of Juventus and the Azzurri, along with their quiet leader who will never be replaced.

Cercando Scirea, even in fictional form, is one of the most in-depth looks into the life of Gaetano Scirea that has ever been compiled. Gianluca Iovine has given us a treasure trove in this wonderfully written novel. Please take advantage of it if you can.


About the Author

Gianluca Iovine in Reggio Calabria.
Image courtesy of Gianluca Iovine
and CartOrange.











Gianluca Iovine. Nato a Napoli nel 1971, ha vissuto a Trieste, a Torino e a Milano prima di trasferirsi, per amore, nella Piana di Gioia Tauro. Sceneggiatore, ha tratto Cercando Scirea da un soggetto cinematografico scritto con Claudia Carlino e Paolo Spotti.

Gianluca Iovine was born in Naples, Italy, in 1971. He has lived in Trieste, Torino and in Milan before moving, for reasons of love, to Piana di Gioia Tauro (Reggio Calabria). A screenwriter, he developed Cercando Scirea from a film script that he wrote with Claudia Carlino and Paolo Spotti. He also wrote the novel, "Il Gigante Al Tramonto." ('The Giant at Sundown'). When he is not writing, Gianluca is a European and India travel consultant for CartOrange.





Please Note

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author. I was not financially compensated for this article by the author, publisher or any other party who would benefit from a positive analysis.

All original Italian text is copyrighted (c) by Gianluca Iovine and used here with his kind consent.




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Steve Amoia is a freelance writer, book reviewer and translator from Washington, D.C. He is the publisher of World Football Commentaries and The Soccer Translator.


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