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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Review and Translated Excerpts from "A Modo Mio" (My Way) by Giuseppe Rossi with Alessandra Bocci

Giuseppe Rossi. Photo credit: Kirk Edwards Photography.
Photo credit:
Kirk Edwards Photography
of Brooklyn, New York.


Giuseppe Rossi of ACF Fiorentina and the Azzurri, assisted by the Italian sports journalist, Alessandra Bocci, has written a compelling first-person account of his life on and off the pitch.

My Review in Brief:

Giuseppe Rossi took a road less traveled beginning at age 12 and never looked back. He dreamed a seemingly impossible dream and made it become a reality: To don the famous blue shirt of Italy. New Jersey in perspective, Italian by blood, with a Samurai spirit. Rossi has one foot in America, one in Italy and both on a soccer pitch. This book is a great read for journalists and fans alike.

--- Steve Amoia, World Football Commentaries

Discussion Items:

1. Format and Writing Style. 
2. Influence of his father, Fernando.
3. Being Italian-American.
4. His time at Parma.
5. Why he played for the Azzurri.
6. Manchester United and SAF.
7. Importance of Spain in his career.
8. Controversial goal-scoring celebration versus USA.
9. His perspective on penalty kicks.
10. His view on journalists.
11. How he deals with social media.
12. His near-misses to play at a World Cup.
13. Florence and Fiorentina.
14. My Conclusion.

15. Authorized translated excerpts.
16. About the Authors.

Please Note:

Translations from the Italian by Steve Amoia of World Football Commentaries.

ACF Fiorentina star and Italian international, Giuseppe Rossi, didn't allow a series of near-career ending injuries to derail his fighting spirit:
"When you end up on the canvas, you know that you have to get back up on your feet and start over again even stronger than before."
That was the back cover quote in Rossi's detailed autobiography, "A Modo Mio" (My Way), which was co-authored by the Italian sports journalist, Alessandra Bocci. This book was published by Arnoldo Mondadori Editore in December 2014.
"When you are injured, you hear a deaf silence inside of yourself and this is the one thing that frightens you the most.... Crutches are symbols of the fragility of an athlete and his weaknesses. In my mind, crutches don't exist. I've experienced them often enough but they never were a part of my thoughts."

If you are of a certain age, Italian-American, and played soccer when it was a distant blip on the American sporting consciousness, Giuseppe Rossi's story strikes you like a cool Atlantic breeze flowing through the New Jersey shore. The type of breeze that in this case reinvigorates you with a strange sensation: A paesano from New Jersey is playing for the Azzurri?

Back in the 1970s, a soccer-loving Italian kid from New Jersey, or anywhere else in the USA, might be able to watch the Azzurri on closed-circuit television if he were lucky. A dream scenario would be to see the Italian national team actually play in person on one of their rare trips to North America. But to play for the Azzurri? To quote a famous song by Frank SinatraTo dream, the impossible dream...

Rossi's story is quintessentially American in some respects but not in others: A son of Italian immigrants who assimilated to his country of birth although not completely in a sporting sense. He speaks English with a natural New Jersey accent but is equally fluent in Italian and Spanish. Rossi's chosen sport was not the national pastime of baseball that was embraced by many Italian immigrants as a path to American assimilation and acceptance. His game was the "calcio" of his father, Fernando, who was a well-respected high school soccer coach in Clifton, New Jersey.

Rossi embraced his Italian roots yet never surrendered his American and/or New Jersey identity. He chased statistically what many might call an impossible dream for an American born and raised player: To wear the famous blue shirt of the Azzurri. Against all odds, Rossi donned the Italian national team shirt beginning with their Under 16 team. He then ascended to every level straight up to the summit: The senior Azzurri where he made his debut in 2008 versus Bulgaria. He also represented Italy at the 2008 Olympic Games.

Rossi's journey has not been without significant obstacles. He left home at the age of 12 and was always perceived as "L'americano" in Italy despite his family's deep roots. Rossi's final decision to represent his ancestral country was not met with universal approval in the US soccer community. On two occasions, Rossi saw his World Cup dream come to a thundering halt due to last minute exclusions. One of those decisions resulted in a famous manager, Marcello Lippi, to admit on 29 October 2011 at Sky Sport Italia"My greatest regret from the last World Cup was not selecting Rossi." His series of serious injuries have been well-documented yet he has persevered in each occasion including his recent return to Fiorentina after a long layoff.

Let's take a longer look as Rossi discusses his battles with serious injuries, an Italian-American childhood, time in Parma's youth ranks, experiences in England, ascent at Villarreal, journey with the Azzurri, and now a return to the peninsula with La Viola.

1. Format and Writing Style: 

"I can guarantee that it's all authentic. You even had a say with the commas!"

There are 141 pages of text with fifteen concise chapters. Each one has a thought-provoking title. For example, Chapter 11, "The Invention of Solitude." There was no detailed index by page numbers as often is the case with Italian books. The author also did not include any pictures from his playing career which was surprising.

Rossi impresses me as an old soul with a figurative foot in America and a literal one in Italy. That spatial and cultural mindset are clearly seen in his writing. He was taught written Italian by his mother, Cleonilde, a high school Italian and Spanish teacher. Rossi writes in an engaging, positive, confident yet humble style using concise, direct and clear language.

The author also exhibited a wide-ranging intellect by quoting Dante Alighieri, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Emma Lazarus and William Shakespeare, respectively. We would expect no less from the son of high school teachers. "Educato" is a word that fits him well. It means someone who is very courteous and well-mannered. As a false cognate (similar looking words with different meanings in other languages), the word would be interpreted at first glance as "educated" in English. As I read this book, educato and educated were very salient features.

Rossi doesn't perceive being a professional athlete as a job but as his life. He views injuries as part of the larger equation of his chosen profession. Rossi is a deep thinker, grounded, studious, sensitive and private. He is very observant about human nature and different cultures. For a star athlete, Rossi doesn't seem too impressed with his own celebrity status in certain circles.

With the Clifton Stallions in 1997 at the age of 10.

2. The influence of his father, Fernando:

"My father is now in the Hall of Fame of our high school in Clifton, New Jersey. He never was afraid to appear to be too Italian. He loved the game and tried to spread it around for his entire life. He never discussed money with me in a country that thinks a lot about it."

3. Being Italian-American:

"America is an idea that supports and guides me. Because I'm an Italian who was born in New Jersey and this is my dual nature. Love, art, beauty, innovation and courage: An exceptional cocktail."

4. Parma:

"I left home at the age of 12; therefore, I can't say that I've lived a normal life up until now... 

I went first to Parma with my father. Then my mother and sister joined us. I also experienced school in a different way because when you are a footballer, you encounter many teachers who in a certain sense, challenge you. I was an American and played football... I knew I had to study a few hours more (than others)." 

5. Why he decided to play for the Azzurri:

"My choice was a natural one. I'm American but in a football sense, I feel Italian. In the environment where I grew up, only Italian calcio existed, and I wanted to become a part of that world...

From childhood, the Italy shirt was a dream for me. And when I began to play, it also became an objective... I also feel like a representative of all Italian-Americans who would have wanted to attain the same goal."

6. Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson:

"Manchester is a city full of nice people and will always be a special place for me and my family. Manchester confirmed that Giuseppe Rossi, who was still not yet christened 'Pepito,' could become a top player...

When I was at Manchester United, (Sir Alex) Ferguson said to me: 'Giuseppe, I see that you dribble well with your left. You need to try to do the same thing on the right.' I was still young but his advice stayed in my mind also because it was the same thing that my father had recommended."

7. The importance of Spain in his development:

The UEFA Turn and Volley Challenge in 2011 at Villarreal.

"Spain is a fantastic place to play football and synchronizes very well with my American soul: Technique, impassioned fans, velocity of play, and the great spectacle. In Spain you live like a god. The fans discuss the games, are passionate, but don't suffocate you."

8. His controversial celebration versus the USA at the 2009 Confederations Cup:

Rossi facing the USA at the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa.

"Some in the USA called me a traitor...

Scoring a brace in the national team shirt is not a usual thing and a few strikers better than I have never done it. When it happened to me, I felt something explode inside of me. I celebrated (the goals) and some critiques arrived from America. I can understand them and apologize. But the emotion when you score, wearing that shirt, is too strong to contain."

9. His perspective on penalty kicks:

"A penalty kick is a psychological war, a duel from ancient times, but it's also poetry. It is perhaps the most romantic of football plays."

10. His view on journalists:

"I have never argued with a journalist. Whoever wants to write something and is not sufficiently informed creates a terrible impression. And if reflects on him; not on me."

11. How he deals with social media:

"The beauty of Twitter is to feel in contact with the world and to have the patience for those who write bad things to me. Whoever does such a thing hides behind a screen and I don't have time to waste asking myself what the hidden reasons are that prompted them." 

12. His near-misses to play at a World Cup:

"My Moby Dick is called the World Cup. I've had so many problems to reach the whale, and I'm still looking for it. But the quest is essential for the maturation of a human being and I'm convinced, sooner or later, that I'll get there."

13. Florence and Fiorentina:

His goals during 2013/2014 with ACF Fiorentina.

"Fiorentina is the club who took a risk to take me because it's difficult to invest in a player who had been injured for such a long time and this gives me a great motivation...

I feel in debt to Florence and to Fiorentina. I could have been out of football at the highest levels, and Florence gave me an enormous possibility. We found each other and loved each other. If I worked, sweated for hours and hours every day, it was also due to this reason: To demonstrate that they didn't make a mistake..."

14. My Conclusion:

Giuseppe Rossi is what the Italians would call un figlio d'arte: Someone who follows in his father's footsteps. It probably is not a coincidence that the author wrote this book as a Fiorentina player. Like the medieval Renaissance city that is his new home, Rossi is equal parts modern and historic, Italian and American, New Jersey and Florence, Frank Sinatra and Andrea Bocelli.

Despite suffering several nearly career-ending injuries, Rossi persevered and his journey has clearly exemplified Fernando's favorite song, "My Way."

"I planned each charted course. Each careful step along the byway.
And more, much more than this, I did it my way."

It was a great pleasure to read and review this beautifully written autobiography.

Giuseppe Rossi. Photo credit: Kirk Edwards Photography.

(c) 2014 Arnoldo Mondadori Editore S.p.A., Milano.

15. About the Authors:

Giuseppe Rossi (New Jersey, 1 February 1987) is a striker for Fiorentina and the Italian national team. Beforehand, he played for Manchester United, Parma, Newcastle and Villarreal, respectively.

Alessandra Bocci (@picobocci) is a journalist for La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Promotional biographical text courtesy of Mondadori Libri.

16. Authorized Translated Excerpts:

I have received a complimentary review copy of this book from a representative of Arnoldo Mondadori Editore in Milan, Italy. I was not financially compensated by the publisher, co-authors or any other party for this article. 

My translated excerpts were approved by a representative of Arnoldo Mondadori Editore prior to publication and are exclusive to World Football Commentaries.
  • A special thanks to Kirk Edwards (@kirkedwardspixfor the kind use of his images of Giuseppe Rossi.

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Steve Amoia is a freelance writer and translator based in Washington, D.C. He is the publisher of World Football Commentaries since 2006 and published The Soccer Translator from 2008 to 2015. He has also contributed at AC Cugini Scuola Calcio, Beyond The Pitch, Football Media, Italian Soccer Serie A.com, Keeper Skool, and Soccerlens (Sportslens), respectively.

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