For those who love football summer is the season of dreams. The prechampionship, the meeting, the promises made by managers and players, and then the transfer market, the multi-million dollar auction that fires the planet from the north to the south, from the east to the west. And brings together, ideally, all the athletes of the world, independently of their age, social status, and geographical origin. Because to imagine Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo wearing the T-shirt of their own team is an innocent thing, and especially, it does not cost anything. But there is someone in the multifaceted football universe for whom this transfer campaign will be a moment of anguish and anxiety, trepidation, biting nails out of nervousness, mobile phones watched dozens of times waiting for a call that will put back on the rails a wobbly career. Those are the unemployed players, a silent army of talents that have never blossomed, names that were once on the coaches’ and sports directors’ notebooks, then have fallen into oblivion, of young men who have chosen the wrong team or worked hard on peripheral fields without making it to higher levels. And now they observe those who have been more fortunate, the Adonises of this society bent to materialism, immortalised by the paparazzi between a Ferrari and a showgirl. A slap in the face of a life full of sacrifice.
There are many of them, too many, according to the Italian Association of Football Players, the craft union which in 2014 quantified them in about 30 thousand units. And today, with the assistance of some clubs’ bankruptcy and that of the financial crisis which devours the most beloved of all sports, they could become even more. In order to offer them at least an opportunity to train, the Italian Association of Football Players along with the Italian Football Federation have been accepting them during the summer in the Federal Technical Center Corverciano (Florence) for the last 28 years. During this season there have been 63 requests, a small, but still significant quota of young men who have made it out of the game. The small summer retreat has a cost, 300 euro, and lasts about twenty days (it had begun on July 20 and ended on August 7). There they have at their disposal about 20 technicians and trainers who are simultaneously attending the course Uefa B, training teams of lower levels, inclusively those of the Serie D. A remarkable staff that continues to make them feel athletes despite the lack of work.
In the group that on Friday concluded its experience in Coverciano there are no familiar names. At least two of them are from the Parma F.C., a well-known club that has made its return to an amateur level due to an unfortunate financial management. One is Daniele Galloppa, a lifetime spent in the Roman youth category, before joining the Triestina F.C., from where he began his adventure in professional football that has brought him, after a few years, to the Emilian club. Daniel is a modern midfielder who counts 51 appearances in various nationals, two of which are in the largest one. “The ball – he explains – is Italy’s mirror and our story is merely the tip of the iceberg”. For almost a year now, as his fellow players, he has not received a salary, yet he has kept playing until the end. And disappointment is not behind yet. “It looks like I am biting the hand that has fed me for a decade – he continues – but they have managed to make me fall out of love with this sports. His future, at the age of 30, is still football, perhaps abroad where meritocracy and professionalism are not just empty words.
There is also Alessandro Lucarelli who shares his condition and who, at the age of 38, has decided not to give up. Since his debut, he has toured Italy from the North to the South, stopping also at the Livorno F.C., his city’s team in which he played together with his brother Christian, a skilled striker and a still unchallenged idol in the Tuscan regional centre. At his age, probably, somebody advises him to quit football, but he has no intention to do so. It would not be nice at all if he left now, after the Parma F.C., of whom he has been the bulwark for the last 7 years, has failed. He has decided to stay with his team” despite the declassification to Serie D and the precariousness of his employment position. Who said flags no longer exist?
Elia Legati, 29, the former Primavera of the Milan F.C., has seen two teams failing. One after another. First the Padua F.C., and then the Union Venice Club, one of the eight teams “erased” by economic problems after the last season of Lega Pro. “I have been surviving without receiving a salary since February – he explains – and some offers have arrived. I have to weight them, even if I am not going to accept any before the end of the summer retreat, because I want to get the licence. The Lupa Castelli Romani F.C., Federico Masi’s team, class 1990, has not failed, yet it has decided not to renew his contract. Romano from the Grottaferrata F.C. who has made his debut at the Champions League when he was 18 years and 2 months old with Caesar Prandelli’s Fiorentina F.C. A career with a “normal” salary along with University studies at the Law Faculty. One who is familiar with sacrifice, but to whom it is not recognized. “Fortunately- he says – I have not given up, and now I have only two exams missing before I finish my Bachelor’s”. Due to the University he has participated in and won the gold at the Winter Universiadi 2015, while he already knew that he had not been confirmed again.
There are plenty of stories in this Summer football retreat. As that of Matthew Gritti, the goalkeeper of the 80, who has travelled around Europe and has been imprisoned for the calcioscommesse scandal, from which, in the end, he has come out with a clean name, at least in terms of sports. He has built a new life working in call-centers and as a baker, then he has sent his C.V. to a professional secondary school for a teaching position. A way to use his Bachelor’s degree in Economics. Now he is trying to join the world of football again, in a team where he could train and play, while continuing his studies. Names and faces of young men who, in order to pursuit their passion, have given up on their adolescent life. They know what it means to train three times a week while their friends spend nights in pubs and discos, or what it means to play on an icy field on Sunday morning. And who see now their dream fading away in indifference. While we skim through the sports daily, ready to accept in a sea of people one player with an exotic name or another. This is, perhaps, our greatest shame.
Translated by Ecaterina Severin