28 April 2020 – With televised repeats of old matches losing their appeal after almost two months of coronavirus seclusion, Italian football fans have switched to social media to check in on their favourite stars.
Veteran coach Marcello Lippi and his former captain Fabio Cannavaro have had a public chat on Instagram, revealing what went on behind the scenes during the penalty shoot-out against France when Italy won the 2006 World Cup.
“I had always told you I was the sixth shooter,” said Cannavaro, a star central defender who in the same year won the Ballon d’Or but was not known for his spotkicks.
The 72-year-old Lippi, who in November resigned as coach of China, recalled how, “after looking around,” he picked lanky left-back Fabio Grosso for the decisive fifth penalty – thus not needing to risk Cannavaro’s shortcomings from the spot.
Marco Materazzi had levelled the scores at 1-1 in normal time and was then famously headbutted by Zinedine Zidane.
Materazzi was also on a recent webchat set up by his ex-Inter Milan team-mate Christian Vieri. He was invited to recall punching Siena’s Bruno Cirillo in the face in the tunnel in 2004 – which earned him an eight-game ban.
“[Coach Alberto Zaccheroni] Zac looked at me in the changing room and said: ‘I want to hope it didn’t happen,'” Materazzi recalled, “and I looked back at him and said: ‘It did happen’.”
In an earlier chat, Materazzi had also discussed beating up then Inter team-mate Mario Balotelli after a game at Barcelona, which, however, did not dent his friendship with the current Brescia striker.
Vieri, one of Italy’s best strikers in the 1990s and early 2000s, has had up to 50,000 followers for his chats with retired aces such as Brazil’s Ronaldo, Francesco Totti, Antonio Cassano, Sebastian Veron, Paolo Maldini, Andrea Pirlo and veteran MotoGP star Valentino Rossi.
But Nicola Ventola, another former Inter forward often hosted by Vieri, confessed that only 2% of footballers’ stories are fit to be told in public.
Active Italian footballers, meanwhile, are doing their best to entertain social media watchers while they try to stay fit and in form in living rooms or gardens. A government lockdown could be eased from May 4, and clubs hope for a possible restart of the season behind closed doors by early June.
Balotelli has posted a video of his deft control of a mini-ball, only to get a mixed review from Fabrizio Miccoli, a retired striker turned wine maker.
“Not bad,” commented Miccoli, “you could possibly challenge me.”
In his videos, Miccoli is on his terrace, doing freestyle tricks before kicking the ball into a basketball hoop, and filling, with his wine, a glass balanced on his foot.
Silly videos will continue to cheer up Italian fans in the coming weeks but what they really crave is live football.