Browse all

Coaches' and players' promises

"If I score three goals I'll come under the Curva"

Coaches' and players' promises If I score three goals I'll come under the Curva

There are times in football when superstition and adrenalin take over, making players, but especially coaches, promise things they most likely regret seconds later. It is something transcendental, perhaps even inevitable, it is a common characteristic to cling on to something when one is one step away from a feat that in some ways may be historic. The latest in order of time to have done one is Davide Nicola, on the strength of his success against Crotone, the Salernitana coach, perhaps more out of superstition than anything else, promised his fans that in the event of salvation he would walk to the Vatican. But at Salerno, Davide Nicola was not the only one to promise something in case of salvation, even Federico Bonazzoli promised something to the Granata people in case of salvation. The day after the match against Udinese, the Italian striker offered all the fans a brioches with ice cream.

From salvation to the Scudetto, Pioli also had to pay the price for the championship he won with Milan. The Rossoneri coach, 10 days after that much sought-after and desired title, got into the saddle of his bicycle and rode about 60km from Parma to the Cisa Pass. Even at Milan, there was a player who decided to follow in his coach's footsteps, Simon Kjær, after his knee injury had promised that he would only 'shave' once he was back on the pitch. A promise made and kept even though it had nothing to do with the title he won, after returning to the pitch with the national team, the Denmark defender showed up for training without a shave. Valladolid were no different. To celebrate their promotion on the very last day, Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, the team president, decided to cycle 450km to Santiago de Compostela. A truly arduous challenge compared to those of Pioli, Kjær or Bonazzoli, but the former Inter number 9 will use an electric bike to accomplish the feat. 

These are not the only isolated cases, over the years, coaches, players and managers have had promises torn from them or made promises that they were then forced to keep. In Italy, when one speaks of promises, the first thought immediately goes to Carlo Mazzone that if Brescia had drawn the match at Atalanta, he would have gone under the rivals' curve and so he did, giving us a scene that has remained iconic. 

Another scene that has remained imprinted in every fan's mind is surely that of Delio Rossi diving into the Gianicolo fountain after the 3-0 derby win against Roma. You know, winning a derby is undoubtedly as important as saving your life or winning a Scudetto on the last day. The problem was only that Delio Rossi's 'vote' should have remained secret, instead he found himself a crowd of journalists and photographers ready to immortalise the scene.

Then there are those classic bets on the number of goals scored in a season that any of us in our lives have made, joking with a friend at the bar or simply at fantasy football. This is the case of two Italian players, the first involving Marco Borriello in one of his last seasons with the Cagliari shirt. Bobo Vieri promised the former striker that if he scored 15 goals he would pay for Borriello's summer holiday in Formentera. And so it was, Borriello scored more than 15 goals that season and in the end Vieri had to pay what he had promised. The other case concerns Andrea Conti who, on reaching his seventh goal of the season with Atalanta, had his agent give him a Rolex and a Range Rover

In short, one can say that in exchange for a victory one is willing to do anything, but really anything, like when Camoranesi had his hair cut on the lawn of the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. Perhaps to win and cross the finish line you also need this kind of encouragement, and if it has gone well for Nicola two times out of two, you can say that there is no victory without a little sacrifice.