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Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Roberto Gotta

Legend to be tarnished?

Roberto Gotta

Giacinto Facchetti was busy the other day cutting a ceremonial ribbon for the opening of an Inter Fan Club made up by employees of the Corte dei Conti, one of Italy's high courts.

Moratti: Gone but suspicions are he's the power behind the throne. (Photo/GettyImages)

At roughly the same time, in Rome, Juventus director and former star Roberto Bettega and current goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon were christening a new-born Juve Fan Club, whose card-bearing members stretch across the corps of MPs from all of Italy's political parties, football perhaps being one of the few endeavours that could bring together such a diverse and perennially bickering group of people, although the cynical and perhaps all too easy question would be 'shouldn't they be doing something more important?'.

Whatever one's thoughts on the matter, Facchetti's presence was perhaps more relevant than Bettega's, for he's now officially Inter's chairman, the 19th in their history.

Owner and president Massimo Moratti resigned - along with all other members of his family - a couple of weeks ago: his departure from the running of the club's day-to-day duties was welcomed with a variety of comments, which reflected Inter's wildly bizarre standing as one of the most madly disappointing, predictably weird and ultimately unsuccessful clubs of the last few years, or more than few as their frustrated fans would agree.

Whether Moratti was the embodiment of Inter's great tradition which saw his late father Angelo as the wealthy force behind the successful 1960s side, or the living symbol of the gallant failures which have marked the last 15 years, it is and will for a long time be open to debate.

There's a more than a subtle undercurrent in Moratti's resignation: he was at the same time the club's best and worst asset for his willingness to make money available for top players and for his fondness for some of them, even those who tested his patience.

Facchetti took over a couple of weeks ago, and his task is a huge one, as would be anybody's whose authority is undermined by the reality that it is somebody else's money which is making the whole thing go.

Gentleman Facchetti has sometimes been suspected of being just that, a gentleman whose impeccable public appearance would appear to ill fit a position which requires to swim with sharks, some of them barely disguising their black-and-white and red-and-black stripes.

Last weekend's events, with defender and hard-man Marco Materazzi scuffling with Siena player Bruno Cirillo in the tunnel after spending the match urging teammates to attack Cirillo's side because 'he's a poor player', saw Moratti - not Facchetti - condemn the former Everton and Perugia defender's actions, and this made people think, or at least nod knowingly.

Some of the Inter supporters wrote in fans' forums that they felt cheated by the events: they were hoping for wholesale changes in the management of the club and the fact Facchetti had been Moratti's right-hand man for a while left them disillusioned about the real changes in the set-up.

Inter's tendency to keep things in the family has meant that in the last few years former players have been given various duties and most of them have been seen to be less than successful.

Sandro Mazzola: A certain section of Inter die-hards want him as club chief. (PeterRobinson/Empics)

It is a long-running joke among fans and insiders that Inter never take a hard stance against anybody in their own organization, and keep adding to their staff instead of letting uneffective people go.

Some would like to see the return of legend Sandro Mazzola, who'd been a director under the previous regime and - as the story goes - had all but signed Michel Platini for Inter twenty years ago before an injury to the French midfielder made Inter think twice about him.

Before that, Mazzola had also convinced Paulo Roberto Falcao to sign, but owner Ivanhoe Fraizzoli learned that Roma had got in touch with the Brazilian first and decided he did not want to play dirty tricks with the giallorossi, who were then led to the Scudetto by the brilliant midfielder.

But some others - and God knows how many different opinions there are among those frustrated fans - still think there should be a complete clearout of anybody even remotely connected with the failures - or near misses - of recent years.

So, how could Facchetti take any hard, momentum-changing decisions about the club without prior consulting with the owner?

Still, his life story tells of a man who always managed to reach his goals no matter the hurdles in front of him, so it would be unwise to just dismiss Moratti's resignation as a travesty, although that is everyone's feeling.

Those who were lucky enough to see football in the Sixties and Seventies and are old enough to remember it in detail will never forget how Facchetti redefined the position of left back in the ultra-defensive minded Italian football of that era.

Born in Treviglio, near Bergamo, in 1942, he had trials with local side Atalanta but ended up at Inter, and at 18 was given a first team debut by legendary coach Helenio Herrera, better known as Il mago (The wizard).

Herrera, a larger than life character whose heavily Spanish-accented Italian and ingenuity made him a cult figure, had detected what others had failed to see: that Facchetti, at almost 1,90 metres and with long legs, could carve a new position for himself as a defender-cum-winger, exploiting the speed that had made him a track-and-field prospect as well as a football one.

Although his defensive team-mates were more than a little sceptical about it, Herrera set Facchetti free on the left flank, and the spider-legged youngster obliged by forcing opponents to alter their game plans in order to contain him, although things were not as rosy in the beginning.

The young Giacinto had always wanted to become a centre-forward and at first his eagerness to leave his own half and pop up around the opposing penalty area did not endear him to his own fans, who were telling him in no uncertain terms to leave the goalscoring to others.

Herrera kept faith in him and after opening his goalscoring account at Genoa, Facchetti never looked back, being part of a formidable back four with central defenders Guarneri and Picchi and the other fullback, Tarcisio Burgnich.

Long before Antonio Cabrini came to epitomise the attacking fullback, Facchetti had created the position, but even Roberto Carlos, who ironically was one of Inter's rejects to find fortune elsewhere, would be hard pressed to equal Facchetti's tally of 59 goals for the nerazzurri, among them the fierce right-footed strike in Inter's memorable 3-0 win over Liverpool in the second leg of the 1965 European Cup semi-finals.

One day, Herrera allowed him to play an entire game up front, in May 1966, but Facchetti struggled and Il Mago's plot worked perfectly: Giacinto had seen first-hand that late runs and powerful surges into the opposing area were better and more effective ways of unsettling other teams that just standing around and negating the effect his speed would have on opponents.

Giacinto Facchetti 1976: Leading Italy against England in a World Cup qualifier. (Photography/Empics)

In the latter stages of his career Facchetti moved inside as a libero, marshalling the defence with impeccable timing and discipline - he was never suspended during his entire career - and in this capacity he prolonged his career with the national team, which he skippered to the 1968 European Championship triumph.

His last game for Italy was at Wembley in November 1977: England won the World Cup qualifier 2-0 but the Azzurri still went through on goal difference.

Facchetti missed out on the following summer's World Cup because of injury and retired as Italy's most capped player - a record since broken by Dino Zoff and Paolo Maldini - with a total of four championships and two European Cups.

His association with Inter and the Moratti family goes back more than forty years and it would just be a pity if his current job as President tarnished the beautiful legacy he's built just because he could not say 'no' to Moratti.


1,546 Posts
which reflected Inter's wildly bizarre standing as one of the most madly disappointing, predictably weird and ultimately unsuccessful clubs of the last few years, or more than few as their frustrated fans would agree.
Understatement of the year...

The article was a good read....

58,011 Posts
I got this on mail from Inter's newsletter :

The 'direct train from Treviglio', as they used to call him when he rampaged down the left wing, has gone far. After almost a half-century in black and blue, Giacinto Facchetti, one of the greatest players of all time, impossible to derail when in full flight on the flank, has gone from player to president of the club he loves, a singular feat for a footballer.

Born in Treviglio, Bergamo province on 18 July 1942, Facchetti was undecided between football and athletics (he was a talented 100-metre runner) as a youngster, and, ironically, was even rejected by Giuseppe Meazza when he came to Inter for a trial at the age of sixteen. But it only took a moment for Inter to sign him from Atalanta, and since then there has only been one black and blue shirt for the new Nerazzurri president.

Great Inter coach Helenio Herrera discovered Facchetti during a youth sector training session one evening in the 1950s. The jump to the first team was a natural consequence and after an appearance against Birmingham in the Fairs Cup, Facchetti made his Serie A debut in the Nerazzurri's 2-0 victory away to Roma on 21 May 1961 thanks to goals from Bolchi and Morbello. He was fielded in a revolutionary wing-back position and went on to score 75 goals in 634 appearances for the Nerazzurri in an illustrious playing career spanning eighteen seasons. Facchetti won it all: 4 Serie A titles, 2 European Cups, 2 Intercontinental Cups and a Coppa Italia.

At international level, Facchetti took part in three World Cups and won the 1968 European championship. He made his debut for Italy in a 1-0 win away to Turkey on 27 March 1963 and pulled on an Azzurri shirt 94 times (70 as captain).

Except for eight months as vice president of Atalanta in 1980 (as a sign of friendship toward Achille Bortolotti), Facchetti has taken up various i nstitutional roles at Inter since hanging up his boots. He stood alongside Giovanni Trapattoni during the record-breaking Scudetto triumph in 1988/99, became an advisor from the first day of Massimo Moratti's administration and was named vice president on 13 November 2001. From last Friday, Giacinto Facchetti is the nineteenth president of FC Internazionale Milano.
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