Alessandro Del Piero scored his 250th goal in a Juventus shirt, so Susy Campanale salutes a true living legend
It probably says something about my age and the amount of time I’ve been watching Serie A that I remember seeing Alex Del Piero’s first goal. Oddly enough, that too was in a 4-0 victory over the similarly-named Reggiana (they were from Emilia Romagna and very different to Calabria’s Reggina, who were thrashed by that same scoreline for his 250th strike).
I recall thinking, ‘This kid’s pretty good,’ as the short, skinny 19-year-old burst into the same team as Roberto Baggio, Gianluca Vialli and Fabrizio Ravanelli. 15 years and two months later, he’s still there with the same black and white shirt.
I jumped out of my seat and positively squealed when he scored possibly the greatest goal I have ever seen, that famous volley with the outside of his foot to complete Juve’s comeback from 2-0 down to beat Fiorentina 3-2. I smiled every time he curled that ball into the far top corner in a goal ‘alla Del Piero’ that looked for all the world as if it were remote controlled. I stayed up at some ungodly hour to watch as he won the Intercontinental Cup in Japan with the only goal of the game against River Plate.
I watched in horror as he went in for a pointless stoppage-time challenge and struck his left knee against an Udinese player’s hip, snapping the anterior and posterior ligaments. “Imagine the knee is your trousers, held up by a belt and braces. Well, I broke both of them,” he explained during that nine-month lay-off and agonisingly long road to rediscovering his form.
I stood in a bar in Italy defending this immense talent as patrons bayed for blood after another particularly shocking miss in Euro 2000. I was moved as he found his career path in the worst possible moment of his life, scoring a sensational goal against Bari just days after his father’s death. I saw him captain Juventus on their Serie B debut in sunny Rimini and earn a standing ovation from the Bernabeu.
And now here I am, proud to say I was watching when Del Piero shook the snow from his hair before confidently burying a penalty in a 4-0 victory over Reggina. You could not find a better example of a great player, a good man and an honourable representative of club colours. Congratulations, Alessandro. Here’s to the next 250.
Roberto Bettega’s passion for Juventus was in his genes and the Bianconeri legend spent his entire Serie A career in Turin. Dave Taylor reports on the legend that is still an integral part of the club today
There is a picture of an Italian international taken over a quarter of a century ago that inspired my devoted interest in calcio Italia. It was an action image of the former Azzurri and Juventus legend Roberto Bettega scoring against England. Until then Juve were just another foreign club that always seemed to beat English opposition. Bettega, in this particular picture, is in headlong flight almost parallel to the ground with the ball just a few yards from his forehead as it hurtles towards goal.
Being an England fan it was as welcome as Bernard Manning at a feminist’s meeting, but as an appreciator of fine football it was a perfect representation of the most beautiful game in the world. In the background a bemused Emlyn Hughes and two other equally dumbstruck England defenders look on helplessly. It came as the striker scored Italy’s second goal in the qualifying rounds for the 1978 World Cup in Rome’s Olympic Stadium in November 1976. It is an image that showed just one aspect of the legend he became to Italian and Juventus fans alike.
The goal, like the first from Fiorentina’s Giancarlo Antognoni in the 2-0 defeat, was made purely in Turin by Juve players. The moustached Franco Causio had escaped the attention of the England defenders and was hovering over on the left flank. He passed to the overlapping Romeo Benetti. The midfielder’s cross from the touchline was met by Roberto bursting through a befuddled English defence at the speed of a silver bullet. He connected at waist high with a full-length dive to place it beyond a despairing Ray Clemence in goal.
Signor Bettega was a player of immense intelligence and became one of the world’s most feared strikers. He was seen by many as the natural heir to West Germany’s Gerd Muller in the 1978 World Cup. He scored an incredible seven goals in the build-up to the semi-final defeat by Holland and along with Antognoni and Torino’s Francesco Graziani formed a deadly attacking trio. However, despite making his international debut at 25 it wasn’t until he reached his late twenties that he gathered a full resolution for the game.
His Azzurri debut came in a 1-0 defeat of Finland in June 1975, in the qualifying stages of the European Nations Cup of 1976. However, it wasn’t until two years later that he really made his international mark. Playing against Finland, this time in the qualifying rounds of the 1978 World Cup, Roberto and Italy ripped the Scandinavians apart in October 1977. Running them ragged Bettega scored the first, second, fourth and fifth in the 6-1 victory. It was all the more satisfying for Bettega as it was in front of his home crowd in Turin’s Stadio Comunale.
Born in that same city, he grew up with Juventus as a youngster when he joined their Primavera side in 1961. He was initially fielded by then Coach Pedrale as a midfielder, but Pedrale’s successor Rabitti saw Bettega’s scoring potential and moved him upfield. Like so many youngsters of today’s generation in Serie A, the forward needed match experience. After sitting on the bench in the 1968-69 campaign he was sent on loan to Varese in Serie B. It was there, under former Milan legend Nils Liedholm, that Bettega hit 13 goals to help the side finish top and gain promotion to Serie A.
Starting his Juve career proper the following year, he made his top-flight debut in the 1-0 defeat of Sicilian side Catania on August 27, 1970. It was the start of a glorious 11-year career with the Old Lady that saw him pick up seven League titles under three different Coaches. His first Scudetto came in his second season playing under Cestmir Vycpalek. But not everything was going as it should. In January 1972, Bettega scored his tenth goal in 14 games to see off Fiorentina but ended the day in hospital with breathing difficulties. It was a problem that kept him away from the game for five months. But Bettega proved strong enough to return, just as he did in the early 1980s after rupturing knee ligaments in a European game against Anderlecht.
He was back for the 1972-73 season in which Juventus President Giampiero Boniperti said: "The best signing for this season will undoubtedly be Roberto Bettega." The League title brought a smile back to Bobby-gol’s face even if it turned sour in Europe when they were beaten by Ajax in the European Cup Final.
Carlo Parola took over as the Bianconeri Coach and they went on to win their third Scudetto of the 1970s with almost the exact side that had one the previous two titles. But it wasn’t until Giovanni Trapattoni took over as boss that Juve became the super side of the 1970s, providing nine of the side that took Italy as far as the semi-finals in the Argentina World Cup. Bettega played alongside some of the biggest world stars of that decade including Dino Zoff, Antonio Cabrini, Marco Tardelli, Claudio Gentile, Paolo Rossi, Gaetano Scirea, Beppe Furino and Pietro Anastasi. Yet for all their regular appearances in Europe, Bettega’s Juve only won the UEFA Cup in 1977. They were again beaten in the European Cup Final in 1983 by underdogs Hamburg in Athens. That was Bettega’s last game for the Bianconeri before joining Toronto Blizzard in Canada.
On the international scene, after Cagliari’s Gigi Riva was forced to retire in the mid 1970s, Italy were searching for a left-sided forward after failing to win for nine games in a row. They needed a newer version of the Cagliari legend, an individual who could be relied upon to change a game. Enter Bettega for the Finland victory. But even then Italy were still floundering and it took three or four games for Roberto and the Azzurri to find their feet before they started to click and were only stopped from reaching the World Cup Final after the 2-1 defeat by Holland in the semi-finals.
There were few similarities between Bettega and Riva, possibly only the fact that they were both left footed really linked them. Where Bettega was sleek and willow-like, Riva was a barrel chested powerhouse. Where the Juve forward delicately threaded his way through defences to tuck balls away neatly, Riva just powered through and cannoned the ball taking the 'keeper over the line with it if he was foolish enough to try and stop it. Then there was Bettega’s knack of bursting forward over the first few yards, like a world class 100 metre sprinter, a gift which distinguishes the great from the good. At times he appeared to be simply coasting, that is until the ball came within playing distance. He would then use his astonishing turn of pace, cut loose and zero in on goal.
Italy and Juve always had alternatives with Bettega up front. They could play it through to him or launch it over the top of the defence and Roberto’s anticipation could be trusted to do the rest. In his first 12 appearances he scored 13 for the Azzurri, going on to win 42 caps and notching 19 goals in all. His penultimate game was in the 1982 World Cup qualifying match with Yugoslavia in October 1981, where he scored the all important equaliser in the 1-1 draw. His final game arrived a full two years later - after recovering from his knee injury - in the 1-0 defeat away to Romania, eventually being replaced by Alessandro Altobelli.
After retiring from Juventus he joined the managerial side eventually forming a new group at the club in 1994 along with Luciano Moggi and Antonio Giraudo, nicknamed the Triad. They hired Marcello Lippi who helped the Old Lady return to the glory days of Bettega’s footballing years to win their first League title for nine years and the rest as they say like Bettega himself is history.
STAR RATING: 8/10. A vital and respected member of the all-conquering Juventus team of the 1970s and 80s, Roberto Bettega deserves to be recognised as one of the Bianconeri’s most impressive performers. At international level, his scoring record was more than useful. An intelligent and gifted front-runner who has enjoyed immeasurable success behind the scenes at Juve.
Born: Turin 27/12/50
Serie A debut: Catania 0-1 Juventus, 27/9/70
Clubs: Varese, Juventus
International debut: Finland 0-1 Italy (Olympiastadion), 5/6/75
Last cap: Romania 1-0 Italy (Stadionul), 16/4/83
International caps: 42
International goals: 19
Lo Scudetto (1972, 73, 75, 77,78, 81, 82)
Coppa Italia (1979, 83)
UEFA Cup (1977)
10. Edwin Van Der Sar
The first foreign goalkeeper in Juventus’ history, the Dutchman was netted from Ajax as the club attempted to replace the legendary Angelo Peruzzi. After a mediocre first season, it is Van Der Sar’s second – and last campaign – that will be remembered for the wrong reasons. A string of howlers, including a dodgy performance against Lazio, even saw his eyesight questioned. Blamed by many for the loss of the Scudetto, he left for Fulham and was replaced by Gigi Buffon in 2001.
9. Salvatore Fresi
An enigma of the Italian game, Fresi was again given an opportunity to prove himself at the highest level by Juve. A star of the Under-21 side, he was expected to develop into the new Franco Baresi. Unable to do that at Inter, Moggi signed him in 2002 after a decent campaign at Bologna. A goal on his debut against Atalanta proved a false dawn as he left in January 2004 with just 17 games and one goal in all competition.
8. Fabio Pecchia
A fine player at Napoli, the gritty midfielder’s career came to a halt just when it seemed that he was almost ready for the full international side. Although equipped with lungs of steel, his path to regular first team football in Turin was blocked by Edgar Davids. After 37 games in total, a frosty relationship with Moggi saw Pecchia moved on to Sampdoria before a string of other clubs. He deserved better.
7. Jocelyn Blanchard
One of Moggi’s more mysterious buys, the Frenchman was brought in after nothing more than a decent campaign at Metz. Signed as a new Didier Deschamps figure, the midfielder left quite an impression in a summer friendly against Newcastle United. But a stunning goal in that game was about as good as it got for a man who was back in France with Lens less than a year later.
6. Jonathan Bachini
Acquired by the Turin giants to fill the small but substantial boots of Angelo Di Livio, it just didn’t happen for him. The Juventus stage was bigger than the Udinese one which he shined on, while it was widely accepted that Bachini was a player built for 3-5-2 and not the rigid 4-4-2 which Carlo Ancelotti used at the time. He made 32 appearances in two years before joining Brescia.
5. Olivier Kapo
Enticed by his Bosman free status, the Ivorian-born Frenchman accepted an offer from Lucky Luciano in 2004. He did very little in his brief Turin stay to justify the headlines which his switch got at the time. The lasting memory of his Bianconeri days is a late equaliser at Reggina which was then ruled out for offside. Kapo moved to Monaco and Levante on loan before the club got rid of him to Birmingham City.
4. Sunday Oliseh
Nigerian international who didn’t turn out to be the midfield enforcer which Big Luciano hoped for. Signed from Ajax in 1999, Juventus were Oliseh’s second Italian club after a previous spell at Reggiana in 1994-95. Rarely used – he made just eight appearances for the Old Lady in Serie A – he was moved on to Borussia Dortmund.
An attacking Brazilian left-back – “He’s the new Roberto Carlos,” some inevitably claimed – who was suggested to Moggi by Omar Sivori. It took Juventus the best part of a year to sign him after a number of bureaucratic problems and it was time unwisely spent. Athirson made his debut on April 1, 2001, in the first of only five appearances. Loaned back to Flamengo with a view to recalling him, that never happened as the club chose to rescind his contract instead.
2. Fabian O'Neill
Signed in 2000 as an alternative for Zinedine Zidane if necessary, the man who Cagliari got £8m for failed to convince Ancelotti. Little changed following the arrival of Marcello Lippi, who attempted to use him as a replacement for the suspended Edgar Davids in a deeper midfield position. The Uruguayan’s Turin stint lasted just two seasons and 14 Serie A games. What a waste of talent…
1. Juan Esnaider
Argentine forward who was signed in January 1999 to cover for the absence of the injured Alex Del Piero. He turned out to be no Pinturicchio as the player who impressed at Atletico Madrid and Espanyol failed to show up. No goals in 16 Serie A appearances, he netted just twice in 25 games overall before being released to Real Zaragoza. “My professional career starts today,” he said at his official presentation. In some ways, it ended instead.
Think Kapo and Esnaider were a bit harsh its not like great things were expected of them.
Think Salas should of been in there and maybe even Legro as he wes tipped to be the next thing.
QPR defender Armand Traore reveals his Arsenal nightmare: I felt sick with fear before games and didn't really want to play The Senegal star opens up about the anguish he felt during his spell at the Gunners and why his head was elsewhere during the 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford earlier this season
For Armand Traore, it would begin days, often a week, before the match. The anxiety. The nerves. The sick feeling in the pit of the stomach. By kick-off, he would be drained and exhausted.
The stress was a manifestation of being a young fringe player at Arsenal, aware that opportunities came along only fleetingly.
“You can feel it there,” he said, pointing to his stomach. “It is not good and you cannot perform as well as anyone who is training all week and playing every week. It is different. Whenever I played, I was under a lot of pressure. You have to perform or that’s it.
“Every time you go to control a ball, you automatically think, 'I cannot miss my touch’. Then, after that, you think, 'I cannot miss my pass’. You worry about so many things. It’s just not good for your head and you are not entirely focused.”
Honest and open, Traore offers it as a heartfelt explanation, not an excuse, for his failure to make the breakthrough during six years at Arsenal, especially timely on the day his former club prepare for a League Cup quarter-final with a team likely to be dominated by young guns. He was not so troubled during his season-long loans at Juventus and Portsmouth, or current employers QPR, where he is enjoying regular first-team football.
“It actually feels really good,” expanded Traore in his first extended interview since his move on the penultimate day of the window. “I was explaining to a few of my relatives that I almost feel that I’m needed sometimes, where at times at Arsenal it was almost like, 'well, if [Gael] Clichy is injured, if [Kieran] Gibbs is injured then maybe you can play’. So you never really know when you are going to play.
“It wasn’t the best conditions to focus and play every week. When you are more relaxed, you can do more things. This was my big problem. I didn’t play much, that’s for sure. I had some not-so-good games as well.”
Traore does not blame Arsenal, or Arsene Wenger and his coaching staff. He has “no regrets, never” about six years of education at one of football’s finest finishing schools and retains great affection for the club that he joined as a 16-year-old.
The expectation came from within. “It was from me because I have got ambition and my ambition was to be at some point the first choice,” Traore explained. “I put a lot of pressure on myself and it didn’t happen.
“One time I spoke with Wenger and he said he knows what it's like. Even before the game started he said, 'Your energy is almost gone because of the pressure. You think about the game too much, for the whole week’.
“I know at the time I had trouble with coping with the pressure. Especially when you are young and you have all these people looking at you and judging you the next day. I learned to cope with it at my time with Juventus.
“Now, it’s a different story. I can’t wait to play. I set myself goals for games like getting assists and making sure when I play left-back that the goals don’t come from my side.
“It’s completely different. I feel like I am more useful. I feel I can help the team more. Before I was a bit like, 'Hmm, I don’t really want to play’. At some point I just wanted to go and play football."
The nadir of Traore’s Arsenal career came at Old Trafford on August 28 in his 13th and final league game for the club. An injury crisis meant a late call up, the postponement of his transfer to QPR and then an 8-2 buffeting.
Traore reveals: “For me personally, I was supposed to leave before that game. It was all arranged. The game was on the Sunday and on the Thursday my agent calls me and says, 'We are going to sign for QPR in the afternoon’. In my head I was gone already and didn’t want to be there anymore.
“I wasn’t fit. Pre-season is the most important part of the season and I missed part of it at Arsenal, which maybe stuffed me. I came back from injury for the game against Udinese. So, personally, for me, it was a crazy score. You can talk about the Arsenal defence back then but have a look at the goals. At least maybe three or four, maybe five, are unbelievable goals.”
QPR made sense for Traore, what with a charismatic manager, an ambitious new owner, a London postcode and the prospect of a regular starting place.
Speaking at Rangers’ training ground at Harlington while planes fly overhead en route to nearby Heathrow, he explained: “There was interest from other clubs but I liked what Neil Warnock said. It is definitely going places. The chairman [Tony Fernandes] is not kidding about this club. A couple of times he came to talk to us and it sounded good.
“The fact it was in London as well, so I didn’t have to move my family. I have just had a little boy. I learned from Juventus when I had to bloody move all the way to Italy. I thought, 'I’m going to give it a go’. That was one of the reasons and I thought I would get a good shot at playing.”
Traore’s goals are simple: “to try and play well every week” and for QPR “to stay in the Premier League”.
He also has shared motivation with fellow window signings Shaun Wright-Phillips, Anton Ferdinand and even Joey Barton. “A lot of us are united by the fact we have a lot of people to prove wrong,” he said. “100 per cent we have something to prove.”
For Traore, professional disappointment has been exacerbated by personal heartbreak over the last two years
“My life has changed a lot,” he explained. “People don’t know this on the outside. I lost my Dad to cancer. I used to be on the phone to him almost every day. I have seen my Dad when he couldn’t even walk or get out of bed. I had to pick him up myself in the middle of the night. When you see things like this and think about them again, it can be very heartbreaking.
1 - The number of goals Traore has scored in his professional career.
3 - Traore has three tattoos, one on either arm and wings on his back, all of which he wants to remove.
8 - Arsenal conceded eight goals in Traore's final game for the club.
13 - The number of league appearances Traore made during six years at Arsenal.
14 - Traore was 14 when he left his parents' home in Paris to join Monaco. He moved to Arsenal's academy two years later.
“He passed away and I had to cope with trying to get back into the Juventus side at the same time as the front page of the papers saying, 'Traore hasn’t even started playing. He is still injured’. My wife was pregnant. Injuries, injuries, injuries. That was a crazy season. It was a painful time.”
Traore was helped by his Muslim faith, which he has embraced with added vigour in recent times after a spell when he admits he did not practice it properly.
“Without my faith it would have not been the same. I would probably still be thinking of my Dad now and all sad. He was suffering and now he is okay, you know. My faith helped. When you have faith in God, it is okay.”
Despite playing for France at Under-21 level, Traore opted in June to represent the land of his fathers and by pledging allegiance to Senegal. It is a decision that would have pleased his father, a former Senegal international himself.
“This is one of the main reasons why. My mother keeps telling me, 'If he saw you now he would be proud’. All the time we were talking about France or Senegal he was, like, 'Wait a bit, until you are 21 or 22’. But I knew that he wanted me to play for Senegal because back in Senegal are all my family and there is a lot of pride in me playing for Senegal.
“The fact also is that when I saw what Senegal was trying to do, rebuild the team with so much quality, the names they were trying to bring in, I thought, 'I want to be part of this; there is something we can do there’. Everyone is my age, quite young and could be there for the next 10 years.”
One regret Traore does have is decorating his body with three tattoos, one on each arm and wings on his back.
“I don’t know what I was thinking,” he admitted. “I was 16.” Traore has spoken in the past of removing them but is now concerned about the pain.
“I have heard the laser is more painful than the actual tattoo,” he grimaces. “I am still thinking of doing it but at the end of the day I hope that I have been forgiven for what I have done. I might as well not try and go through the pain. The ones on my arms, the small ones, definitely, but the one on my back, the big one, is going to be difficult.”
Talking of art, Traore returns to the subject of Arsenal and Arsene, who he was too bashful to approach as a teenager but gradually got to know over time. “Outside of football, I had some good chats with him. He is a good man.”
Before he leaves the training ground to go home to his wife and 12-month-old son, who Traore laughs is “wrecking the house at the moment”, the defender talks with optimism about the future.
He said: “My aim was to establish myself as the left-back at Arsenal. It didn’t happen. It was meant to be like this. I’m not going to cry over it. I have moved on and want to get on with my career. That’s what everyone should do.”
Former France international Lilian Thuram curates anti-racist museum exhibition
The retired World Cup winner has turned his hand to arts after unveiling the Human Zoo, a collection of colonial freak shows from the past two centuries
Former Juventus and Barcelona defender Lilian Thuram has curated a museum exhibition show to help explain the background of racist ideas.
The show, named 'Human Zoos: The Invention of the Savage', demonstrates how African and American villagers were once shipped to colonisers in order to go on public display as a form of colonial propaganda, while further emphasising race hierarchy theory, during the early 19th and 20th centuries.
Thuram, who was born in Guadeloupe and saw his footballing career cut short in 2008 due to health problems, has been campaigning against race discrimination ever since, and his latest project seems to have been the culmination of his efforts thus far.
“You have to have the courage to say that each of us has prejudices, and these prejudices have a history,” Thuram told The Associated Press.
However, despite many of the subjects being forgotten in history, some have since been identified, including those of an ex-World Cup winner.
The great-grandparents of Thuram's former team-mate Christian Karembeu were moved to Paris from the French territory of New Caledonia in the Pacific Ocean, before being branded cannibals.