Every football fan remembers their first childhood hero. The reason they fell in love with the beautiful game and quiet often the main factor that determined what football club they began to support. That player for yours truly, was Roberto Baggio and with the return to Calcio this week of ‘Il Divin Codino’ the feelings of both nostalgia and hope entered my mind.
On Wednesday 4th of August 2010 Roberto Baggio was confirmed as President of the FIGC’s technical committee along with Gianni Rivera and Arrigo Sacchi who were appointed president of the youth academy and coordinator of youth teams up to Under-21 level respectively. These appointments have completed a revolution of the Italian national team that began with the appointment of Cesare Prandelli as the man to replace Marcello Lippi.
Following the Azzurri’s disastrous World Cup campaign this is a much welcomed overhaul and for me the appointment of Baggio as technical director is a true sign that the federation wants to reinvigorate the national game and put an emphasis on nurturing the young talent in the country that has always been there but somehow in the past four years has not emerged. This was none more so evident than in the lack of creativity of Lippi’s team in South Africa.
As a player, Baggio will be remembered as one of the all time greats. Following his controversial transfer from Fiorentina to Juventus in 1990 the Viola fans rioted on the streets in Florence and anyone that witnessed his performances for the Azzurri in Italia 90 can see the reason why there was such an outcry in Florence. His solo effort against the Czechoslovakia was perhaps goal of the tournament and demonstrated to the entire world why Juve broke the world transfer record to sign him.
He almost single-handedly carried Italy to the World Cup Final 4 years later in the USA only to be the man whose tragic penalty miss led to Brazil’s triumph in a game that he was never fit to play in. In between these World Cups Baggio was also writing his name into the Juventus history books by captaining the Turin side to the UEFA cup title in 1993 and he was subsequently named both European and World Footballer of the year. He also went on to win the Scudetto with Juve in 1995 before moving onto pastures new and becoming an idol at Bologna and Brescia in between indifferent periods with both Inter and AC Milan.
Following confirmation of Baggio’s appointment as president of the technical sector, in an interview broadcast by TG1, when questioned on his new role, he replied with typical humility:
“Me president?. It’s very strange to be called President.”
“I dream of Italy being able to begin to cultivate great talent, but to achieve this we have to believe in the young players that are the future.”
During his new tenure Baggio will commence his UEFA B coaching course in September and within 2 years could have completed Master (UEFA PRO) qualification so his return to Calcio appears to be a long term one and he will eventually move into a managerial role.
In the meantime, all Serie A and Azzurri fans will be hoping that in his role as President of the Technical Sector the campeone from Caldogno will be in some way responsible for nurturing players of the calibre of Baggio, Totti and Del Piero, players that Italy has so often produced in the past, players that Italian football deserves.