Popular Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport launched a new column, called "Champions" Books. Its essence is that footballer who performing in Series A chooses a book that he likes, for further discussion with the journalist and finding parallels between the story and his career or life. Obviously it’s not so easy to find the characters for such column because, to put it mildly, there are very few fans of reading in today's society, especially among sportsmen who have to spend a lot of time on training...
But every rule has exceptions - and Italian journalists were able to find some footballers who are at the same time passionate readers and want to share their book tastes and impressions with the audience.
Emil Hallfredsson, "Udinese" midfielder
Book: Alex Ferguson, "Leading". The autobiography was not enough to describe the personality of this great coach. So appeared his second book, written in collaboration with billionaire Sir Michael Moritz, in which authors reveal some more episodes of the 27-year career of Manchester United mentor related to the topic of leadership.
Reader: attacking midfielder for a long time has been one of the leaders of "Hellas Verona”, but when it became clear that its presence in Series A is coming to an end, team management let Hallfredsson play in "Udinese", so he had an opportunity to spend the rest of the season in a better squad and prepare for the historic debut of Iceland national team at the European Championships. That was his main purpose.
When Hallfredsson just arrived to Verona, he decided to impress all the teammates telling the stories about him swimming with sharks – which is one of Icelandic amusements. But it was not true. Now Emil decided to make another promise - if Iceland national team will participate in the semifinal of Euro 2016 - he will really swim with the sharks! Not a risky guy, for sure.
Hallfredsson chose a book with close to the football content on the advice of his wife. He always listens to her opinion. As for Alex Ferguson, Emil respects him, first of all, because the Scot says about the importance of young players’ education. However, the coaches with such a strong character did not come across his career - maybe this is for the better. The most difficult period on the football path of Emil, however, is not connected with a mentor, but with the ... sun. Icelander used to play at a cool temperature of 20 degrees, but when he arrived the first time to the south of Italy – the temperature there was 40 degrees! Hallfredsson reddened and nearly lost consciousness on the field. And in the north of Italy, in Verona he finally felt himself at home.
Adam Masina, "Bologna" defender
Book: Alessandro Baricco, “Novecento”. The history of Novecento who was a baby found in the box on the ship cruising between Europe and America. Strangely he became a brilliant self-taught pianist who never came down to the shore, and spent all his life entertaining passengers with masterly performances.
Reader: One of the most interesting young players of this season in Series A three years ago was a reserve forward with vague future. Adam was fond of Del Piero’s football and dreamed of playing with the favorite "Bologna" on "Juventus Stadium", and his coach looked at the guy on the bench like he’s crazy. Later that coach phoned Adam to admit his own mistake. Later Masina became one of the leaders of "Bologna" returning to the elite division. And yes, our hero played with his favorite team on "Juventus Stadium" in Series A this year. Moreover, football grands noticed this young talent that promises to become someone like Roberto Carlos.
Masina chose the Baricco’s book for obvious reasons - it resembles his own difficult life history, and the footballer was impressed so hard that he get this text almost by heart and even recited it on TV. As a baby pianist was left in the ship immediately after birth, so Adam became an orphan at a very early age. Adam’s mother, who went to give birth to her native land in Morocco, died of peritonitis after childbirth, and his father Mustafa, although returned with his son to Bologna, due to problems with alcohol wasn’t able to be a parent.
The boy got in the orphanage, and then he was taken and returned by several families until he was lucky enough to be adopted by Raffaele Masina. Not immediately, because Raffaele divorced with his wife and once was forced to return the child, but then everything settled. And so this man made the little boy’s fairy tale real. Difficulties make a person modest, and by Adam’s observations, the majority of Series A footballers have this trait - and probably this is not an accident.
Matteo Bianchetti, “Hellas Verona” defender
Book: Ken Follett, "The Pillars of the Earth". The grand panorama of the Dark Ages of England, between 1123 and 1174 years, with endless struggle between the king, the Church and the bourgeoisie against the background of the majestic cathedral construction.
Reader: promising young defender who grew up in "Inter" and was the captain of the youth national team in Italy, started this season on the bench of "Verona", was able to win a place at the base. But the year is unlikely to be called fully successful professionally for him, as his team left the Series A without much resistance. Bianchetti immediately said he wanted to stay to help “Verona” return to the elite and gain valuable experience at the same time. Experience is really very necessary for him, as for many young Italians, of whom Matteo aptly said a few years ago: "If my name was not Bianchetti but Luis Blanco, I would come out onto the field more often."
Bianchetti chose the historical bestseller of Welsh writer because he has a strong impression of the author's ability to write the characters as if they were his friends, and also of such a wonderful metaphor of his own football vocation - as well as churches are pillars of the Earth, which is the subject of the novel, the pillars of any team are its defenders. If they fall - the play of the whole team collapses.
Also, Matteo is generally interested in the Middle Ages – “The name of the rose” written by Umberto Eco is also in his reading list. According to "Verona’s" defender even the old world had more moral values than modern football - and that further, the worse. For the behavior that some young players of Primavera demonstrate today, ten years ago they would have been beaten in the locker room. To avoid such company Bianchetti puts on headphones and opens another book, and team mates joke: "Keep silence guys, ‘cause we have the library here”.
Book: Luciano De Crescenzo, "Il dubbio" (“Doubt”). Philosophical reflections on the key issues of life, the existence of God, the role of chance, fate, time and space with responses that stimulate further reflection.
Reader: Stendardo - is rather an average defender, who however managed to make a decent career in Series A, and even played in "Juventus". His last years in 'Atalanta' are memorable more because of scandals than football. Firstly the coach doesn’t let him to leave the team and pass the state exams at the University because the club from Bergamo had a difficult calendar. Player did not listen and got the penalty. Later another coach benched Stendardo even during the crisis in the line of defense, sending to the field another player, which angered our hero who probably counted on the protection of his girl - the daughter of the "Atalanta" president.
Stendardo chose the book of famous Italian philosopher because in his own football career the fate has played the biger role, than the chance. And there are specific reasons for his success (as the footballer thinks) and not just circumstances: it’s his dream, a lot of work, a good family, which he could rely on. According to statistics, from every 4 000 young players only one gets to Series A, so Stendardo is a truly lucky guy.
Enzo Maresca, "Palermo" midfielder
Book: Daniel Kahneman, "Thinking, fast and slow." Israeli psychologist, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics, writes about two types of the human mind: fast, that is unconscious, intuitive, that does not require effort and slow, that is conscious, deductive, something that requires concentration and therefore not everyone and not always is able to overcome his own laziness to think in this way. And whatever we think about ourselves, numerous experiments show that exactly the quick thinking controls our lives.
Reader: Maresca is a versatile midfielder with a pretty awesome football path - started in England, at home played in competitor clubs - "Juventus" and "Fiorentina", but truly revealed his talent only in Spanish “Sevilla” being a member of which he won two UEFA Cups. One year spent in "Palermo", then returned to “Verona”… And then was his farewell letter to fans…
Since young Enzo left home for his football future he had to seek wisdom in books. So he likes to read philosophic books that could teach him something such as “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius as well as previously noted Daniel Kahneman’s book about human thinking. Also in the house, which Maresca is building for his future family, he already envisaged some space for a library room.