The national team and Cagliari, Mancini and Barella, Burgnich and the ’68 of Italy as European champion. Gigi Riva speaks and listening to him, every time, is like opening a book that you were convinced you had already read, and instead you always discover new pages. The greatest blue bomber looks to the upcoming European Championship and has no doubts. «Italy can win. It has the men and the qualities. After all, it is our destiny. History tells us that we never go out on the pitch to make extras but to go all the way and win the trophy up for grabs ».
You have spent very affectionate words towards Roberto Mancini.
«I know him well – Riva replies -, as a player he was a great champion. As a coach he has achieved a lot, with a distinctive trait: he has always been a gentleman, on and off the pitch. I would say, however, that in terms of preparation and ability to interact with the players, it can be considered the extra weapon of the national team, the element that can give that pinch that is needed to make the leap in quality that will lead us to win the European Championship ” .
Italy, that Cup, has only won it once. As it happens, Gigi Riva was on the pitch …
«One of the best and most fortunate moments of my career. I shouldn’t have played that final against Yugoslavia. Instead at the time, the regulation gave me a hand. I was injured in the first game, and I was out. It ended 1-1 with a goal from Domenghini. At the time, however, a repetition of the final and not penalties was expected ».
And after two days the injury was reabsorbed and Valcareggi threw her into the fray.
“Exactly so. I felt like I was dreaming. I was 23 and I was playing in the final of the Europeans. At the Olimpico, a stadium that gave me so much satisfaction, I scored the first goal: a ball that arrived in the area after a tackle, I shot hard, beating their goalkeeper. Then Anastasi made it 2-0 and we took home the Cup. I was touching the sky with a finger ».
Not everyone knows that she did not play with the number 11 shirt but with the 17.
«In the final phase, which was played in Italy, the semifinal and final were scheduled, but it was necessary to give, as in the World Cup, the jersey numbers of the 22 called up in advance. That time they decided to assign the numbers in strictly alphabetical order: Albertosi had the 1, Anastasi the 2, Domenghini the 9, the 11 to Ferretti of Turin and to me, who in any case was destined to stay out due to the injury in the two scheduled games, 17 was the lot. Rivera laughed: a good number happened to you … I did not know a string of numbers that brought bad luck … Also because in the end, however, that 17 brought me very well ».
The victory against Yugoslavia was the first blue triumph since the time of Pozzo.
«The stadium exploded with joy and in the end the fans lit thousands of candles, making the atmosphere particularly suggestive. At the end of the game I went around with some companions, then I left them and went on alone, walking around Rome late at night. While the carousels of cheering fans continued on the street, no one recognized me. I enjoyed it like that. At 5 in the morning I took a taxi and had me take me to the airport. I took the first plane to Cagliari and went home ».
Two years later, the world championship. The second place along with many champions, including Tarcisio Burgnich.
“His passing saddened me a lot. I found out from the headlines that ran on TV. It was a bad shot. He was really a rock, but above all a real man. On the pitch we gave it to each other with good reason, but loyalty was never lacking ».
Burgnich scored the 2-2 goal in the legendary semi-final with Germany. She saw that goal very well since it was behind her.
«He ended up in the opponent’s penalty area, which never happened. I saw him kick his left and go through the door. I was the first to hug him, because that goal put us back in the running after overtaking the Germans. But the most surprising thing is that while the other companions screamed madly with happiness, he quietly went back to get back on the defense. Great “Tarci”, I will never forget it ».
As an Italian manager, however, he witnessed the defeat with the golden goal in the 2000 final against France.
«Mmh, I don’t remember – Riva sly replies -. At my age I prefer to make room in my head only for good things, like the success six years later on penalties in Berlin, against France ».
The link with the national team is always very close. Gigi Riva is in the heart of the Italian fans but also of the managers. President Gravina sent her a national team jersey on the evening of Italy-San Marino.
“Yes, a nice thought. But I thanked them for bringing the national team back to Cagliari. A wonderful gift for the city and for Sardinia ».
However, she did not go to the stadium, despite the invitation.
“I haven’t been to a game in years now. In fact, I don’t even watch them live on TV. I register and look at the result obtained. Thus one does not suffer … ».
Do you also do this for Cagliari matches?
“Exact. Italy and Cagliari are the teams I cheer for. So I see the matches with things already done ».
After the arrival of Semplici she had foreseen the salvation of the rossoblùs.
«The new coach has given the team the confidence in their own means. Cagliari has shown that they can face anyone on an equal footing, without fear. The rossoblù rose is very respectable, with people like Cragno, Nainggolan, Joao Pedro. A group that certainly deserved to keep its place in Serie A ».
Returning to the European Championship that will begin in a few days, we cannot fail to mention Nicolò Barella. A talent born in the Gigi Riva Football School.
«I love Nicolò very much, a truly exceptional boy. Of course, when we founded the Soccer School many years ago, we thought in the meantime to play a social role, and maybe to be able to raise some good guys, maybe even for Serie A. But we would never have dreamed of being able to give Italian football a Nicolò Barella ” .
Born in Cagliari, he grew up first in the Gigi Riva Soccer School and then in Serie A with the rossoblùs. Better than this…
«For me it is a great pride. Barella is a very good player who can make a difference there, in the middle of the pitch. The midfield is in fact very strong since with Nicolò there are people like Jorginho and Verratti. Yes, I confirm the prediction: Italy is very strong and can win the European Championship. It would be fantastic: after 53 years to return to the continental roof – the Roar of Thunder stops for a moment and then adds -. After Riva, Barella. Not bad, right? ‘