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David Schiavone On January - 4 - 2011

Legend of Calcio: Enzo Bearzot

One of Italy’s most beloved coaches, a man who brought the World Cup back to the peninsula after 44 years. A humble man, but a football man first and foremost.

Enzo Bearzot was born in Aiello del Friuli, in the province of Udine on the 26th September 1927. His father was a bank manager and had no interest in football, instead he wanted his son to go to university and get a formal education.

He instead missed his school exams to go and play a few games for Pro Gorzia in Tuscany.

Primarily a centre back he made his professional debut for the Tuscan side in 1946, playing 39 matches for them before being whisked away to the bright lights of Milan to join up with Inter in 1948.

Following three years with the Nerazzurri he moved south to Sicily and joined Catania playing there for a further three years.

A move to Torino was then in the offing as he joined the club trying to rebuilt a side decimated by the Superga tragedy. It was here he spent most of his playing career. Ten years at the Filadelfia were interrupted by a short stint back at Inter in 1956-57.

With a long and distinguished career in Serie A, Bearzot only managed one cap for the Azzurri. It came on 27th November 1955 in a 2-0 defeat to Hungary, though he would go on to bigger things with the national team later in his career.

Eventually he retired from playing in 1964 aged 37 and immediately moved into coaching, becoming goalkeeping coach at Torino before moving to Serie C side Prato, with whom he had one season at the helm.

It was the national association that fascinated him and he moved into the Azzurri set up first at U23 level in 1969 where he stayed for six years before taking a role as joint coach of the Azzurri in 1975 before getting sole charge of La Nazionale in 1977.

Changing the way Italy played from a team built around a strong and organized defence he looked to play a more attacking and inventive way. Inspired by the Dutch ‘total football’ side of 1974.

Once saying: “For me, football should be played with two wingers, a centre forward and a playmaker.

“That’s the way I see the game. I select my players and then I let them play the game, without trying to impose tactical plans on them. You can’t tell Maradona, ‘Play the way I tell you.’ You have to leave him free to express himself. The rest will take care of itself.”

Nearzot, Zoff and Pertini Playing Scopone

During the World Cup of 1978 he took Italy to fourth place and played some of the best football in the competition. Something he repeated in the 1980 European Championships.

But we all know his crowning achievement came in the 1982 FIFA World Cup.

The first three group games for Italy were disappointing draws, against Poland, Peru and Cameroon with the Italians scoring only two goals, which resulted in a wave of anger emanating from the peninsula as the media had a field day with Bearzot and his team.

Thus Bearzot introduced a silenzio stampa (press silence), and allowed only captain Dino Zoff to speak to the media, who were extremely critical of the Azzurri team selection.

He relied on a collection of players from Juventus who were dominant in Italy and Europe at the time. But probably his greatest turn as a coach was to call up Paolo Rossi who was just back after a ban induced after the Totonero scandal.

Vilified by the press, Bearzot showed unmitigating belief in his striker despite his failure to find the net in the opening three matches. And his faith was repaid as Rossi scored a hat-trick against Brazil, two against Poland in the semi-finals and the first in Italy’s 3-1 triumph over Germany in the final.

Enzo Bearzot and Italy won the World Cup in 1982.

Following the 1982 triumph Italy went into decline. They did not qualify for the 1984 European Championships and were an utter disappointment in the 1986 World Cup, losing to France in the round of 16.

That defeat led to Bearzot being criticized heavily by the Italian media for his loyalty the 1982 side, with the majority of those players performing way below their best four years later.

After a prolonged period out of the game he returned to take up a role at the FIGC as a technical director between 2002 and 2005.

He sadly passed away on 21st December 2010 in Milan, aged 83. A much loved coach and man, Rossi said of his mentor, “Enzo Bearzot was one of the greatest figures in 20th-century Italy.

“He was like a father to me. Without him I would never have achieved what I did.”

A man who served as Italy coach for eleven years in a country where everyman thinks he knows better, Enzo Bearzot can be described as nothing less than a true Legend of Calcio.

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