Note de lectură: I think therefore I play

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pirlo
Andrea Pirlo este unul din cei mai admirați fotbaliști ai ultimilor ani. A readus viziunea şi inteligenţa într-un joc monopolizat de “galactici” cu contracte publicitare uriaşe şi acaparat de showbiz. Pasionaţii de fotbal au găsit în Andrea Pirlo modestia şi discreţia care transformă un căpitan de echipă într-un adevărat lider şi un model dincolo de terenul de fotbal.

Autobiografia sa (fără o structură cronologică) decupează pase melancolice, reflexive şi uneori ironice către un cititor curios de lumea interioară a unui fotbalist care apare o dată la câteva decenii.
Din păcate, cartea are doar 200 de pagini.
Din păcate, la finalul ei te simţi ca după un prânz în care ai mâncat doar salată: e bună, e sănătoasă, dar ai fi vrut mai mult, mult mai mult.

Mai jos am adunat câteva note de lectură cu citate despre disciplină, rasism, salariile şi superstiţiile fotbaliştilor, despre Mircea Lucescu, Berlusconi, Gattuso, Inzaghi sau Del Piero, despre finale pierdute şi câştigate, despre filosofia sa de viaţă şi gândurile de viitor.

Din prefața lui Cesare Prandelli:

The really extraordinary thing is that Andrea is a silent leader.

Andrea Pirlo is a player who belongs to everyone. Guys like him should be a protected species.

Pirlo brings people together because he is football. He’s the most skilful type of player, someone who’s never done anything horribly wrong – he’s the essence of the game. For that reason, he’s recognised as a global talent, a player who sends out a positive message with every touch he takes. The message is that sometimes even normal guys can be truly exceptional.

Despre A.C. Milan:

Milan is a little world apart. One that gave much more than it took and, without a shadow of a doubt, stirred strong feelings in me. Sometimes it was dejection mixed with sadness, other times raw emotion. At any rate, it taught me a valuable life lesson: it’s good to cry. Tears are a visible demonstration of who you are; an undeniable truth. I didn’t hold back. I cried and wasn’t ashamed to do so.

Despre el însuși:

As a kid, and then as an adolescent, I tried to rail against a concept conveyed through a few
different words: “unique”, “special”, “preordained”. Over time, I learned to live with it and use it to my advantage.

Even in those early days I was someone who always had to deliver; always had to maintain high standards. For everyone else, it was okay to have an average game. If I did, it was a failure.

I think I’ve understood that there is a secret: I perceive the game in a different way. It’s a
question of viewpoints, of having a wide field of vision. Being able to see the bigger picture.
Your classic midfielder looks downfield and sees the forwards. I’ll focus instead on the space
between me and them where I can work the ball through. It’s more a question of geometry than tactics. The space seems bigger to me. It looks easier to get in behind – a wall that can easily be knocked down.

I don’t feel pressure, either. I don’t give a toss about it. I spent the afternoon of Sunday, July 9, 2006, in Berlin sleeping and playing the PlayStation. In the evening, I went out and won the World Cup.

They weren’t bad kids, the ones I played with in the Brescia youths. But they did have a very serious problem; one that always got the better of them. They were running scared of their own dreams.
Dreams that weighed them down and eventually crushed them.

Being part of a team that belongs to everyone makes me feel good and at peace with myself. It relaxes me. A lot of the time, it’s better than sex: it lasts longer and if it all falls flat, it can’t just be your fault.
Take someone like Antonio Cassano. He says he’s slept with 700 women in his time, but he doesn’t get picked for Italy any more. Deep down, can he really be happy? I certainly wouldn’t be. That second skin, with its smurf-like blue, gives you a whole new image across the world. It makes you better, takes you to a higher level. Much better to be a soldier on the pitch than in the bedroom.

During those long periods when it seemed my world was spinning in the wrong direction, my friends gave me some excellent advice. “When you can’t go on, think of something that relaxes you.”
It turned out to be a precious tip. Whenever I was on the bench, or worse, in the stand, I’d close my eyes for a few seconds and picture myself with my bare feet (no studs, no socks, no shin guards and most of all no pressure) immersed in an enormous wooden barrel.
I was crushing grapes, dancing right on top of them. Pulling down the vines and turning fruit into wine. I thought back to my childhood days spent harvesting the grapes at my grandmother Maria’s farm out in the countryside near Brescia. It was me against the grape skins, fighting to save the juice.

As a general rule, I’m more lucid when things go badly. When you lose, it’s all about thinking and reflecting. When you win, burping takes priority.

Ibrahimovic thought he was insulting Guardiola when he called him ‘The Philosopher’, but when you think about it, that’s actually a nice compliment.
Being a philosopher is to think, seek wisdom and have principles that guide and influence what you do. It’s to give meaning to things, find your way in the world, believe that in the end, in every instance, good will overcome evil even if there’s a bit of suffering along the way.

Mircea Lucescu:

From a mental point of view, my not entirely inadvertent tutor was Mircea Lucescu, the coach who plucked me from the Brescia youths aged 15 and put me straight into the big boys’ world of the first team. I found myself training with 30-somethings who were a little bit put out at me getting under their feet. They were twice as old as me and, some days, twice as nasty.
“Andrea, keep playing like you did in the youth team.”
That was the first phrase Lucescu whispered to me and, like a good little soldier, I obeyed.

He spoke to me with kindness then turned to the rest of the team and said:
“Give the ball to Pirlo; he knows how to look after it.”

Disciplină:

After the wheel, the PlayStation is the best invention of all time. And ever since it’s existed, I’ve been Barcelona, apart from a brief spell way back at the start when I’d go Milan.
I can’t say with any certainty how many virtual matches I’ve played over the last few years but, roughly speaking, it must be at least four times the number of real ones.

Pirlo versus Nesta was a classic duel back in our Milanello days. We’d get in early, have breakfast at 9am and then shut ourselves in our room and hit the PlayStation until 11. Training would follow, then we’d be back on the computer games until four in the afternoon. Truly a life of sacrifice.

Despre penalty-urile din finala cu Franța din 2006:

The two teams gather in the centre circle and the next player up has to make his way from there to the penalty spot. It’s an experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone. It’s barely 50 metres, but it’s a truly terrible journey, right through the heart of your fear. The comparison with the dead man walking, pulling himself.

Caressing the ball was something I had to do. I then lifted my eyes to the heavens and asked for help because if God exists, there’s no way he’s French.

Despre penalty chip:

It was pure calculation that made me chip the ball. At that precise instant, it was the least dangerous thing to do. The safest and most productive option.

Gattuso:

I’d call him terrone (țăran) and he’d hit me. To get my own back, I’d nick his phone and send a bunch of texts to Ariedo Braida, our general manager. This one time, Rino de Janeiro, like me, was waiting for his contract to be renewed. I did the negotiating on his behalf by means of a single message. “Dear Ariedo, if you give me what I want, you can have my sister.”

Despre salariile fotbaliștilor:

When a club throws a tantrum, leaving out a player who’s refusing to take a wage cut, people often react on instinct. They’ll pass instant judgment: “Aah, typical rich guy, won’t let a single penny go.
We normal folk go hungry and they want to hang on to their millions. They’re the real untouchables in this country; worse than politicians, that lot. What a bunch of tight gits they are: the more they have, the more they want.”
When I hear certain understandable gut reactions of that kind, a few questions come to mind.
They’re not in any particular order, and I don’t know how intelligent they are, but here goes: did the directors have a gun to their head when they agreed that multi-million euro salary? Might it be the case that once they realised they’d got their sums wrong, they blamed it all on the player, always an easy sacrificial lamb?

How do people outside the dressing room know whether a player has to provide for a large family, give something back to parents who’ve made sacrifices for him in the past or pay off debts for relatives and friends? Are you telling me that the big cheeses, after organising all kinds of clandestine dinners and secret meetings to get a player to their club and then showering him with gold, can suddenly ask for it all back? Are they not the liars, those guys who, when it came down to it, weren’t capable of keeping their word? How can an employer change at will the terms of a contract that he himself set out?
It’s undeniable that we footballers are a fortunate bunch. But we’ve got our dignity. And at least from that point of view, nobody can call us pirlas. (dickhead).

Despre eventuala carieră de antrenor:

I wouldn’t bet a single cent on me becoming a manager, though. It’s not a job I’m attracted to. There are too many worries and the lifestyle is far too close to that of a player. I’ve done my bit and, in the future, I’d like to get back even a semblance of a private life.

Idolul său:

My absolute idol was Lothar Mätthaus. He was the No.10 who scored the goals and inspired the rest – for me, there was nobody better.

Despre Balonul de Aur și defensivă:

Over time I’ve realised that the managers, captains and journalists on the international judging panel all have a soft spot for goalscorers. As a consequence, when it comes to voting they’ve a preference for strikers, who are considered more influential than their team-mates. There are, of course, some rare exceptions, like King Cannavaro in 2006. – Ballon d’Or

In terms of pure technical ability, Ronaldo (the real one) is the most gifted guy I’ve had the
pleasure of playing with. He was an absolute machine. But overall, Paolo Maldini is the best. A defender. A peerless defender. The best defender going.
Both physically and mentally, he had everything, and the enjoyment he got from playing was as obvious at 40 years of age as it had been the day I first walked through the door at Milan. His passion is an example and an inspiration, a compass that I’ll carry with me not just for the rest of my playing days, but for the rest of my life. No cardinal points; just points in the league table.
He taught me how to conduct myself. Taught me how to win, lose, sniff out a goal, come up with an assist, sit on the bench, suffer, celebrate, play, behave, get angry, forgive, turn the other cheek, land the first blow, be myself and sometimes someone else.

If a forward makes a mistake, he can try again. If he scores, he’s in with a shout of the Ballon d’Or. But when it’s a defender who slips up, it’s a far more delicate situation. In percentage terms, the people who play at the back make fewer mistakes than those further forward.

The defence is the most important part of a team: in military terms, success starts in the zone behind the lines. Put more simply, the team that concedes fewest goals wins the match.

If I was a president, I’d never build a team with champions up front and dummies in defence. That’s just deceitful advertising designed to fool the fans.

Despre Berlusconi:

It’s perhaps difficult to understand, and even harder to explain, but whenever we heard the whir of his helicopter at Milanello, it sparked a positive feeling deep within us. We were like abandoned dogs furiously wagging our tails at the return of our master.

Despre finala Champions League 2005 de la Istanbul (pierdută în fața celor de la Liverpool):

I thought about quitting because, after Istanbul, nothing made sense any more.

I no longer felt like a player, and that was devastating enough. But even worse, I no longer felt like a man. All of a sudden, football had become the least important thing, precisely because it was the most important: a very painful contradiction.

Feeling invincible is the first step on the path to the point of no return.

I hope never to experience another night like May 25, 2005. I wouldn’t be able to cope, even if I was a cat on my ninth and final life. I’d rather commit suicide by taking a stroll through a cage of ravenous Dobermans.
There are always lessons to be found in the darkest moments. It’s a moral obligation to dig deep and find that little glimmer of hope or pearl of wisdom. You might hit upon an elegant phrase that stays with you and makes the journey that little less bitter. I’ve tried with Istanbul and haven’t managed to get beyond these words: for fuck’s sake.

Despre superstiții și clișee:

Whatever you think of Gila’s little quirk, it’s considerably better than the more invasive ritual
favoured by Filippo Inzaghi. Simply put, he crapped. Crapped a hell of a lot. That isn’t a bad thing in itself, but the fact he’d do it at the ground, in our dressing room, just before the game, got on our nerves somewhat. Especially if the dressing room was small – a stink like that in such a confined space can get a little overpowering. Often he’d go three or four times in the space of 10 minutes.
“It brings me luck, boys,” he’d say.
I’d heard that was the case if you stepped in it. That producing it and smelling it had the same effect was certainly news to me.
“It doesn’t do much for us, Pippo,” we’d say.

I know how to think. I’d hate it if people looked at me and fell into the trap of assuming: “Footballer. An EEG on him wouldn’t show much activity.”

Despre marcajul om la om:

Pretty much all the guys who tail me aren’t really bothered about the constructive side of the game. They’ll join in with an attack if they have to but as soon as they’ve lost the ball they’ll be back at my side, forgetting about everything else. They just want to knock me down.

I live every one of these experiences as a gross injustice, and it’s not uncommon for me to feel real pity for whoever’s sent to watch me. They’re players – more than that, they’re men – who’ve been asked to go out there and act without dignity, destroying instead of creating. They’re happy to come across as utter crap as long as they make me look bad, too.

All I’m after is a few square metres to be myself. A space where I can continue to profess my creed: take the ball, give it to a team-mate, team-mate scores. It’s called an assist and it’s my way of spreading happiness.

Despre rasism:

I find racists disgusting.

The people who belong to that ethnic group are simply part of another culture. They’re made in one way, and we’re made in another. Two stories that are equally beautiful; two pieces of the same jigsaw.

We also need Mario Balotelli. I’m not sure he really appreciates it yet, but he’s a special kind of medicine, an antidote to the potentially lethal poison of the racists you find in Italian grounds. They’re a truly horrendous bunch, a herd of frustrated individuals who’ve taken the worst of history and made it their own.

Whenever I see Mario at an Italy training camp, I’ll give him a big smile. It’s my way of letting
him know that I’m right behind him and that he mustn’t give up. A gesture that means ‘thank you’.
He’s often targeted and insulted by opposition fans. Let’s say that the way he goes about his
business perhaps doesn’t help him get much love, but I’m still convinced that if he was white, people would leave him in peace.

He won’t let this human trash get their way, and it’s the most intelligent response because if you listen to what a stupid person says, you elevate them to the position of interlocutor. If you simply ignore them (still acknowledging that, unfortunately, they exist) you’re leaving them to stew in their own polluted sea: one where there are no friends and no shore. The good news is that even sharks can die of loneliness after a while.

Loviturile libere și idolul Juninho:

I strike those dead balls alla Pirlo. Each shot bears my name and they’re all my children. They look like one another without being twins, even if they do boast the same South American roots. More precisely, they share a source of inspiration: Antonio Augusto Ribeiro Reis Junior, a midfielder who’s gone down in history as Juninho Pernambucano.

I studied him intently, collecting DVDs, even old photographs of games he’d played. And
eventually I understood. It wasn’t an immediate discovery; it took patience and perseverance. From the start, I could tell he struck the ball in an unusual way. I could see the ‘what’ but not the ‘how’.

The search for Juninho’s secret had become an obsession for me, to the extent that it occupied my every waking thought. It was at the point of maximum exertion that the dam burst, in every sense of the term. The magic formula was all about how the ball was struck, not where: only three of Juninho’s toes came into contact with the leather, not his whole foot as you might expect.

In essence, the ball needs to be struck from underneath using your first three toes. You have to keep your foot as straight as possible and then relax it in one fell swoop. That way, the ball doesn’t spin in the air, but does drop rapidly towards the goal. That’s when it starts to rotate. And that, in a nutshell, is my maledetta.

Despre echipă și ambiția personală:

I can’t abide the cliché “only the team’s success matters – I don’t care about my own”. It’s the
tiresome complaint of those who have no personal ambition, whether for want of class or lack of character. For me, the team counts a huge amount but if I forgot about myself, I’d be doing my teammates a disservice. Many individuals make a team, just as many dreams make a triumph. And if you’re really lucky, they make history as well.

Despre încălzire:

I’ve absolutely no interest in jogging to warm up my muscles. The muscle that counts the most is the heart, and mine’s always set at 100 degrees, burning with positive energy. I’ve explained my outlook to the various coaches I’ve worked with but none of them pays any attention. They’ll look at me like I’ve just arrived from Mars, particularly when I suggest we also get rid of the warm-up before training.

Despre Del Piero:

Juventus is an almost physical attraction for him: it’s like putting one magnet next to another.
Thanks to my pathological devotion to the Italy jersey, people say I’m a player who belongs to
everyone. Sometimes I’ll find opposition fans applauding me when we play on the road. Del Piero went one step further: supporters of other teams put him on a pedestal because he was a one-club man.
They loved his dedication; the fact that he’d married a cause and stayed faithful, becoming something more than a mere footballer, as well as one of the all-time greats.

Viitorul fotbalulului și tehnologia:

Referees cop a lot of flak because those in charge are welded to traditions that are more stupid than they are old. Certain individuals don’t want to go down the road of in-game replays, something that would solve at least 50% of the current problems, kill all the controversy stone dead and make our (professional) lives a lot less eventful.

Saying ‘no’ to technology is like something out of a sporting Third World. All you’d need is a small screen where the fourth official stands.

I’d love to see a more modern football. But at the apex of the power pyramid, where brains wither and wallets matter, people hide behind tradition and try to keep things the way they’ve always been.

We need to get one thing straight. ‘Let’s throw ourselves into the future’ can’t just be an electoral slogan or an advert for a swimming pool in Nyon or Zurich. It needs to become a way of thinking, a real desire to change for the better. Other sports have taken that leap without suffering any negative repercussions.

Generally speaking, I reckon I’m a fairly switched-on guy. I’ve an opinion about everything and I’m not ashamed to express it, defend it and, where necessary, shout it from the rooftops.

I get angry when cyclists give interviews and accuse footballers of being spoilt. Too rich, they say, always in the spotlight, total prima donnas. And yet they forget that ours is undoubtedly a clean world.

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