16 April ~ Piermario Morosini, who collapsed and died while playing for Livorno at Pescara on Saturday, never appeared in Atalanta's first team but he was very much one of us. Morosini was born in 1986, grew up a stone's throw from Bergamo's stadium and was part of the Atalanta youth set up for ten years until his transfer to Udinese in 2005. The transfer came about because Atalanta had been relegated and were interested in an experienced Udinese player, but had to offer a player of their own in part-exchange. I saw Morosini play on numerous occasions for Atalanta's Primavera (Under-19) team. In a side full of players who have made it to the professional ranks, it was fairly obvious he would do so too.

Although he belonged to Udinese, he only made five league appearances for them, spending most of his career on loan to Serie B clubs Bologna, Vicenza, Padova, Reggina and, since January, Livorno. However, he did play for all the Italian national age group teams from Under-17 to Under-21.

The reasons for his failure to fulfil his potential are not hard to find. In 2001 his father died of cancer. Two years later a heart attack claimed his mother. He had a brother and a sister, both of whom are older than him and disabled. Following the deaths of his parents, his brother committed suicide, while his sister has been cared for by nuns in a convent.

Morosini's sister relied on him for financial support and Udinese captain Antonio Di Natale has said the club will now look after her: "We know the situation with his sister. We as a team, the club, and Udinese for Life have decided to help her because she is in real need. It is essential to stay by the side of Piermario’s sister for her entire life. She needs us and we want to help, both for her and for Mario."

Without these family burdens on his young shoulders, I am sure Morosini would have been a regular in a mid-table Serie A team. There are many midfielders in Serie A with less talent than he had.

The tragedy has shocked Italy, especially the unbearably poignant TV images of the last moments of a 25-year-old sportsman who was apparently full of life. The federation's decision to call off all the weekend's matches was greeted with almost unanimous approval. Life must go on eventually, but to play less than 24 hours after such a traumatic event would have put football in the dock for lacking sensitivity, and rightly so. Both Udinese and Atalanta, to their credit, have said they would have refused to play and accepted the consequences.

As yet we do not know exactly why Morosini died. It is possible that a clash of heads with an opponent earlier in the game may have played a part. But we do know that the reaction to the emergency laid bare some of the chronic deficiencies that seem to plague Italy. The Pescara pitch is surrounded by a running track but the ambulance was not stationed on it.

A gate through which the ambulance had to pass to get onto the pitch was blocked by a police car. The vehicle belonged to the local police force, whose main job is to direct traffic and show no mercy to ordinary mortals when they are illegally parked. Sadly, it looks as though those in uniform have behaved as if the law is for others and not for them. It is also a scandal that two Pescara players had to carry the stretcher from the ambulance to the pitch to save time.

It is probable that even if the ambulance had arrived sooner, it would have made no difference. It seems that Morosini was already dead on the pitch. But we can assume that, where possible, ambulances will be pitchside and gates will no longer be obstructed from now on.

On Saturday evening a minute's silence was observed before Real Madrid and Barcelona's matches, and Barcelona wore black armbands. This was much appreciated in Italy. In the meantime I hope that Morosini's name will never be associated with the match-fixing scandal, because he seems to have been a genuinely nice man and an exemplary professional. Richard Mason

Comments (5)
Comment by Paul Rowland 2012-04-16 15:23:11

If anybody ever hears me moaning about my miserable banal futile pointless uneventful boring existence, I hope they'll do me a favour and remind me of Piermario Morosoni's story.

If that doesn't shut me up, then nothing will.

Comment by geobra 2012-04-16 15:24:56

For the record, his mother died first, in 2001, followed by his father in 2003, according to all the information I have.

Atalanta have also said that they will give financial and other assistance to his sister.

Can we hope that Morosini's death will induce some of those involved in the match fixing scandal to end their silence and come forward with evidence and/or confessions? Gianluca Vialli has compared them very unfavourably with Morosini.

And related to this, we have learnt today of the death of Carlo Petrini, aged 64. He was a maverick player in the 60s and 70s involved in most of what was shady in Italian football in that period. In later life, and suffering from various ailments probably caused by the administration of stimulants by club doctors, he denounced Italian football in a series of revelatory books. With his death an important voice has been silenced for ever.

Comment by lennon 2012-04-16 18:56:53

I can't imagine what his sister must be going through. Morosini, apparently, was a lovely bloke despite everything. We don't appreciate how fortunate we are. Well I don't.

Comment by geobra 2012-04-16 19:28:33

It's difficult to say because we don't know how disabled she is.

I can't help comparing Morosini with some of his rich colleagues who have been fixing matches. As it's all sub judice, I won't mention names, but one, who played briefly in England, comes from a very wealthy Roman family. Is Morosini's story pricking at his conscience, I wonder? If he never had any sense of shame before, he certainly should do now.

Apart from the burden of supporting his sister, Morosini also spent part of his summer holidays entertaining the children at the youth club in Monterosso, the district of Bergamo where he grew up. So far not a bad word has been said of him. And it's not just convention - when former Lazio player Giorgio Chinaglia died recently, nobody tried to paint him as a saint.

We have lost a player who was an antidote to the stench of corruption that is currently engulfing Italian football.

He's not even in his grave, and some Serie A clubs are already arguing about when this weekend's games should be played. And it's all about things like taking advantage of opponents' suspensions. That clubs should be thinking opportunistically at a time like this is beyond my obviously limited comprehension.

Comment by geobra 2012-04-19 19:58:05

An estimated 10,000 - fans, players, officials, and ordinary folk - turned up for today's very moving funeral ceremony in Bergamo.

The death of a humble Serie B journeyman has touched millions because of his life story, but also because he was a simple and modest man who never forgot his roots, a positive role model in these dreadful times for Italian football.

The football family was magnificent today. Piermario Morosini succeeded in uniting bitter rivals. But the good work must be carried on or today will have meant nothing.

We must hope that Morosini's legacy will be a long overdue clean up of the Italian game, something which obviously did not happen after the last death of a professional player on the pitch, Renato Curi at Perugia in 1977.

Ciao, Mario. You will never be forgotten. Rest in peace.

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