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