One of famous Italian rockstar Luciano Ligabue’s early hits “Lambrusco e Popcorn” describes the myth of the United States from the perspective of a young Italian. I thought of that song as I was getting ready to attend Padova-Triestina last night. While the two teams aren’t from the same city or even the same region in Italy, the match is considered a derby especially because of clubs ties to legendary Italian coach Nereo Rocco.
While Rocco is mainly known as one of the early inventors of the catenaccio, along with Inter’s Helenio Herrera, and for leading Milan to the first Coppa Campioni back in 1963 (a team that featured Gianni Rivera), he established himself as a manager at Padova. He had previously started his coaching career in his hometown of Trieste, where he managed to lead Triestina to a surprising second place finish in the early 40s.
My first stop in Padova, the city where I grew up watching the likes of Del Piero, Di Livio and Galderisi is always to the trattoria Rocco frequented when he coached Padova. I always like to sit at the table under his picture, it always gives me a sense of the great Italian coaching tradition- that to me is the “Lambrusco” that Ligabue sings about (although in Veneto you would likely have a Valpolicella or if you want to stay local to Padova a red from the Colli Euganei).
Before the game on Friday I paid a visit to Padova’s official store where I couldn’t help but notice many mementos of Alexi Lalas’ time at the club. The center back was the first American to play in Serie A, and while Lalas only played about forty matches for the biancoscudati he’s still remembered fondly for not only his contributions on the pitch but also his nights of playing guitar in the local bars (he’s of course the pop corn of this story). Lalas was featured next to Del Piero and El Shaarawy in Padova’s official store- not bad for “un Americano” as they would say in Padova.
Nereo Rocco would have been very proud of Padova’s performance in the match against his hometown team. The biancoscudati played a very disciplined game, and ended up winning 2-1 in a match in which they had very few scoring chances, while not exactly catenaccio they were waiting for counter attack opportunities while Triestina controlled most of the match.
The key win allowed Padova to maintain their to spot in the Serie C standings, their performance reminded me of Rocco’s most famous quote- before a match a journalist told him “May the best team win”, Rocco responded with “Cio’ speremo de no” (Let’s hope not)- the best definition of old school Italian way of winning matches.