Dino ZOFF

The legend

Trucks and cars quickly slide along the street that divides a small village made by low, two storeys houses, and walls discoloured by the dust and the storms.
A small spot between Udine and Gorizia, Mariano del Friuli is always the same.
Its people are the same. Just 1300 souls whose eyes tell much more than their words.
Faces hollowed by the time and the hard work.
Everybody remembers Zoff there. Everybody remembers that kid who grew up working and playing football. That kid who liked to be a goalkeeper (the less aspired role, usually given to the less talented friends).
Everybody remembers Zoff because his roots are still well planted there and every once in awhile he comes back to visit his old friends and memories.
Dino Zoff (son of Anna and Mario) had the same great dreams of any kid. He dreamt of becoming a football player. However he already knew the meaning of certain values like work and toil.
He learnt them from his father Mario, who used to work in the fields from the dawn to the sunset in order to support his family.
Dino wanted to become a goalkeeper but still he grew up without fidgets and without flying too much with his imagination.
According to his father Mario, work and school had to come before football and just later on, if Dino had shown special athletic skills, they would talk again about a career in sport.
Dino agreed with his father and started working as a mechanician. Every morning he used to ride his bicycle to go to work and fix engines.
Dino was a very good mechanician and he really liked his job. He started gaining his first money and he still had time to play football. As a goalkeeper of course. Also on the football field his creed was hard work.
His idols were Fausto Coppi and Abdon Pamich, humble heroes and true men. Cyclists who made a name for themselves only by their commitment and discipline, sacrifice and toil.
Principles that became more and more important in Dino’s life.
Meanwhile he was growing older and was learning how to express himself through a few words, by his silences and his eyes.
Dino was the 15 years old, frail goalkeeper of his homevillage team (Marianese).
Juventus’ and Inter’s scouts went to see him but after a couple of tryouts he was eventually discarded by Giuseppe Meazza and Renato Cesarini.
Dino didn’t give up and rolled up his shirt sleeves both as a player and as a mechanician.
Meanwhile he also matured physically.
He could become a great mechanician, he became a great legend.

THE GOLD OF NAPLES
Finally someone noticed the goalkeeper of Marianese.
Luigi “Cina” Bonizzoni (who launched Zoff with Mantova and with Udinese in Serie A) tells that the real discoverer of Dino was a certain Comuzzi, a scout who used to travel all around Friuli and who brought Zoff to Udinese, where the adventure and the legend began.
A bad Sunday at the end of the summer: the 24th of September 1961.
Dino was just 19 years old and was lined up by Bonizzoni to play versus Fiorentina.
That day Zoff gave up as many as 5 goals.
I still remember that match. A few days later I went to the cinema and during the intermission they showed those goals. I just wanted to hide under the seat.
Udinese was relegated in Serie B and Zoff played his first season as a starter. However the next 2 seasons weren’t easy at all. Polemics and controversies were always in ambush ready to explode after every mistake.
Zoff never managed to win his people respect and eventually he decided to move to Mantova where Bonizzoni was the coach.
“I still remember Dino arriving with his car (an elaborate “600” that he used to drive at full speed). The bonnet was tied with a strap to prevent it from raising against the wind. Dino knew how to handle engines but I forbad him to drive such a car. It looked to me to be an absurd risk”.
Mantova meant the tranquillity and the maturity for Zoff.
3 seasons in Serie A and 1 in Serie B that allowed Dino to make constant improvements along with teammates like Gigi Simoni, Gustavo Giagnoni, Tomeazzi, Cancian, Nicole’, Sormani and Schnellinger.
There was also Santarelli a goalkeeper who, arriving from Bologna with a knee in bad condition, decided to step aside and help Zoff to emerge.
Mantova gave a new family to Zoff. There he met Anna who eventually became his wife.
Those were 4 unforgettable years ended with a surprising trade.
He was expected to go to Milan but a few minutes after the deadline for the trades was expired he signed with Napoli.
Napoli turned into another crucial step towards the making of his legend.

THE YEARS OF JUVENTUS Dino Zoff was already a star, however the best had still to come.
In 1972, at the age of 30, Zoff was lured by the “Lady of the Italian football” ending his experience with Napoli.
In those years Juventus was refounding itself around a group of young players who would make the history: Bettega, Altafini, Anastasi, Capello, Causio and Zoff, who began a new 11 years-long adventure in black and white.
Dino was now much different from that frail kid that Juventus discarded in 1958.
A very solid goalkeeper was grown. Maybe not as spectacularly crazy as the most part of his colleagues, but definitely wiser and more concrete than them.
In 1972-73 Zoff played and won his first Championship with Juventus.
A season that Dino always remembers as the best and most spectacular ever.
“There were players like Bettega, Haller, Causio. We had talent, speed, imagination and dynamism.
Later we improved our physical strenght and experience by adding players like Boninsegna and Benetti.
However the first Juventus still remains my favourite one”.
Other great champions would join Zoff over the next seasons: Tardelli, Cabrini, Brady, Boniek and Platini.
Those were the years of Trapattoni.
Those were the years when the Italian football finally reopened its frontiers becoming more cunning and competitive.
11 seasons that gave Zoff plenty of wins and trophies: 6 Italian Titles, 1 Uefa Cup, 2 Italian Cups and a long sequence of hard-to-beat records.
Records of longevity and loyalty.

THE WORLD IN HIS HANDS While playing with Juventus, Zoff turned into a real myth: “SuperDino” for everybody.
Those years were his best also with the national team.
He finally became the starting goalkeeper and all the others potential heirs had to content themselves with a backup role.
Zoff experienced as many as 4 World Cups: the first one as a backup, in Mexico, in 1970. The second one in Germany, in 1974. A World Cup rich in disappointment and frustration for an underachieving Italian national team.
The third one in Argentina, in 1978, where he suddenly had to face the critics for a certain slowdown.
The last one, in Spain, in 1982. The revenge and the triumph of a real champion who answers the critics through his hard work and accomplishments.
In Argentina Zoff was heavily criticized for his shakiness against the shots from afar and the 4th place achieved by Italy was considered a sort of failure.
Many claimed that he was getting old and his reflexes were not the same anymore.
He didn’t agree but never said a word to polemize.
He just worked hard for another 4 years and took his revenge in Spain becoming the main symbol of the Italian win in 1982.
Everybody remembers him saving a Paulo Isidoro’s header during the last minute of the crucial game versus Brazil. Everybody remembers him raising the Cup after the final match won against Germany.
Everybody remembers his eyes apparently looking for all his detractors, like saying: “Who did claim that I’m old and tired”.
However Zoff was never interested in taking revenges. He just wanted to do well, improving, if possible, until 40 years old.
And by the way he won the World Cup exactly at the age of 40.

THE ITALIAN MYTH Another memory: Zoff caressing Bearzot after winning the Final and just before raising the Cup.
An open smile, finally, and a light caress to a man coming from the same region of Dino and, like Dino, too often and ufairly criticized.
Dino always felt he owes a lot to Bearzot, both as a player and as a man.
Zoff ended his career with the national team after as many as 112 matches (a real record for an Italian player).
His tranquil and confident face was published on the cover of magazines like “Time” and “Newsweek”.
His hands raising the Cup became a commemorative stamp celebrating the Italian triumph.
Zoff played with champions like Burgnich, Facchetti, Castano, Guarneri, Antognoni, Graziani, Paolo Rossi, Cabrini, Tardelli and Begomi.
He won both a World Cup and an European Title (another record that no other Italian player has been able to achieve so far).
It’s unbelievable to notice that the 20th of March of this year the Italian Football Federation (celebrating 100 years of life) forgot to include Dino Zoff among the players who were selected to meet the Italian President of the Republic.
Still the International Football Hall of Fame included Zoff among the 25 best football players ever along with Pele’, Zico, Cruijff, Beckembauer, Matthews, Eusebio etc.

FROM THE FIELD TO THE BENCH The new Zoff, who decided to become a coach, actually was born while still spending the last years of his career as a goalkeeper.
“After turning 36 (an unusual age to play) I had the opportunity to acquire new special knowledge and experience.
I can’t say I was already a sort of coach on the field but I was definitely a leader for my teammates.
So when I quitted as a player, deciding to become a coach, I didn’t have to change my mentality and attitude too much”.
A new challenge to face with the same, old, spirit of self-sacrifice and with the desire to improve and grow even further.
The first experience as a coach was with the Italian Olympic team. 11 matches between the 1986 and the 1988. 7 wins and 4 draws that enabled Italy to qualify for the Olympic games of Seul.
In 1988-89 he went back to Juventus, this time as a coach.
Along with him there was his old friend and teammate Gaetano Scirea.
Everything looked to be perfect for awhile, but a tragic doom awaited them.
Scirea died in a car accident in Poland and Zoff suddenly felt alone.
After just 1 and half year with Juventus, Dino realized that was time to move on.
Boniperti had chosen Dino as a Juventus’ coach but meanwhile Agnelli had fallen in love with the new prophet of the “zone”: Maifredi.
Before leaving though, Zoff led Juventus to win both an Italian Cup and a UEFA Cup.
His departure produced many regrets behind him.
Dino got angry when Agnelli reccomended him to Lazio’s Owner Sergio Cragnotti.
Zoff wanted to achieve his goals by himself, only through his own work.
In 1990-91 he finally signed with Lazio and after a couple of years of preparation he led his team to finish 5th in the Italian League and, more importantly, to qualify for the UEFA Cup after as many as 16 years.
The next season Lazio made even further improvements and achieved the 3rd place in the Italian League.
Also during this part of his career Zoff had to face some heavy critics.
For exemple after cutting a very poor figure against Avellino during the Italian Cup of the 1993.
However, as usual, Dino managed to overcome all the polemics answering back only with his commitment and results.
More recently Cragnotti gave Zoff a new appointment as a President, while Zeman and Eriksson began a new “era” as coaches.
Zoff experienced different relationships with these two coaches.
Some problem with Zeman, even if Dino always kept his honesty and correctitude (also in the middle of the 1996-97 season, when Zeman was fired and Zoff returned just for a few months as a coach, leading Lazio to recover from the 11th place to the 4th).
Much better was Dino’s realationship with Eriksson, who always looked to be tuned on the same wave-lenght of his mythical President.

A COACH’S LIFE Dino Zoff, the man who represents Italy all around the world, now leads Italy to conquer the world.
Someone claims that his football is too old and not different enough from Maldini’s one.
However he still gets angry hearing those remarks and immediately replies: “ Someone wants me to pass for a coach with a too defensive mentality, but I have never been that prudent in my career. They should remember how many goals my teams have always used to score. Like when I was a player my only objective is to win”.
Many think that Zoff’s Italy will be a well balanced and judicious team. A team without the sweeper that he used to line up during his Lazio’s stint.
A team where old and new ideas will be melted with the right moderation and where, as Zoff himself says : “we’ll have to pick the best players before chosing the right strategies”.
4 years and 2 great goals: The Wold Cup and the European Championship.
Zoff doesn’t say it but he would like to raise that Cup once again.
The same Cup he raised in 1982 in Spain and it doesn’t matter if the next time he’ll have to do that with a tie around his neck. Time flies but history repeats itself.

HIS NUMBERS Zoff was born the 28th of February 1942 in Mariano del Friuli.
He made his debut in Serie A with Udinese the 24th of September 1961 (Fiorentina-Udinese-5-2).
In Serie A he played for Udinese, Mantova, Napoli and Juventus. In Serie B with Udinese and Mantova.
Zoff played 112 matches with the national team. He made his debut the 20th of April 1968 in Napoli (Italy-Bulgaria-2-0). In 1982 he won the World Cup in Spain.
As a coach he led the Olympic national team (1986-1988) to qualify for the Olympic Games of Seul.
Later he coached Juventus (1988-1990) and Lazio (1991-1994 and 1996-97 after the firing of Zdenek Zeman).
In 1994-95 Zoff became the 23rd President in Lazio’s history.

HIS ACHIEVEMENTS 20 seasons in Serie A and 2 seasons in Serie B. Zoff’s career as a player began in 1961 and lasted until the 15th of May 1983, when (after winning another Italian Championship) he played his 570th and last game ever before retiring (Juventus-Genoa-4-2).
Altogether Zoff won 6 Italian Titles (all of them with Juventus: in 1972-73, his first season in black and white, in 74-75, 76-77, 77-78, 80-81 and 82-83).
Still with Juventus he won 2 Italian Cups (in 1979 and in 1983) and in 1977 he achieved the first international Title ever in Juventus’ history (the Uefa Cup).
For 2 times Zoff was very close to win the Cup of the Champions before losing the final with Ajax and Hamburg (in 1973 and 1983).
With the national team, Zoff took part in 4 World Cups: in 1970 Italy finished 2nd in Mexico but Dino never played being just Albertosi’s backup. In 1974 Italy didn’t qualify for the final stage of the World Cup in Germany.
In 1978 (in Argentina) he finally achieved the 4th place as a starter and in 1982 he won (as a captain) the World Cup in Spain.
In 1968 Zoff also won the European Championship.
As a coach, he led Juventus to win an Italian Cup and a UEFA Cup, both in 1990.

HIS RECORDS Dino Zoff holds the record for number of matches played in the Italian Serie A: 570 (4 with Udinese, 93 with Mantova, 143 with Napoli and 330 with Juventus).
As a Juventus’ goalkeeper he didn’t miss a single game over 11 years, which means 332 matches in a row in Serie A (including the last 2 games with Napoli).
Another Zoff’s record that had been lasting for a long time is: 903 minutes in a row without giving up any goal. A string broken the 18th of February 1973 and a record that resisted for as many as 21 years (in 1994 Sebastiano Rossi didn’t suffer any goal for 929 minutes and set the new record).
Another 2 Dino’s records: number of games played with the Italian national team (112) and number of minutes played (still with the national team) without giving up any score (1143), (from the 73rd minute of Italy-Jugoslavia-3-1 the 20th of September 1972 until the 46th minute of Italy-Haiti-3-1 the 15th of June 1974, first match after the World Cup in Germany).
As a coach Zoff led the Italian national team to qualify for the Olympic games of Seul by 7 wins, 4 ties and no losses over 11 games.
As a Juventus’ coach he won 30 games, tied 28 and lost 11.
As a Lazio’ s coach he won 58 games, tied 58 and lost 36.
Altogether 220 matches as a coach in Serie A: 40% wins, 38,64% ties and 21,36% losses.

PLAYER'S CAREER
1961-62 Udinese A 4 -9
1962-63 Udinese B 36 -45
1963-64 Mantova A 27 -25
1964-65 Mantova A 32 -37
1965-66 Mantova B 38 -26
1966-67 Mantova A 34 -23
1967-68 Napoli A 30 -24
1968-69 Napoli A 30 -25
1969-70 Napoli A 30 -21
1970-71 Napoli A 30 -17
1971-72 Napoli A 23 -23
1972-73 Juventus A 30 -22
1973-74 Juventus A 30 -26
1974-75 Juventus A 30 -19
1975-76 Juventus A 30 -24
1976-77 Juventus A 30 -20
1977-78 Juventus A 30 -17
1978-79 Juventus A 30 -20
1979-80 Juventus A 30 -25
1980-81 Juventus A 30 -15
1981-82 Juventus A 30 -14
1982-83 Juventus A 30 -24

COACH'S CAREER
1984-86 Juventus all. portieri
1986-88 Nazionale Olimpica q.O.
1988-89 Juventus A 4.
1989-90 Juventus A 4. C.I.; Uefa
1990-91 Lazio A 11.
1991-92 Lazio A 11.
1992-93 Lazio A 5. p. Uefa
1993-94 Lazio A 3. p. Uefa
1996-97 Lazio A 4.sub. p. Uefa

THE PRESIDENT
At the end of 1993-94 Zoff moved from the bench to the management when Lazio’s main shareholder Sergio Cragnotti decided to appoint him as the new President.
The first season (1994-95) was definitely good: with Zeman as a coach, Lazio finished second behind Juventus in the Italian championship, while it was eliminated from the UEFA Cup by Borussia in the quarterfinals.
In 1995-96, still coached by Zeman, Lazio finished 3rd in the Italian championship behind Milan and Juventus but was eliminated too early (2nd round) from the UEFA Cup by Lyon.
In 1996-97 Zeman was fired after 19 weeks and Zoff was temporarily reassigned to the bench.
He led Lazio to achieve as many as 32 points over 15 games, recovering from the 12th to the 4th place in the Italian League.
In 1997-98 Zoff came back as a President and Eriksson was chosen as a coach.
Lazio competed with Juventus until 7 weeks before the end of the season, then suddenly collapsed and finished 7th in the Italian championship.
Still Lazio won the Italian Cup for the first time in its long history (defeating Milan in the Final) and achieved the Final of the UEFA Cup where, however, it was beaten by another Italian team: Inter Milan.

HIS FAMOUS STATEMENTS
“If I weren’t a goalkeeper I couldn’t be anything else but a farmer with the hands that I’ve got”.
“I’m not a cold, calculating person. I’m not a computer. I always put my heart before anything else”.
“I played until the age of 41 just because I believe that it’s always possible to make improvements”.
“I played against Charles and it sounds like prehistory. Then I played against Sivori and Grillo, Pele’ and Maradona. However the 2 forwards that I have been mostly afraid of were: Muller and Cruijff.
“I have never felt too confident and secure as a player, and now, when I look back at myself again I understand that I was right. I’m still not completely satisfied with what I have been able to do”.
“In my private life I’m not as bear as many think. My family and friends know that. However I can’t smile while I’m working. Work is a too serious thing to me”.
“My father was a farmer and he used to toil in order to feed us. That’s why work is a sort of religion for me”.
“Napoli and myself were the extremes that meet. We immediately loved each other”.
“My first Juventus was built in the name of Trapattoni. He was the right coach to cement our group”.
“The national team means just Enzo Bearzot to me. It does my heart good to talk about him. He is a man of high moral stature, the best one that I have ever met in football”.
“I really miss a friend like Scirea today. I feel poorer and it makes me angry to see that he received so many honours only after dying. Unfortunately in this world if you are a good, straightforward man you are just going to be considered banal”.
“As a coach I’ll try to teach more by setting good exemples than by talking. It’s going to be like when I was a goalkeeper, I’ll have to take my decisions by myself”.
“I was sent away as a Juventus’ coach because of a total change in their management.
It was not a sudden decision, everybody knew the strategies of that new management.
I have never felt a victim”.
“I have always tried to live my life day by day and Juventus has been a great, but now closed, chapter of my life.
Since I started working for Lazio I immediately became only a Lazio’s fan”.
“I feel offended when somebody says that I have a defensive mentality. I just want to win, forever”.
“Do you think that coaching the national team was my dream? Actually there are still some goals to achieve: the World Cup and the European championship. There is still some Cup to raise”.
“A coach is not a manipulator of numbers and strategies. A coach is a leader. I start from the man. I believe in the man”.

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