Golazzo: The Football Italia Story Doc of the Week

Golazzo: The Football Italia Story

Back in the early 1990s Serie A was the biggest, best and most glamorous league in the world. This is the story of those heady days post Italia ’90 when a whole generation of Irish football fans got to see some true legends of the game in action on a weekly basis. BT Sport 2, Tues, April 10th 22.30

Italia ’90 captured the imagination of football fans all over the world. The tournament, except for the final that is, showed how the so-called beautiful game could really be beautiful. Throw in the idiosyncrasies of some of the most fervent fans on the planet, add a touch of opera and you have something truly special.

When the tournament ended and the last strains of Nessun Dorma faded into the night sky, all eyes turned to the Italian league – Serie A. It had played host to the likes of Liam Brady, Michel Platini, the late, great Ray Wilkins and a certain Diego Maradona (and even John Charles and Dennis Law before that), but it was now a beacon for the world’s greatest players who flocked there in their droves. Suddenly all roads led to Milan, Turin, Florence and Rome as Serie A scaled heights not reached before or since. It truly was a golden age of Italian football.

Golazzo (it means ‘good goal’) tells the story of those heady days when Channel 4 brought teams such as Udinese, Atalanta and Parma into our homes for the first time alongside such legendary names as AC Milan, Inter, Juventus, Roma and Napoli. What started as a casual conversation about the possibility of broadcasting Paul Gascoigne’s first game for new club Lazio became a decade-long Sunday afternoon ratings winner and a must-watch for the football cognoscenti.

Good timing

The timing couldn’t have been better. The launch of the Premier League and the advent of pay-TV with Sky meant that legions of fans were starved of top flight football in Ireland and the UK. When Channel 4 launched their coverage with a 3-3 draw between Sampdoria and Lazio on September 6th 1992, the programme attracted three million viewers.

Channel 4 quickly realised that they were on to a winner and a supplementary Saturday morning highlights programme, Gazzetta Football Italia, was launched. The initial idea was that this would be presented by Gascoigne himself but his club weren't too pleased and he was quickly replaced by James Richardson. Now here was a man who knew the difference between a macchiato and a cappuccino (which was no mean feat in the early ‘90s). He became a permanent fixture for the next decade and something of a cult hero as he effortlessly translated passages from the back pages of the football-crazy Italian newspapers while sipping on a fancy-looking coffee on a hotel balcony somewhere or eating ice-cream outside a café near the Pantheon in Rome.

In addition to highlights of the previous weekend’s action, Gazzetta Football Italia would also feature interviews with big-name players which were usually conducted while walking around one of the major Italian cities. It was a great way of introducing players who would quickly become household names in Ireland and the UK long before any of them moved to the Premier League. Who can forget the sight of future Crystal Palace legend Attilio Lombardo doing the ‘lambada’?

This documentary captures the mood of the times superbly along with the glamour of the Italian league and the superstars who inhabited it back then. We got to see legendary figures like Maldini, Zidane, Gullitt, van Basten, Rijkaard, Zola, Vialli, Lombardo, Deschamps, Bergkamp, Boban and others long before many of them headed west to spice up the Premier League. It gave us a wider appreciation of both European and international football and, much more importantly, a good working knowledge of Italian coffee!

Well worth a watch.

Images: Getty

There are plenty of great documentaries to watch out for on the eir sport pack every week. From football to golf, GAA, rugby, athletics and beyond, we’ve got something for everyone. Watch out next week for another fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse into the sporting world or go to eirsport.ie for more sports news and stories or eir.ie to find out more about how we're setting sport free.

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