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Unlucky goal posts and two crucial moments of an iconic career

by Gabriele Ferraresi / LUZ
An inscription on a wall of Rome has eternalized a banner at the Olympic Games of the golden age: RUGGIERO RIZZITELLI – TRUE STRIKER. Ruggiero Rizzitelli, football player, striker, born in 1967, is one of the symbols of Italian football in the 80s and 90s: loved by fans as one of them, Ruggiero Rizzitelli was the fan on the pitch, a boy who at any cost honored his football shirt and put in all of the heart he could, if not more.

It's when you're in the locker room, when you take a shower, that you see the whole movie of the game, of that shot, and you think "Couldn't you have avoided taking the post?" Ruggiero Rizzitelli

A flag for AS Roma - with 154 appearances, he played from 1988 to 1994 - and for Turin and Bayern Munich in the following years. The football history of Ruggiero Rizzitelli is linked to two goal posts: one post taken while playing in Nazionale, the Italian national team, and the other post with AS Roma. The first one: qualifications of the European Championships '92  in Denmark, the match is USSR - Italy, because at that time there is still the Soviet Union. The second one in the 1993 UEFA Cup FinalRoma - Inter.

The unlucky posts of Ruggiero Rizzitelli

What do you remember, Ruggiero about these two goal posts? A lot of words that you can't say [laughs] and then... damn posts – explains Ruggiero Rizzitelli. Surely, as you said, there are two of them, one of them all Italians remember. It was 1991 and I was playing in the Italian national team coached by Azeglio Vicini, that post did not give us Italians the chance to go to the European Championships.
An inner post that stays on the goalkeeper's arms... it stays on your back for many years. And then in 1993 against Inter: it was the return final of the UEFA Cup, we played at Roma's home at the Stadio Olimpico and after a few minutes I took another post.
Ruggiero Rizzitelli in action with the Roma shirt in the 80's
What were you thinking about at the time? You know, the moment you take the post, you don't think about it. Because you have hope and you say "Whatever, I'll throw it in at the next chance, I'll do it again". You must think positive after all the game is not over. The problem – Ruggiero Rizzitelli goes straight to the point - is when the final whistle comes. When you sit down and "read" the game, it's at that point that all the bad things come to mind.
The Maratona, historical seating area of Turin fans
It's when you're in the locker room, when you take a shower, that you see the whole movie of the game, of that shot, and you think "Couldn't you have avoided taking the post?". Think again if you kicked well, if you kicked badly if there was another solution, but unfortunately there is nothing to do. The games are made of moments, many times it's fine and many times It's bad.
Fans celebrating for a victory
Can Ruggiero Rizzitelli make peace with these two terrible situations? Not so much! These are two games that have remained in the collective memory, a failure to qualify for the European Championships, the defeat in the UEFA Cup against Roma... these are important matches even after so many years still come to light, you have difficulty forgetting them, someone will always remind you of them.

"In a game you can win or lose, but what you show on the field counts."Ruggiero Rizzitelli

Do professional players like Ruggiero Rizzitelli do anything in training to avoid this kind of problem with the post? No, nothing like that I know, but you reminded me of a flash, I had completely forgotten: during training when there were those 10, 15 minutes of cooling down, we bet on whoever took the post or the crossbar first. Maybe we'd play a pizza, a sandwich, a beer. Maybe that's where the mistake was, we should have done the opposite! (laughs).
Ruggiero Rizzitelli's career was a long one, between the Serie A of the '90s - "the most beautiful championship in the world" with Italian teams playing at international level - and abroad; yes, because in the mid-'90s Ruggiero Rizzitelli was one of the first Italian champions to emigrate, playing for two years in the Bayern Munich of Giovanni Trapattoni, who dominated the 96/97 Bundesliga.

"Think again if you kicked well, if you kicked badly, if there was another solution, but unfortunately there is nothing to do."Ruggiero Rizzitelli

A long career, with hundreds of champions to challenge: what was the one that remained in Ruggiero Rizzitelli’s memories? "I saw a budding champion, a certain Francesco Totti. He was training with us at Roma, he thinks that he debuted in Serie A replacing me on the pitch against Brescia in 1993, he was 16 years old. It was the classic champion you said "Mamma mia che giocatore, che fenomeno", but you know, always with a question mark. Because we've seen so many good boys, haven't we? And so many have been lost". Not Totti.

Francesco Totti, technique and personality at the service of the team

A very young Francesco Totti
What was it different in? Francesco Totti made an impression on Ruggiero Rizzitelli because in addition to his technical qualities he also had personality. Usually, when the kids came to the first team, to the first dribbling, to the first tunnel against the "old man" during the match on Thursday, you would say to him "Little boy, turn away or you’ll get yourself tackled". [laughs] and then they just stood there.
Captains Rizzitelli and Vialli shake hands before the start of a Juventus - Torino derby
The "old men" didn't want to get tired on Thursdays, and in the Rome of the time there were heavy, bad "old men". But Francesco Totti, every time he "took" them on the pitch, would get up and start again. The demonstration is that he became what he became, while others got lost. They didn't have his personality.

" It's one thing to be strong with your teammates, another to be strong in front of 80,000 people who whistle or challenge you." Ruggiero Rizzitelli

For Ruggiero Rizzitelli a football player born with the Totti’s personality, you cannot acquire it. In the end, it's a life that counts. Sport is a beautiful thing, but the character is created in the environments that you frequent as a child, in the place where you are born and grow up. And then consider that in football, even if you are strong in character, it is one thing to be strong with your teammates, one thing is in front of 80,000 people who whistle or challenge you.
Ruggiero Rizzitelli is still beloved in Rome because he has been the fan on the pitch: It's true... because people don't judge whether you won or didn't win. In a game you can win or lose, but what you show on the pitch counts. You must work hard for the shirt, because you get paid because people pay to see you. Then if you win or lose, people might know that at that moment that team or that player was superior to you, but they also say, "More than that, the boy couldn't give us what we needed". It's when you don't care that people get pissed off.
Coloured one-stage seats
Ruggiero Rizzitelli has been part of another football era. Does he like today's one? "You know - Ruggiero Rizzitelli concludes the interview - we live in this world and we have to accept it, but if I have to go back in time, I prefer my football. There was more passion, more love with the fans, with society, I'm not saying we were a family because it's exaggerated, but it felt like we were a family.

The president was always present at training sessions, on the pitch, with the fans, the players went to the clubs because they were forced, rightly so!

Because the club means fans, and fans are your bread and butter. Now more than the team there is "the" player, indeed, "the" players, each has its own management. It's the worst thing because the locker room must exist, it's fundamental”. That's not the kind of football Ruggiero Rizzitelli likes much.

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