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So, yeah, I have one of the shortest attention spans in the world. But I really think I've just become a Nesta fan for life. His story is just so dramatic.


Imagine that you're born in a family of dedicated fans, and we're not talking about watch-a-game-once-in-a-while dedication but the kind that leads in some cases to religious conversion. They, and now you, support a football club, Lazio, that frankly kind of sucks. Its been relegated to Series B at times, and while its uber-rival Roma (and, we're not talking Cubs vs Sox rivalry here; we're talking Friday Night Lights small town Texas football rivalry) isn't all that great either, it has at least managed to hang on to Series A.

You like playing football, are pretty good at it, and it isn't long before a scout from Roma takes interest and asks you to join their football club. Your father, of course, says no - it might be better not to play at all than to play for the wrong team. Fortunately for you, the right team does eventually take an interest. You join when you're eleven, rise through their squad to start playing professional games at sixteen. It is an opportunity that most Italian players don't get until their twenties, if at all.

That isn't the end of it, though. You're a star, the real thing. At eighteen you're called to play for Italy's under-21 squad, and when the team wins you're voted best defender of the games; at 20 you're named the best defender in the world by your hero, Baresi; at 21 you're nominated captain of your team, which you lead to national victory for the first time in over twenty years, and then again and again. You sign a five year multi-million dollar contract, the most lucrative contract that a defender has ever signed.

Of course there are tragedies along the way. Your injury in 1998 when it was rumored that you might not recover, the death of your sister that you refuse to discuss with the media. But you're living your dream, and that of your family and neighbors and friends and city; every day you're playing with your idols and your friends, with Chamot who you used to watch on TV and who now stands beside you on the field, with Sclosa who invites you to family dinners so you don't feel homesick, with Favalli who gave you a scooter when you first debuted, just because you looked so tired every morning from the commute. You hate talking to the press, but in one of the few statements you make, you say that you would like to play with Lazio until you're 35, that you never want to leave Rome and therefore hope that one day, like Baresi, they will retire your number. In yet another interview, you say that you have two wishes - to remain at Lazio and to always be coached by Eriksson. Nothing about becoming the best football player in the world (though undoubtedly you would like to be) or the richest or the most famous (you have never really cared for the money or the fame). You just want for this dream to last.

And then, one day, things starts to come undone. Read more... )


So I wrote this mainly from what my friend told me about Nesta and the articles she linked me to. (Let me know if there's anything inaccurate?) I'm completely enthralled with Nesta's career, all his high points and low ones. And this is only the half of it, too - I could seriously go on and on about the further injuries he suffered, his partnership with Maldini and how he fits into the Milan team, his friendship with Cannavaro, rivalry with Totti, etcetc. His career is amazingly dramatic, especially considering that outside Italy he's virtually unknown (and seems to like it that way, too). But I won't, because I'm lazy, and this is the part that really hooks me anyway, this and the fact that he's settled into Milan now. There were rumors last year that he would go back to Lazio, but instead he renewed his contract with Milan, said that he's happy where he is and hopes to retire there. And I really admire that, how he was able to let his old dreams go, without any fuss or bitterness, especially in the beginning when it was the last thing he could've wanted (there is an interview that says that he was hoping until the end that the transfer wouldn't go through), how he was able to move on with such grace and professionalism.

When asked about that time now, he says: "Thrown unexpectedly into a completely different reality, at first I found it hard to get used to it because I missed my world, a difficulty that was also mirrored on the pitch, in my performance. However, I found colleagues I knew, like Paolo Maldini (who helped me a lot), and managers always attentive to every situation. Now I feel fine, perfectly integrated in rossoneri ways and in the city."

When he transferred, those first few days, Milan had been crazy supportive of him, as if to make up for the way Rome had completely rejected him - they welcomed him like no other player before and, even more importantly, there were no signs of friction from the team. (One of the AC Milan players, Ibrahim Ba, without being asked, offered his #13 jersey to Nesta - because, he said, he knew that it was an important number, the one Nesta had always played under.[2]) And by now Nesta's become so integral, so instrumental in that club's victories, that its hard to even imagine it without him, and he's never expressed regrets at the way the transfer turned out. And yet, and yet. The part that grabs me, that makes it all bittersweet. Even now, when asked what the best moment of his career was. Nesta doesn't name the under-21 world cup win, or the semifinal euro win, or any one of the several championships he won with Milan. He says: "winning the scudetto with Lazio. It was really a childhood dream come true."

[2] So apparently there were times when he flirted with numbers other than 13. But, even when he was going through the experimental phase, notice how the numbers all add up to 13.


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