Italian rugby who defied apartheid

Knowing how a tale is is an art, a talent of a few, added to flair, the rare ability to find stories when they are so well-hidden, unknown, and nearly invisible, and follow them in the folds of the largest and most well-known adventures. The person found and chosen by journalist Massimo Calandri, reporter RepublicIt is a true story, small but irresistible, that deserves to be revealed and shared. From June 13 to July 12 1973 A select group of young Italian rugby players depart for an international tour of Rhodesia and South Africa, a beautiful land marked by fierce, senseless social injustice. In those years South Africa is a highly racist country that tries to ignore the rejection of the rest of the world and also overcome isolation through rugby, a sport in which it excels thanks to springbox. But these efforts are not enough: Even from the Oval world, he is blamed and boycotted for his inhumane policy, apartheid, which favors only whites of European descent and discriminates against black racial groups, denying them civil rights. Plague, shame. Apartheid would not be overcome until the 1990s, after the liberation of Nelson Mandela, who would later become president.

In the context of tensions and boycotts in the 1970s, only the Italian federation responded to the invitation for a summer round of meetings with the teams of South Africa, considering it an opportunity for the technical growth of its players (Romania also accepts in principle but the trip is canceled because Moscow does not give permission).


We only have Italians

titled You can’t trust people like this (Mondadori) And – he’ll understand – it’s not just a sports book. The international campaign indicates the existence of Young players, almost all of them inexperienced, many of them left thanks to the concessions of the owners. The Italian team moves from one city to another Nine matches in less than a month – All but one lost, against the Leopards, the Bantu national team, but they touched the company again and again – and endured the cheers of the raucous crowd macaroni!, He collides on the field with majestic and experienced men, and meets the Italian communities from one match to the next, singing Marina e money pigeonHe meets white supremacist Ian Smith, and then, finally, a charismatic leader in the fight against apartheid like Steve Biko, in the stands to follow the match against the Panthers, turning challenges on the field into opportunities for athletic and human growth, until reaching full awareness of the importance of civil rights.

These Italian men with a passion for goals and set pieces, parties full of enthusiasm and hopes, who arrived in South Africa come to terms with harsh social reality, become more aware, each doing a personal and at the same time team path. “In the book I told about an away game for a somewhat failed group, which turned into a real adventure on the other side of the world, in a very violent terrain, on and off the field – explains Calandri -. Game after game, these guys become more powerful, than A mathematical and humanistic point of view. At the end of the journey they discover men, many of whom will also be able to overcome difficult personal situations.”

The company in 1973 Tell her with a pen Luciano Ravaniani, The only journalist who followed the trip sent it jazztino, That on June 13, the day of departure, he dedicated a massive tour service with three ticket columns with predictions from South African star Nelson Pabro, Petrarch of Padua, who imagines the Azzurri could win two or maybe three matches. Ravaniani wrote:Youth selection, average 23 years and 3 months old: thirteen juniors in blue; There is no real football player, which could cost two matches; There is no open role. But it is a choice that has nothing to lose.”. Captain Marco Bolsan, the team is accompanied by manager Giuseppe Alessandra, coach Gianni Villa and Vice Gigi Savoia, and above all South African Amos de Bloy, who was sent to Italy by the famous Springbok Danny Craven as technical advisor, to assist and coach the team before and during the tour.

One of the book’s strengths (to go back to the art of storytelling) lies in the descriptions of the characters, men in body and muscles and bones who are tracked and interviewed by the author. To be able to recreate the story by finding details, anecdotes, moods and vivid memories after half a century. “Of course they each had a different version for each episode: I always picked what I liked best.” Each player is given attention, time and space for an entire class, so you can’t help but become attached to Isidoro ‘Doro’ Quaglio, loved by everyone and “always smiling, even in the toughest moments”, Angelo Visentin, Bananas for Friends, a nickname born “because of my father” He was selling fruits and vegetables in the market. Besides, I always wore the locket.” And again, Lilio Lazzarini, whom the South African newspapers call the “golden boot” for his skill in the set pieces, the brilliant Rocco Caligiuri, Ettore Abbiati, called Kobo, and the talented Salvatore Bonetti, nicknamed first Bonnie and then Nimbo Kid, whom we entrust with the final reflections, synthesis and the sense of adventure that may have never ended: “We were boys but little by little, suddenly – after the game with the blacks – we became men. There we learned from the stadium and from the street. This journey changed our lives, and made us better people.”


We were boys but little by little, suddenly we became men