Ruud Doevendans has been an official columnist for a Dutch club and owns one of the largest
collections of soccer videos containing hundreds of World Cup matches. We at PWC are proud to have him as
a columnist. He will share his views about the past, present and future of
the World Cup.
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A piece of history has died
When I attended Brazil-Chile, a match in the round of last 16 in the 1998 World Cup in the Parc des Princes in Paris, he suddenly struck my eye. Was it really him? No one around me paid him any attention since on the other side of the street El Rey Pelé was crossing, surrounded by some ten bodyguards. Everyone wanted Pelé, nobody saw the man I saw. Two friends I had with me also did not recognize the former captain of the Italian national team who was standing there, all alone, perfectly dressed in a dark suit, blue shirt and tie. A true gentleman. I was present enough to take a quick picture, of course I should have asked him to pose together with me. You don't get a chance to be on one picture together with the legend Giacinto Facchetti every day, do you? My mistake. And one I regret very much today, now I read that he has passed away. Giacinto Facchetti is dead. I had to read the message a few times before I believed it.
Facchetti started his career at his hometown club US Treviglio before joining Serie A greats Internazionale, the club he would never leave again, in 1960. At first he was a forward, quick and with a good shot. Mastermind-coach Helenio Herrera turned him into a left back and in this position it was that Facchetti would claim his place in history. He was one of the first defenders really moving forward, supporting his attack and scoring goals as well. How about his 59 goals in 475 Serie A matches? It is still a record for defenders that will be hard to break. In 1963 he also made his debut in the national team, and he would go one to represent his country 94 times. In a period with half the number of internationals played compared to nowadays, a remarkable number of caps. Even today, only Paolo Maldini, Dino Zoff and Fabio Cannavaro do better.
With Inter Facchetti won many trophies. He was a national champion four times but the most important were the European Cup victories of 1964 and 1965, beating Real Madrid in Vienna and Benfica on a waterlogged pitch in San Siro, Inter's home soil. They won the intercontinental cup as well in both years. Herrera had introduced a defensive system, the so-called Catenaccio, and Inter benefitted from it. But when a defender can still score 59 goals in his career for a clubteam, it shows clearly that Catenaccio wasn't just about defending. As a national team player, Facchetti was the captain when Italy won the European title in 1968, and he also proudly led his men onto the pitch of the Estadio Azteca for the World Cup final two years later against Brazil. Italy and Facchetti were demolished in that game. Facchetti couldn't stand the rushed of Jairzinho. There were more defenders who had their troubles controlling the agile outside right.
Facchetti was an icon of football, a truly great. Not only for being a very good player, but also for being around so long. He was in the national team for fourteen years. In the current game he would have surpassed 150 caps for sure. He was a leader of his teams. Was he really a fantastic player, better than anyone on his position? I don't know. Surely he was a good player, very good, without real weaknesses. He was quick, he could shoot, he was tall (his legs seemed to be two meters long) and I have not seen him fail many times. And I saw quite a few matches with Facchetti involved. But I don't think he was a player of the stature of, let's say Maldini. Facchetti also played sweeper later in his career, but he was no Passarella, no Beckenbauer or Moore. These players influenced their teams and the game more than Facchetti. Some players seem to get better the longer their career is over. Facchetti was a player whose attitude, whose reputation, whose style of playing - he went up front, nobody else did - made him even better than he already was. He was most of all a player who was reliable. Completely reliable. Facchetti made no mistakes. A Facchetti mistake was as rare as a goldfish in the sea.
Giacinto Facchetti is being remembered as one of the great players in Italian history and a player who deservedly made a name in world football. At the same time I will never forget the way people overlooked him totally at the Parc des Princes, where Pelé was overwhelmed by attention. That did not do justice to his long and succesful career. With the death of Giacinto Facchetti, a piece of football history has died.
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