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The Invincible Club, The Undefeated Captain Ale
It isn’t love at the first sight. Or at the first goal. The first Juventus player, or world footballer, who initially steals my heart away is not Alessandro “Ale” Del Piero but his former duet Filippo “Super Pippo” Inzaghi. Two of my best friends confess their admiration for Ale but not me. My heart still sticks with Pippo as he scores more goals than Ale does during Lega Calcio Serie A seasons in the middle of 1990s.
I was at the junior high school at that time. My interest in football came unexpectedly when my father brought me home Bola tabloid featuring Zinedine Zidane on its cover. It called Zidane as a “crazy”player for extending his contract with Juventus for some years. Juventus, the first football club that I firstly heard and drew curious thoughts in my head. Later on, I turned on local television station RCTI and watched a football game. Italian league with Juventus or Juve as the team. Once and for all. The first soccer competition and the team that have led me to be such a faithful fan until now.
Not a few weeks did I miss watching Juventus’s performance. The 1990s was a glorious era for Juve and for me. I started to recognize their faces; goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi; defendants Paolo Monterro, Ciro Ferrara, Antonio Conte, Alessandro Birindelli, Gianluca Pessoto; middle players Didier Deschamps, Angelo Di Livio, Alessio Tacchinardi, Nicola Amoruso, Zinedine Zidane; and of course the deadly duet of Ale and Pippo. Under the cool hands of Marcello Lippi, what could be better than Juventus?
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Pippo (left) and Ale (right)
I began learning on the effectiveness of 4-3-1-2 pattern, such an efficient style made by Mr. Lippi as Zidane of Zizou as the playmaker behind the duet of Ale-Pippo. Watching them almost every week felt like a magic. I was so extremely happy when they won but completely stressful when they or lost. Thankfully, my classmates both in junior or senior high school loved watching football games. Female or male students kept talking about matches ahead of Monday morning’s ceremony. That was one of the most awesome experiences during my heyday.
Week by week, I was nurturing my admiration toward Ale. I found it a bit surprising how he quickly changed his position in each game. Until now, he is well-known for free kicks. When his team is under attack, he goes down to help his mates in defending Juve. I rarely see him receiving yellow or red cards given his calm temperament. And as a captain, he poses a good example for his fellows.
Such kind of qualities later develop him as my truly inspiration. After a season or two, I agree with my friends’ testimonies who say Ale is better than Pippo. Juventus switches lots of players in some seasons but my love towards Ale is always the same. As long as Juve has Ale, I have no serious objections or I can deal with any kinds of changes Juve wants to do. Entering 2000, some of my favorite players waved goodbyes for Juventini. I was so sad when Zizou left Juve for Real Madrid. Then, Pippo went for AC Milan.
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Juventus squad in 1998/1999 season
I hated to admit the facts that Juve later recruited the players I disliked, like Pavel Nedved and David Trezequet. But hey! Ale was still there. As long as he could get along with those new faces, I later found it easy to welcome them with all my heart.
So, Ale had a new tandem; Trezequet or Trezegol, the Frenchman that was so famous at the beginning of 2000 for his contribution for French team as the champion of the 2002 World Cup. Marcello Lippi also left Juve and I had to welcome Carlo Ancelotti. So many changes, so many new things but Ale remains loyal.
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The Brilliant Marcello Lippi
And after I graduated from senior high school, I seldom watch football games. I had no TV and when I returned home each week, I was too tired and sleepy to watch them. Besides, I had no passions when I knew the news that Ale got very serious injury that forced him to skip the entire season of 1999/2000. Even after he recovered, he rarely appeared and showed bad performance. Critics said he lost his charm in the fields. It took some seasons for him to really recover and perform well but everything did not come that easy for him to win the heart of Fabio Capello, the new coach, whom I disliked as well given his harsh character. Capello did not like veteran players, so Ale mostly sat in the bench during games. Too often I watch Juve and Ale, I barely remember which moment that I love most from them. They win a lot of trophies, too, except the Champions League. When Ale wins the Cup, I had yet to like football.
In between not-so-good seasons, I had very memorable, the best moment of Ale with the Azzuri team. I had no television at the time but I managed not to skip any single match by the Italian team. I even stayed one night at my best friend’s house just to watch the game featuring Italy at the 2006 World Cup.
It remains fresh in my mind how Ale scored one very important goal that brought Italy to have crushed Germany in the semifinal. Ale was actually not the first choice by Lippi. But yeah. His goal marked such a golden opportunity for his team and he made his best during the match.
And eventually, my most favorite moment with him was when he contributed one goal during penalty kick when Italy faced France in the final. I know it was just a penalty that served as a piece of cake for professional footballer. But when it comes to kick a penalty in such tensed and depressed moment, only those with good and calm mental, who will be able to do that. And Ale just did that. Smoothly.
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The 2006 World Champion
After 2006, things got worse for him and Juve as it was downgraded to Serie B following calciopoli scandal. Some of his mates, like Gianluca Zambrotta and Fabio Cannavaro, opted to leave the squad but Ale was with the Old Lady, as always.
When I moved to work in Jakarta, I stopped watching Serie A for some reasons. First, I did not have any televisions and had been too tired to watch them if I had one. Second, as far as I remember, no local television station broadcasted Serie A for one or some seasons. Even until the 2011/2012 season, I failed to watch Juve or Ale live because of those similar excuses. Yeah, poor me. Sometimes I regret that and still do. To cheer me up, I tell myself that those years in absence is equal with years of dedication towards him and Juve during teenage period.
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Serie B Champion
And now, I am still dealing with this sad ending of Ale in Juve. I am still cursing Andrea Agnelli for not renewing his contract given his amazing 19-year of dedication for La Vecchia Signora. It’s hard to imagine Juve without Ale next season, especially when it battles in the Champions League. For years, I feel fine with whomever players coming up in the team as long as Ale is still there. I still have high hopes to watch him even as a substitute player. But now… I will have to watch Juve without his face in next seasons onwards. And I have to try to bury my expectation to see his face leaving his bench to substitute other players.
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Juve in 2011/2012 season
Thank you very much Ale. May be this sound trivial for a lot of people but I don’t care. I, like millions of your loyal fans, have endless words to describe how you mean a lot to us. It has been such a great pleasure to enjoy your performance, read your simple life, humble personality, and down-to-earth character.
I really wish he will join Premier League so that I can watch him again as often as possible since I have my television repaired. Or any league he will be on, my support will never cease. I hope he doesn’t retire now as he is not finished. He still can score goals and play better each day. Best of luck Ale!!! I love you…
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Il Pinturicchio Ale