Italian sport: Cagliari, the miracle of Italian soccer

May 16, 2020 257

Soccer, considered in Italy almost as a religion, has been telling beautiful and sometimes really exciting pages of history for over 100 years. One of these was written in 1970, exactly 50 years ago. In those years Italy was still experiencing the famous economic boom of the '60s, that of well-being for all the people who came out a few years before with many wounds from the Second World War.

Years during which the economic expansion had also appeared in Sardinia, the beautiful island that the whole world envies for its beaches, untouched nature and the many colors of the sea. A part of that flow of money had been invested in Soccer, already then the most loved sport by Italians.

The investment was made in the team that represented not only the island, but also a people and a land, as the fans of that team, Cagliari, still say today. A team that had been playing in Serie A, the top league of Italian Soccer, for only six years and that had soon managed to subvert the predictions that had always been reserved for a small provincial team.

To win immediately, it was enough to entrust the attack line to a boy born in Lombardy, Luigi "Gigi" Riva, who did not want to go to Sardinia because he came from an industrial region full of entertainment. Then he became convinced and once he arrived in Sardinia he fell so much in love with that land that he decided not to go away anymore. The club believed a lot in the skill of that boy, and had spent 37 million lire (a very high figure in those years for a small team) to convince the forward not to go and play with Bologna or the powerful Inter, the club that would have paid big money fopr him to play with their black and blue jersey.

With a young bomber like Gigi Riva, the team became a force capable of annoying the three powers of Northern Italy: Juventus, Inter and Milan. It became a strong team, and here is another curious part of the fable of the Italian champion Cagliari, thanks to players considered as reserves in other teams: Albertosi, Brugnera and Mancin taken by Fiorentina; Nenè by Juventus; Gori, Domenghini and Poli by Inter. And in the team with Gigi Riva there were also players who had matured in the first years of Cagliari's Serie A and then played with the Italian national team, such as Niccolai and Cera, and others who became champions such as Martiradonna and Greatti. The new team was trained by Manlio Scopigno, a coach nicknamed "philosopher" for his university studies. The coach created a winning team, which experts still consider the first team to play "total Soccer", made famous by the Dutch with Soccer legend Johan Cruijff.

Everyone was playing so Riva could score goals and he could do it easily. For three years he won the title of top scorer in Serie A and also scored in the national team where he set the unbeaten goal record. The Italian newspapers extolled him at every match and gave him the nickname "Rombo di tuono" (Thunder Rumble), which he is still remembered with.

Cagliari won the Scudetto in 1970 thanks to Riva's goals but above all for the team's ability to be united and thanks to an innovative and intelligent coach who left the players quiet, without punishments, and had a lot of joy. All the Soccer fans of that year remember the two memorable challenges with Juventus, the strongest team of those years, the extraordinary defense of Cagliari that in an entire championship suffered only 11 goals (unbeaten record still today), and the extraordinary upside down goal of Gigi Riva at Lanerossi Vicenza that only Cristiano Ronaldo a few years ago was able to match.

On April 12, 1970, at the Amsicora Stadium in Cagliari, with the final result of 2-0, Cagliari beat Bari and so won its first and still the only Scudetto in its history. It was a memorable day that united Italy some way, because everyone cheered for that small and unknown team that in a few years managed to beat the great Italian Soccer powers. Everyone fell in love with Cagliari and Riva and even today that feat is remembered as something extraordinary and poetic by those who love Soccer.

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