Surely, none of us have forgotten the amazing Inter team that gave us so much joy in 2010. La Triplete was something unique and for a little while Inter found themselves at the top of the Italian and the international football. We all remember people like Samuel Eto’o, Wesley Sneijder, Javier Zanetti, Diego Milito, José Mourinho or any of the other heroes who gave us so much joy and pride. But how many of us remember and know about people like Sandro Mazzola, Luis Suárez, Giacinto Facchetti, Mario Corso, Helenio Herrera and the other heroes known as La Grande Inter? Since many of us were not born at the time, it is natural that we do not have any personal memories of this great team but that does not mean that we can not know how Inter in the 1960′s dominated world football. During the upcoming weeks I will be presenting the people who contributed to so many wins and who wrote so many pages in Inter’s history, people who, together were called La Grande Inter.
This time i present perhaps the greatest of them all. A person who has become a legend both for what he did on the pitch and off it. A person who has become a symbol for Inter in a way that no one else has been. A person who led Inter to glory in the 1960s with La Grande Inter and whose legacy rested upon the fantastic triplete of 2010. A person whose memory must never be forgotten and forever must be defended by us Interisti: Giacinto Facchetti.
–Riposa In Pace Giacinto–
Giacinto Facchetti was born July 18, 1942 in Treviglio, a small village about forty kilometres from the city of Milan, and Stadio San Siro, his future home ground and the place where he would become a legend.
The year was 1960 and the new Inter coach, Argentine Helenio Herrera, had heard about a promising striker in the club SC Trevigliese who had helped his team to advance in the local series. The attacker was 18-year old Giacinto Facchetti. After seeing him play Herrera chose to take him to Inter. “This guy is going to be one of the pillars of my Inter,” Herrera said according to some.
At the end of the 1960/61 season Facchetti made his Serie A debut in a 2-0 win against Roma.
Facchetti did not become the brilliant striker he and many others had hoped because coach Herrera had other plans and decided to transform the young Facchetti into a defender. Facchetti was to become the heart of Herrera’s catenaccio, which was a tactic that was based on a strong defensive and ball possession.
Facchettis style of play was unique at the time. He was tall (1.91 metres), very fast and for a defender he was unusually skilled offensively and, unlike his contemporary defenders, he was a master of the dribble. He went on to become a weapon both defensively as offensively for Inter and the Italian national team.
After a third place in Serie A in 1960/61 and a second place in 1961/62, Inter managed to win the club’s eight Scudetto during the 1962/63 season and qualified for the European Cup in 1963/64. A tournament which they won after defeating Real Madrid, who knocked out last year’s winners AC Milan, with the score 3-1.
After the last round of Serie A 1963/64 Inter and Bologna shared first place in Serie A with the same number of points and the winners of the Scudetto were to be crowned after a decisive match at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Inter lost the match 2-0 and thus lost the title but still qualified for the European Cup in 1964/65 as the defending champion.
In 1964/65 Inter won back the Scudetto and were able to defend the victory in the European Cup after winning 1-0 against favorites Benfica with superstar Eusebio, who was awarded the Ballon d’Or at the end of the season after receiving eight points more than Facchetti in the vote. The same season Inter represented Europe in the Coppa Intercontinentale which was won by Inter after a victory against Argentina’s Independiente in the final.
Inter went on to win their tenth Scudetto in 1965/66 and got put its first star above the club mark. In the European Cup Inter were knocked out in the semifinals by Real Madrid but in the Coppa Intercontinentale Inter won, once again against Independiente in the final. During the season Facchetti scored twelve goals for Inter, ten in Serie A, which was a record for defenders and it lasted twenty years.
The following season, 1966/67, is often described as the end of the fantastic era for the team that became known as La Grande Inter. Inter finished second in Serie A after losing in the last round and many players were missing, including Jair who had left the club and Suárez who was injured. Despite this Inter made it to the final of the European Cup after eliminating the reigning champions Real Madrid in the quarter final. In the semifinal Facchetti was brilliant and scored twice as CSKA from Bulgaria were dismissed. In the final against Celtic Inter took the lead through a goal from Mazzola but Celtic turned the game around and won.
After three seasons finishing fifth, fourth, and second Inter and Facchetti won the Scudetto in 1970/71. Inter, therefore, qualified for the European Cup the following season and once again made it all the way to the finals where the reigning champions Ajax, led by Johan Cruijff, proved to difficult and Inter lost 0-2.
The 1970s was not Inter’s decade. The club had reached the end of a great era and instead Juventus took over. The rivals from Turin won no less than five scudetti during the period. Inter’s best position was a fourth place in Serie A but during Facchetti’s last season, 1977/78 he finished by winning the Coppa Italia. Previously he had been a left back who made offensive raids but towards the end of his career he became more defensive and often played as a libero with primarily defensive duties.
After 18 years, all with Inter, Facchetti could look back at a career in which he played 634 games for Inter, scored 75 goals, won four Scudetti, 2 European Cups, two Coppa Intercontinentale and one Coppa Italia.
Facchettis national team career was also long and he managed to play in three world cups: 1966, 1970 and 1974. The World Cup in England in 1966 became a fiasco for Italy who had to leave the tournament after one of football’s biggest upsets and even downright disastrous result. After a victory against Chile and a loss against the Soviet Union, Italy needed a victory against North korea in order to secure the qualification from the group stage. Before the game, this seemed like a sure thing, but Italy lost 1-0 and were eliminated.
In 1970, Italy won the silver after losing the final 1-4 against a daunting Brazil that perhaps was the best team ever, with players such as Pelé, Clodoaldo, Gérson, Jairzinho, Rivelino, and Tostão. The lasting memory from the tournament, however, was the victory against West Germany in the semifinals, a game that has been called the best World Cup game ever. Italy took the lead through Inter’s Roberto Boninsegna after just eight minutes and held the lead most of the game after playing a style of football that must have been appreciated by Helenio Herrera. In injury time, however, West Germany equalised through Karl-Heinz Schnellinger, who played for AC Milan at the time. Four minutes into the extra time the German star Gerd Müller made it 2-1 for West Germany, but the Interdefender Tarchisio Burgnich equalised minutes later. At the end of the first 15 minutes of extra time Cagliari’s star Luigi Riva scored and gave Italy the lead again. The match was not over yet because in the 110th minute the tournaments top scorer Müller scored his second goal of the game. As the producers were running replays of the goal Italy’ and AC Milan’s striker Gianni Rivera slipped through the german defense and clinched the game with his goal. In Italy the game is called Partita del Secolo, the game of the century. When the team returned to Italy they were received as if they had won the tournament.
In the European Championships of 1968, Facchetti was captain of the Italian national team which won the tournament at home in Italy, a title Italy might not have won had it not been for Facchettis famous luck. In the semi-final, which was played in Naples, Italy met a strong team from the Soviet Union and none of the teams managed to settle the match, despite playing 30 minutes of extra time. Early in the game Gianni Rivera got injured for Italy and because the rules at the time did not allow substitutions, Italy ended up playing almost the entire match with only 10 players. After 120 minutes of play the score was still 0-0 and since a winner had to be decided a coin toss would follow. The penalty shootout was not yet introduced as a way of settling draws. The one who would make the choice for Italy in the coin toss was the team’s Captain. Years later Facchetti talked about the nervous moment when he had to pick heads or tails in an interview:
“Another one of our players was suffering with severe cramps so we finished with nine and a half men. At the end of extra time the German referee called up the two captains. We went down to the dressing rooms together, the referee pulled out an old coin and I called tails. It was the right call and Italy were through to the final. As soon as the toss had been completed I went racing upstairs to celebrate. The stadium was still full and about 70,000 fans were waiting to hear the result. My celebrations told them they could celebrate an Italian victory.”
“I could only hope that luck would be on my side, One of my team-mates, Burgnich, asked who was going to make the call for Italy. When they told him it was going to be me, he said, ‘It’s all over, Facchetti is a lucky man!’ Fortunately, things turned out as he predicted. In the corridor I was already shouting and when they saw the reaction from me and my team-mates, the public had no doubt about the result. The public really celebrated because it meant we were in the final for the first time in 30 years.”
Facchetti played a total of 94 caps, which was a record until Dino Zoff passed him. Now Facchetti is fifth on the list as also Maldini, Cannavaro and Buffon have passed him. Of the 94 matches Facchetti played, he was the team’s captain in 70 of them.
In an interview, Facchetti spoke about the relationship with the fans of gli Azzurri: “After the loss to North Korea, they wanted to condemn me to forced labour for the rest of my life. Four years later, following the semi-final against Germany, the police had to protect my wife because the local tifosi wanted to carry her aloft. Despite its faults, football is one of the rare things that makes people speak positively about Italy.
After his career as a player Facchetti went on to work for Inter in a variety of positions, including Sports Director, and when the legendary Vice-President Giuseppe “Peppino” Prisco died in december 2001, Facchetti was elected to replace him. The season of 2003/04 was a tumultuous season at Inter and after a long period of time when he endured criticism from fans and the media Massimo Moratti chose to resign from the post of president. The one he recommended to succeed him was the friend and bandiera Giacinto Facchetti. Facchetti, of course, did not let neither the club nor his friend down and became the 19th President of Inter and helt that post until september 4, 2006 when Facchetti lost a long battle with cancer. Giacinto left behind his wife and his four children and, not least, a whole world of Interisti.
A few days later, on september 8, Inter decided that the number 3 jersey should be retired.
Facchetti became an ido and a role model for many italians, not only in Milan. He was considered a gentleman and an example. It is notable that he was only sent of once during his career.
For Interisti Facchetti is a legend. His 634 games for Inter has only been surpassed by Giuseppe Bergomi and Javier Zanetti.
For me and other young Interisti it is impossible to understand what Giacinto Facchetti has meant to our Internazionale. It is difficult to describe, only in words, Facchetti’s greatness. I hope, however, that this text has given a clearer image of how he was involved in making Inter the great club it is today. This is the image we shall defend, no matter what prosecutor Palazzi or anyone else tries to accuse him of.
As the news of his death became known the whole world of football mourned his death. Here are some of the condolences Inter received, starting with our current captain Javier Zanetti:
“All of us and the whole Inter family feel immense pain. We will miss Giacinto so much because he was an extraordinary person, a very very good human being. He was part of and always will be part of Inter’s history. Today is a very sad day because he was close to us, close to all of us. We will miss Giacinto so much.”
Giuseppe Bergomi: “He was a reference point for me within the club. He was an exquisite person, an example for everyone. Giacinto was considered the best, not just at Inter but also internationally. He was a good, gentle and honest man who was esteemed and highly regarded by everybody. As a player I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing him play, but as a fellow defender I can say that a left-back who scores 59 goals is an extraordinary player.”
Sandro Mazzola: “He was a great figure on the field and off it. He was a wonderful team mate and the authoritative figure in the squad. He was always ready to battle, he was a great.”
Ivano Bordon: “He was like an older brother to me. I spoke with him on the phone 15 days ago. I told him that when I came back from the national team I would go visit him. It’s too bad the young players of today didn’t have the chance to see him.”
Gianni Rivera: “He was a great person, much greater on the human level than the sporting one. We passed many years together and saw each other regularly when we had both finished playing. There was a very strong rapport between us.”
Dino Zoff: “I have wonderful memories of Giacinto. We played many years in the national side together. He was an extraordinary lad, you couldn’t fail to like him.”
Gigi Riva: “He was the captain of our generation. He was a clean face and unfortunately he has left us far too soon. We had an excellent relationship. He knew he could count on me and I knew I could count on him. I have lost a friend and a companion in many wonderful adventures.”
UEFA (Andy Roxburgh): “We are all devastated at this news, it has come as a terrible shock. I did a coaching job with the youth academy at Inter Milan some months ago, and sat with him at a club game. At that point we didn’t know there was a problem. Words defy us as to how this tall, smart sportsman could disappear from us so quickly. He was a fantastic person – he was an absolute gentleman. He oozed class in everything he did. As a football person he was also of the highest order, becoming a statesman as president of Inter. He was the man who introduced the attacking full-back to football and he spoke about it in detail to technical directors at a recent UEFA conference. Celtic FC coach Jock Stein modelled the left-back of his great [1960s] team, Tommy Gemmell, on him – it was therefore ironic that Gemmell scored one of Celtic’s goals against Giacinto and Inter in the 1967 European Cup final in Lisbon. It’s the greatest form of praise when people follow you. His CV as a player was wonderful.”
Juventus: “Juventus F.C. has received the news of the loss of Giacinto Facchetti with infinite sadness and offers its condolences to his family, to Inter and its fans and to all the sportsmen and women of Italy for the loss of both a symbol and a legend of world football.”
AC Milan: “Inter president Giacinto Facchetti was a true sportsman, a real football follower, who made fair play and style his main characteristic on the field and outside. All of Milan’s supporters and all the people living in this city were filled with sadness at the news and we all express our condolences to Giacinto Facchetti’s family, his friends and his staff, who spent all these years with him working for Inter.”
Roma: “The world of sport has lost a charismatic figure who besides his sporting and professional qualities, distinguished himself for his high moral and human qualities.”