La Formica Atomica – Atomic Ant in English – is the Hanna-Barbera cartoon superhero that depicts a little ant that possesses extraordinary powers. His supersonic speed and amazing strength, all packed into a diminutive ant body, makes the little hero quite the paradoxical character.
The man whose nickname is la Formica Atomica needs no introduction. Standing at only 5’4″ and possessing almighty strength, it is easy to understand why Sebastian Giovinco is often compared to the tiny heroic ant. He is, by and large, a comedy sketch all by himself. When the pint-sized Bianconero runs on to the pitch, you would be forgiven for thinking that he may be the son of one of the other players. His height, nimble features, feather weight and angelic face deceive those who are watching into thinking that this boy could not be more than a harmless teenager. Rest assured, appearances are deceiving as the boy possesses deadly pace to storm past the flanks and is crafty enough to draw fouls in areas where he knows he can deliver dangerous dead balls. Angelic? You must be dreaming. The 22-year-old is much wilier than his appearance would have you believe and as for his height, the player has turned this presumed weakness into his deadliest strength.
It has indeed been a long time since Italy has been so excited about a youngster, and Giovinco has proved that he belongs among the elite. At his age, his first touch is astonishing, his dribbling is unrivalled and he manages it all whilst maintaining absolute control of the ball. That is perhaps why he was voted Most Valuable Player in last year’s Toulon Tournament. He will spot his target – either the back of the net or a lucky striker – and then with perfect precision fire over a devastating cross to split the defence and render his audience speechless. In Juventus’ home game against Bologna last season, Giovinco was the only Bianconero to manage a shot on target in the first half, which he then followed up with a goal, an assist and a performance that had every European club salivating over the youngster. Rarely does the player make an appearance on the pitch without the media clamouring to heap praise on the starlet. Juvinco is born hailed La Gazzetta dello Sport after the 4-1 thrashing of Bologna. As for the supporters, Giovinco has captured the heart of every Juve fan and almost every Italian worldwide. The Bianconeri tifosi are so in awe of their young prodigy that they sent a letter to their management firmly stating: “If you sell Sebastian Giovinco you can forget about us buying season tickets and spending our money in the stadium and outside the stadium. HANDS OFF GIOVINCO!”
The explosive starlet was born in Turin to a Calabrian mother and a Sicilian father who used to be a well-known defender for Beinasco. Rising through the ranks of Juventus’ youth system, Giovinco humiliated the older kids around him as he proved vital to winning the Campionato Primavera in 2005/06 as a mere 14-year-old. Dubbed the “Italian Messi” due to his height, he broke into the first team in rather astounding fashion as a substitute in Juve’s Serie B game against Bologna. A great assist allowed David Trezeguet to tap in the winning goal and allow Giovinco his dream debut.
With Juve promoted back to Serie A, Giovinco was loaned out to Empoli to gain experience whilst Juventus concentrated on finding their feet in the top flight once more. A stunning free-kick against a vicious and fancied Roma, along with other tantalising displays, ensured Coach Alberto Malesani made the dazzling Seba a regular who quickly became the heart of the Tuscan outfit, prompting Juve to demand his return to Turin at the end of the season.
However, la Formica Atomica’s most notable performances are those with the Azzurrini and with strikes like the 25-yard screamer against Honduras in Italy’s opening match in the 2008 Olympics, European powerhouses such as Arsenal began sniffing around. “He’s played for me for the U-21s and he’s a player I admire. He’s one of those players who can change a game,” Italy’s other pint-sized hero, Gianfranco Zola, once noted. Indeed he can influence a game. The boy’s agility allows him to burst past defenders at lightning speed whilst throwing opponents off balance thanks to his low centre of gravity, making him a menace to the opposition. Atomic Ant perhaps, but honestly, the boy is a replica of Speedy González – whizzing past leaving smoke behind and his opposition in the dust.
Furthermore, his incredible work rate and ability to play in numerous positions, such as trequartista, support striker or winger makes him a valuable asset. Deployed as a winger for most of his games for Juventus, the starlet confessed that he’s most comfortable playing behind the attackers and suffers as a winger. “It’s just that there are some situations where I have to keep coming back to help out the defence and I find I’m not as sharp when attacking,” Giovinco humbly admitted. His defensive skills do need polishing but as with many great Calcio artists, when there is a talent so precious, the team works around you.
Unique in every way, even his goal celebration is unusual. He places his thumb on the tip of his head and points his little finger upwards. Asked why, he explained: “I’m not very big and many people told me over the years that I would never reach the top because of my size. That’s why I do that celebration every time I score a nice goal. It’s my way of saying that I’m getting bigger.”
It remains to be seen whether the fantasista will fulfil his potential and end up being Alessandro Del Piero’s heir, or whether he will feature in our Enigmas in Calcio pages in a few years time. Skills and abilities – even those as rare as Giovinco’s – are not enough to take this ant to the top of the hill. Self-belief, continued motivation and the ability to perform under pressure are the necessary ingredients for legendary status. However, the fact that the pint-sized star prefers to challenge for a shirt in Juve as opposed to being a big fish in a small pond, already indicates that he possesses the willingness and determination to succeed. “I don’t feel inferior to anyone, especially in my generation. I’m not scared of competition in the future, as I know that I have to improve and I feel ready.” And so he should not, few possess this boy’s mental strength but even fewer possess his natural talent.
Azzurrini Future Stars