‘Only the good die young’ is a oft coined phrase, perhaps even an over-used cliché. Yet as the life of Piermario Morosini unravels, it is clear that Calcio and indeed the world has lost a respected man, someone who put others before himself, both on and off the field. On Saturday, Morosini died aged 25 playing for Livorno away in Pescara.
Morosini’s life was one marked by tragedy. He lost both parents by the age of 17, his disabled brother killed himself soon after, leaving Piermario to care for his disabled sister. It seems Morosini only gave one interview on the subject back in 2005. His words offer a cold and dark insight into his thoughts, but also an incredible amount of dignity and strength when many others would simply crumble. He told Guerin Sportivo: ‘I have often asked myself why all this happened to me, but I never find an answer which makes it hurt more. But life goes on. These are things that mark you and change you. But at the same time they give you the drive to do everything you can, and in my case to realise dreams that belonged to my parents as well as me. I want to become a footballer for them more than anything, because I know how happy they would be.’
The words of people within the Italian game also offer a glimpse of the respect shown for the midfielder. Atalanta youth team director Mino Favini said: ‘He was golden, always trying to help his family.’ Hellas Verona coach Andrea Mandorlini was coach of Atalanta as Morosini started to come through the ranks. Initially Mandorlini refused to talk about the player. On Monday night he stated: ‘someone who never let up. He was a warrior… Life hit him hard, yet he had an extraordinary radiance, it was beautiful.’ Udinese president Giampaolo Pozzi said: ‘He was a model professional, until the end’, Chievo defender Marco Andreolli, who played alongside Morosini in Italian youth team games told Gazzetta dello Sport that Morosini ‘taught us how to smile every single day in life, even when the latter seemed to have turned its back on him.’
Tragedy offers us a chance to see people and groups in a different light. For example, Pescara and Livorno supporters don’t see eye to eye. Many Livorno fans are communists, often waving Soviet flags at games, which causes many conflicts with opposition fans up and down the land. Yet as Morosini fell, political and football disagreements immediately were irrelevant. Pescara fans marched to the hospital where Morosini was taken, holding a banner in support. Livorno fans, notoriously temperamental and hard-nosed, showed their softer side. Banners, flags and scarves were hung from the gates outside Armando Picchi. Fans wept, children laid flowers. The personal tragedies that hit Morosini heightened the sorrow that people felt. One note left simply read ’That you are returned to your parents offers is our only relief.’
The most important person in this whole sad story is not any presidents, coaches or players. It is Piermario’s sister. Morosini was on loan at Livorno from Udinese, and Bianconeri captain Toto Di Natale offered his and the clubs support, telling the clubs TV channel ‘We know the situation of his sister and we as a team, the club, and Udinese for Life (a charity attached to the club) have decided to help her because she is in real need. It is essential that we stay at the side of Piermario’s sister for her entire life. She needs us and we want to help, both for her and for Mario.’
Both Livorno and Vicenza (where Morosini played between 2007-09 and also on loan last season) have retired his number 25 jersey in respect of Morosini. The grief felt throughtout Calcio will continue for a long time. Over the coming days and weeks, questions will be asked about medical standards and tests players must undergo, and whether more could have been done to save the Bergamo-born player.
But for now, the most important words are the one’s said and written by those who knew Piermario. The banner outside Livorno’s stadium aptly described Morosini, both on and off the field. It read: ‘You fought until the end. Goodbye great Moro.’