FOOTBALL ROYALTY TAKING IT TO THE STREETS
Fabio Cannavaro is football royalty, having lifted the World Cup trophy as the captain of Italy at the 2006 tournament in Germany. Now retired from the game, he’s taking his skills to the streets ahead of a likely move into the coaching ranks.
Fabio, when you grow up in Italy is it only natural that football becomes your sport?
Obviously growing up it’s every boy’s dream to become a footballer in such a mad football country. But it’s one of those things where as I went through my career I understood more and more what was happening. Knowing there are so many young boys out there aspiring to do what I have achieved as their career gives me great satisfaction.
Did you grow up dreaming of captaining Italy one day?
No. No. When I was young the dream really was just about representing my home city Napoli in the first team. And that was my sole focus. After that, in my career I achieved many more things. Obviously captaining my country was one of them and then having that great honour of holding the world cup trophy. But at the time as a boy I was keeping my own dreams quite low and realistic.
What’s that feel like to lift the World Cup?
I actually get more emotional now when I see the images than I did at the time. There was so much going through my head and it all happened so fast. But I think more importantly is what it meant to the people. Now you’re not just viewed upon as being a player but everyone who was involved in that world cup winning team, well, we actually all became legends. Moving forward, people will always remember that time and where they were in that moment in their lives.
Did it feel like your destiny to win the World Cup in 2006?
I don’t know if you want to call it destiny or not. But looking back on it now and seeing television images, seeing pictures of it and things like that, different thoughts go through my mind. It’s different to when you’re actually living the experience. I don’t know if you want to call it destiny or not but either way it was the most amazing experience.
Well let me start by saying that was definitely a penalty. Haha. But in terms of being fortunate to go through. It was a very complicated game. Australia had a very strong side at the time. They had a great organisation. Some great players. A great coach. I think if you want to call it fortune, I would say that “fortune favours the brave.” Haha.
Is it essential for the growth of football in Australia that the Socceroos make the 2016 World Cup in Brazil?
I think it’s very important. Back in 2006, that was a great generation of players. There were some fantastic players in that team. I think that perhaps there’s not necessarily a great generation of players coming through now. But I think more importantly it’s not just about improving the standard of play in this country by looking at youth solely. You can never make somebody who is 20 to 25 years of age become a better player. You really have to start looking at players who are sort of 11 to 17. But the way you do that is by bringing out the right coaches and having the right players teach these kids the correct skills and the fundamentals. That’s the sort of mentality needed to take the next step.
Were you surprised that Alessandro del Pierro came here to play in the A-League?
He’s obviously brought a lot of exposure to the game in Australia. And it’s been a success from a commercial sense. He’s 37, but knowing the way he handles himself he’s still going to contribute a lot on the field. But more importantly, by bringing players of his calibre out it can only better the league from a professional sense and help some of the young players here be better for that.
Would you consider joining him in the A-League?
I’m retired. And I’m very happy with my decision. But possibly returning one day to the A-League to coach is a possibility.
That’s very interesting. I’m sure they’d welcome you over on Norton Street. They made you an honorary citizen of Leichhardt. How did you feel about that?
It was a great honour the reception I got from the Italian community there. Obviously that traces back to the world cup win many years ago which brought so much joy to that community. It was a great honour to receive citizenship and something I’m very proud of.
Were you expecting to have so many fans there?
I think the big change from winning that world cup is the change in people. I have gone from being a player to becoming a legend and the reception I get now wherever I go is huge. I get a great reception and great affection from people. It’s a wonderful feeling to know I’ve brought so much joy and happiness to them. I can really feel what it means to have won that world cup to so many people.
You were playing a bit of street football with them too. That’s a good way to keep them happy! What’s street football all about?
It’s a great initiative. It’s called Tiger Street Football and I’m proud to be the ambassador. I can relate to it from my own childhood playing on the streets. We weren’t fortunate enough growing up to play in such a great little corps with fantastic facilities but it brings you back to being a child and just playing and having fun.
It sounds like your own childhood experiences were pretty profound because it’s even led to you starting up a charity hasn’t it?
Yeah I founded it with my great friend Napoletano Ciro Ferrara. We were two kids from Naples who obviously lived the dream and achieved so much in our careers and that’s why we’ve concentrated primarily on that area there with our cancer foundation. We’re trying to give back to the people there who obviously aren’t as fortunate.
Just back on the World Cup. It’s on next year. Italy will always be strong. There’s so many teams that could win it. But do you think there will there be a time when a nation from somewhere other than Europe or South America will lift the trophy?
It’s very complicated and to be honest I don’t think so for the time being.