Today’s game represents more than just another three points for Mauro Camoranesi, but a journey back into the past. This will be the first time he has come face to face with Hellas Verona, the club that first invested in his abilities and handed him his debut in Italian football six years ago, since his departure for Turin. 24 years old when he first set foot in Italy, he was driven by the desire to prove himself among the great and good of Europe
Camoranesi faces his past
Today’s game represents more than just another three points for Mauro Camoranesi, but a journey back into the past. This will be the first time he has come face to face with Hellas Verona, the club that first invested in his abilities and handed him his debut in Italian football six years ago, since his departure for Turin. 24 years old when he first set foot in Italy, he was driven by the desire to prove himself among the great and good of Europe. As we all know, he went one better than that, climbing to the summit of world football with the Italian national side, but those memories are still fresh. For now let’s take a trip with him back into the past. Born in Tandil, an indigenously named town set amongst the mountains of Argentina, Camoranesi made his breakthrough in the Mexican league, wearing the colours of Santos Laguna. After a brief return to his homeland with Banfield, in 1998 he emigrated to Mexico once more, this time to play for Cruz Azul. There he demonstrated his considerable talents as a midfielder with a keen eye for goal, netting over thirty times in 78 games, and it wasn’t long before is goal-scoring exploits attracted the attention of the Gialloblù scouts. In 2000 they brought him to Italy and Camoranesi repaid their faith in full, playing to the highest level (he scored seven goals in 50 games) and catching the eye of one of the country’s footballing giants: Juventus.
He commandeered a place in the starting eleven right from the word go, aiding the Bianconeri’s conquest of the Italian championship in decisive fashion and securing his place as one of the leading lights of the national side. Indeed, it was with the Azzuri this summer that Mauro reached the ultimate goal: victory in the World Cup final. It’s been six years since your arrival in Verona. Was it tough to start with?
“The first six months were very difficult, especially when it came to communicating. I didn’t speak a word of Italian but Adailton, the Brazilian striker we faced last week in Genoa, was a great help. He was a Hellas player in those days and, with a mix of Spanish and Portuguese, he helped me settle in”.
Did you notice any substantial differences between the Italian and South American championships when you first arrived?
“What struck me at the beginning was the way the coaches spent hours and hours discussing tactics, movements, diagrams... And then I was really surprised that, even as early as pre-season training, avoiding relegation was outlined as our only possible objective. Where I’m from it’s not like that at all: even when I was playing in teams from the lower end of the table, we always set out to win every game and no one ever talked about relegation before the season was even underway. It’s a completely different approach, a peculiarity unique to Italy”.
Have you always played as a wide midfielder?
“Yes, it was a choice I made when I was just getting started. Although it was only during my last six months in Mexico that I began playing as a left winger”.
What memories do you have from your time spent in Verona?
“I have many memories and all of them are very happy ones. It was my first European team and the quality of life in Verona is fantastic. I felt inside that everything was going right, there was a positivity in the air which affected me, my family and my son, who was just two years old at the time”.
Is there anyone you’ve kept ties with from your Verona days? Anyone you feel grateful towards in some sort of way?
“Despite escaping relegation in the play-offs in my first year there, and eventually going down in the second, the team was filled with quality players. If that same team were playing today, it might well be fighting for a place in the Champions League. At Verona I was playing alongside the likes of Adailton, Cassetti, Ferron, Gilardino, Mutu, Oddo and Abbruscato. If I had to thank anyone it would have to be Attilio Perotti, the coach from my first season there, a truly great man who taught me so much; him and Adailton”.
Have you ever played against Hellas in the black and white of Juventus?
“No, this will actually be the first time. I’d never really thought about until now, and I’m not sure what I’ll be feeling. When I take the field a lot of happy and unforgettable memories will definitely come to mind. Verona was my launch pad”.
After Hellas came Juventus, a team with whom you established yourself at international level. Which do you see as your best ever game with the Bianconeri?
“I’ll give you two, both from the 2002/03 season. I even remember the date of the first one: the 22nd December. We were playing against Perugia and the coach had told us that, if we didn’t win, we’d get three days less holiday. Well, I came on five minutes from time and scored the winning goal. My team mates were delighted with me. The second game saw us in action against Bologna. We were losing 2-0 when I came on, Zambrotta made it 2-1 and I equalised in the 90th minute with a header. As you’ll notice I was only on the pitch ten minutes for both those games!”
Ten wins from fourteen games. Is Juventus going to dominate this Serie B championship?
“As things stand we are already, if it weren’t for the penalty we’d be runaway leaders. It’s the quality of our team that’s making the difference. Serie B has a real competitive edge, but if we play like we know how, there is a definite gulf between ourselves and the others teams”.
What sort of game is it likely to be?
“Either as a team or as individual players, I don’t know Hellas Verona well enough to hazard a guess about the result. I know they’re a little behind in the standings, but they are not a team to be underestimated”.
Let’s talk about the World Cup. What does it mean to be one of the protagonists of such a triumph?
“I’ll tell you this now, even today I struggle to get to grips with it. I think that as the years go by I’ll slowly begin to realise the meaning of what we accomplished in Germany. One thing I do know is that I fulfilled a life long dream and the emotions that came with it were overwhelming”.
Which is your favourite moment from the summer?
“Every one of the 30 days spent in Germany was incredible. Before we left I promised myself I’d savour every hour, every moment of the championships. It was my first World Cup, and being thirty already, it might well be my last. It’s for that reason I enjoyed the adventure as a whole and I couldn’t give you any particular day because I remember each and every one of them as if it were yesterday. It was a magnificent festival of football which I experienced alongside my family and the final victory really was as good as it gets”.