Lives (almost) parallel


On the morning of January 24th I went early to the Amsicora stadium to pay my final farewell, as they say, to Gigi Riva. His funeral would take place shortly thereafter.

In 80 years it was the first time I entered a stadium to… see a player. The day before, as soon as I heard the news of his unexpected death, I had felt the categorical urge to see him, to feel his presence or at least to be physically close to him for once.

Why? Because over the years I had often thought about the things we had in common. Both Sardinians: he by adoption and I by birth... with the aggravating circumstance of my roots from Nuoro. We were the same age, he was a few months younger than me. While still children we had both lost our father and had studied in religious institutes, he with the Jesuits and I with the Salesians. Both of a rough character and accustomed to fatigue and a hard life: him working hard on the football pitches and me in my training sessions of 20 kilometers of running with amphibians on my feet, in a camouflage suit, backpack and water bottle full of water in tow. ; all to pass the selection and "enter" the Bersaglieri or to train for parachute jumps. We both won a scudetto: he in 1970 with Cagliari and I in 1994, becoming the first Sardinian to have the privilege of commanding the Sassari brigade. Over the years I had smiled when I discovered that he had baptized his two sons Nicola (my name, the most common in Ortueri, where I was born) and important rural sanctuary is dedicated to San Mauro, halfway between Ortueri and the neighboring Sorgono.

While waiting to enter the funeral home set up at Amsicora, I exchanged a few words with the couple preceding me in line, the Mudadus, from Ittiri. “This morning we got up very early to come and say goodbye to Gigi Riva. Our son should have come too, but he couldn't because he is a policeman in Rome and they didn't give him permission". Around me many silent, composed people. Many have shining eyes, which some try to hide behind unbelievable sunglasses on the cold winter morning. They are people who came from the four corners of Sardinia; someone from the Continent.

I enter the funeral home, touch the coffin with my hand and for an interminable moment I focus my gaze on Gigi Riva's face. I am surprised by the serenity that that face expresses through the cold pallor that death reserves for those who are no longer here.

I feel the need to quickly move away and be alone; if I have to talk to someone that someone can only be Gigi Riva, which I do by walking away at a brisk pace to "recover" my car... which I have no idea where he might have parked it.

While walking I confess to Gigi Riva that I have only disagreed with him on two occasions. The first was when he agreed to promote the anti-Covid vaccination. You have to forgive me, Gigi Riva. I understood you but I would like you to understand me too. I was an anomalous soldier, a sworn enemy of the quiet life and even ready to exercise if necessary that virtue of disobedience preached by General De Gaulle. When they proposed vaccinating me and my family with an experimental vaccine whose effects and effectiveness were unknown, I responded as another French general, Pierre Cambronne, would have responded: “Merde!” And my stance was strengthened when blackmail laws were issued by the Italian government which provided for the marginalization of those who did not get vaccinated, to the point of depriving them of work and the related income.

This infamy took me back to my childhood years, when I heard stories of vile individuals in the Nuoro area who kidnapped someone and then gave their relatives the infamous either/or: get the ransom money or we'll kill them. The fact that a government in power was proposing similar blackmail made me feel similarly sick. Time would have been a gentleman and would have proved me right; this is proven by the fact that the higher hierarchies have imposed secrecy on significant data from that pandemic management and are doing everything to prevent investigations into the effectiveness/uselessness/dangerousness of that vaccine, something that others (such as the UK ONS) they did so, reaching dramatic conclusions, which were immediately censored by our governments.

The second occasion of disagreement was very recent, when you decided not to have heart surgery. It is inevitable that competitive sports and military "hardships" put the heart to the test and leave some marks. When ten years ago a cardiologist accidentally discovered the aneurysm of my thoracic aorta, he proposed a rather... "tough" operation which I did not hesitate to accept. I confess that I scribbled a short will before allowing myself to open my chest and put my heart to rest for six hours, the time needed to replace my thoracic aorta with the attached tricuspid valve. Once things were done I asked the magnificent heart surgeon who had operated on me "And what can I do now?" Answer: “Whatever you feel like doing”, which I have been doing for ten years without too much concern for my heart. On the other hand, it's not my fault if the wood for the home fireplace is heavy!

I like to think, frade meu, that if we had met a few days I would have convinced you to let you operate, and Thunderclap would have been able to continue to experience first-hand for a long time the avalanche of esteem and the torrent of friendship that is overwhelming him today . And then if at eighty you are no longer physically a Thunderclap you can be a gust of beneficial wind, a point of reference, support and pride... which you were for your/our Sardinia.

Nicolò Manca.

PS: one last secret that reveals the somewhat touchy character of the Sardinians. Hearing many experimental pro-vax quacks obsessively define the Gigi Rivas and Nicolò Mancas in circulation as "fragile subjects" has made me, as the English say, turn the tables too many times. A Thunderclap he can become a frail, vulnerable, elderly and even old person... but don't call him a "fragile person".

Photo: web