Nicolò Barella, passion born at the court of Gigi Riva
Cagliari, Inter Milan, the Italian national team. Nicolò Barella, the midfielder born in 1997, is just 22 years old but already knows his way. His love for the game started at the Gigi Riva Football School, where respect and dedication are taught together with how to kick the ball. It was here that his talent was discovered by another number 10, fellow Sardinian and Inter Milan player, Gianfranco Matteoli. His life as a fan, however, was short-lived because he soon became a professional Serie A player.
How did your fondness for football come about?
My father transmitted it to me. We always watched the matches together but I must say that my mother played a fundamental role, because she allowed me to cultivate my passion by taking me to training and to the stadium.
Who did you support?
Like everyone born and bred in Cagliari, it is almost obvious to cheer for our city team. There is a sense of belonging that wins over everything.
Where did you start playing?
I started very young, at the age of three and a half, in Cagliari, at the Gigi Riva Football School, where education and social aspects are as important as the game of football itself. I played here until I was nine when I was promoted to the Cagliari team.
Who was your idol when you were a kid?
My idol has always been Dejan Stankovic for how he played and interpreted the matches. In addition to talent, he always put passion and dedication into it. For him, it was never over until the very last instant.
Did you watch matches at the stadium?
I started following matches with both my parents, then as I grew up, I started going there with my friends until my own football commitments allowed me to.
Did you ever follow the team away?
No, never because I used to play every weekend and skipping a game was simply impossible!
Did you ever ask players for autographs?
I have always been very self-conscious and asking someone for an autograph seemed to be making a nuisance of myself. So, to not be annoying and also because I was shy, I never asked anyone for an autograph.
What game is impressed in your memory?
The comeback of Cagliari versus Napoli, two-toone. It was an amazing match that Napoli was winning one-to-nil, strong of a goal scored by Hamsik at the beginning of the second half. But in the added time, when we were about to bow to a new defeat, Matri at the 93rd minute and then Conti at 94th minute overturned the result. That year, the Scudetto was won by Mourinho's Inter Milan, while Cagliari succeeded in staying in Serie A finishing sixteenth.