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Interview with Carlo Garganese

As both deputy editor and Italian football editor of Goal.com— one of the world’s largest online football communities— Carlo Garganese continues to spark considerable interest amongst its readership through his regular opinion pieces. Ross Davies caught up with him to learn more about his roots and love of all things calcio.

Where does your family originally come from?

My father was born in a small village called Motta— around 30 miles from Foggia. My mother’s family is from a village in the Campania region called Taurasi— her two elder siblings were born there, whilst she was born in Britain with her brother.

When did they move to Britain?

Both my parents’ families moved to Bedford after the Second World War as there were a number of jobs in the reconstruction/building industries, especially at the Stewartby brickworks— both my grandfathers worked there. It was only supposed to be a short-term stay— just like many Italian families, they were planning to move back, but ended up staying here.

On my father’s side, my grandfather came over first, whilst my father stayed in Italy to look after his grandmother. He eventually came over when he was ten— initially it was quite difficult for him to adjust at such a young age.

What was it like growing up in Bedford? Were you immediately made aware of your Italian heritage?

Although they always spoke English to my brother and I so as not to confuse us, my parents often spoke Italian amongst themselves. They also always cooked Italian food and my father had a traditional Italian bakery, which he still runs.

My grandparents were a strong link to Italy. Like I said, many Italians that came to Bedford after the war thought they would only be here for a short time so as to earn some money and then return to Italy— they therefore didn’t attempt to learn much English. My grandmothers especially, still speak hardly any English.  

Aside from the Italian Church and Italian Club, football was always a huge part of Italian identity growing up in Bedford. Whenever Italy got to the latter stages of a tournament, Italy fans would flock down the high street to the river— after the 2006 World Cup final you couldn’t move for cheering, singing, and the sound of car horns until the early hours. Basically, you can’t escape your Italian roots in a place like Bedford.

Do you consider yourself Italian or English?

Italian— I think it’s something you’ll find with many people of Italian ancestry born here. When defining someone’s nationality, I think there are usually two ways by which you can do it— it can either be by your blood or where you’re born.

The latter is important, but I’ve always felt Italian because of my blood. Like I said before, I could never escape my Italian heritage growing up in Bedford. I’ve been asked this question many times, and it’s hard to explain— it’s just an overriding feeling. When I watch the Italian national side play, I feel so much pride and passion that I just can’t feel anything other than Italian.

 You have been deputy editor of Goal.com and Italian football editor since 2007. For a football fan, it must be a dream job?

When I started with Goal, it was still a fledgling website with a small workforce, so I was fortunate enough to become its first Serie A writer and effectively made the role my own due to being one of the first writers there. As the company grew, I was also lucky enough to become deputy editor, a position I still hold.

It is a dream job. Football is my passion— I’ve been kicking a ball around since the day I was born. I suppose my ultimate dream when I was a kid was to actually be a professional footballer, but writing about it is the next best thing. To be honest, it doesn’t feel like a job, more of a hobby.

Have you had any notable interviewees?

Marcello Lippi springs to mind. Myself and a colleague, Salvatore Landolina, launched a campaign on Goal.com in 2009 in a bid to get Paolo Maldini one last international game as a send-off before he retired. It actually generated a lot of coverage back in Italy, but unfortunately fell through. When we got hold of Lippi, he gave the go-ahead but due to one reason or another, partially down to fixture clashes, it wasn’t logistically possible.

Who was your favourite player growing up?

As a youngster, Roberto Baggio was my idol. One of my first football memories is Italia ’90— I can remember crying after Italy lost to Argentina on penalties, but Baggio was my hero from that World Cup onwards.

Do you have a favourite Italian team?

I don’t have a favourite team aside from the Italian national team— I would have to say that I’m a fan of Italian football in general.

You are outspoken in your defence of Serie A, especially regarding the recent Germany/Italy Champions league spot. How would you compare it to the English Premier League?

Well, I have actually enjoyed this season in the EPL far more than in past seasons as there has been much more competition. But, in general, over the last ten years in England, you have had three or four teams at the top who have monopolised all the wealth and talent.

If you look at the other 14 teams or so, possibly excluding Tottenham and Manchester City, how many players from those teams would get into at least one of those top sides and make any real impact? You’d struggle to name more than five.

Whilst if you look at Serie A’s traditional big three— Milan, Inter and Juventus— and using the same example, off the top of my head, I could think of maybe 40/50 players worthy of a starting place in those three from the other 16 teams. Okay, Juventus have a few weak spots at the moment, but I feel that there is much more strength and depth in Serie A. Even a club like Bologna, a side struggling with relegation, have the likes of Viviano, arguably Buffon’s successor as Italy’s next best keeper.

 You recent generated a considerable amount of controversy by listing 100 players you thought were better than Cristiano Ronaldo. What happened there?

I compiled an off-the-cuff list after Ronaldo’s agent claimed he was the best player of all time. As his agent, I can understand why he said it, but I just didn’t agree with it!

The piece was especially directed at our younger readership to make them aware that there were great players before the modern era. I don’t blame them— I was most probably the same when I was a kid. For example, young readers will see a Hungarian name in that piece, which might surprise them as Hungary haven’t been a contender on the world stage during their lifetime.

In football journalism in particular, opinion pieces stir up huge reactions, especially from partial fans, because you may be interpreted as criticising a reader’s team or favourite player. I’m not saying I’m right, it’s just an opinion.

Finally, who’s your tip for the title, both in Italy and England?

Concerning the Scudetto, I think a lot will depend on next weekend’s derby on Saturday night. If Inter win that, I think they’ll win the title (Inter are currently two points behind Milan, 22/03/2011), as they’ve got the easier run-in. Milan still have to go away to Udinese on the last game of the season— they’re also struggling for goals as exemplified by the recent loss to Spurs.

It will definitely be an exciting run-in. Although unlikely, don’t write off Udinese and Napoli too. Udinese are on fire at the moment playing some great attacking football, but I’ll have to say Inter.

With the EPL, although I don’t think it’s one of their great sides, Manchester United will probably end up winning it. I’m not sure Arsenal have the mental strength to do it, having not won anything for six years, and Chelsea probably have too much to do so late on in the season. 

Ross Davies

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