LUCIA Bordonaro may well be Alessandro Del Piero’s most passionate fan.
The Palermo-based publicist flew half way round the world to spend a month in Sydney breathing the same air as Il Pinturicchio.
A regular at the Sky Blues training ground at Macquarie University, the diminutive Juventus fan got closer to Capitano than she ever dreamed possible.
And what started as an extravagant 30th birthday gift to herself has turned into a life-changing experience for Sydney FC’s newest supporter.
“It was like when you have to find yourself – I had to find myself together with my captain of course,” Bordonaro laughs.
“I went to the training field the day after my arrival. I had terrible jetlag, my eyes looked like those of a panda, I was so tired. But I didn’t sleep because I had to meet him.
“I didn’t think it would be so easy. In Italy, especially at the Vinovo, the training field of Juventus, you can’t meet players like this because there’s a lot of security.
“I had met him before but always in those situations in which you are among thousands. So I just tried to tell him something but I knew that I was a number in the crowd.
“But here we were alone with a bunch of people and I told him, ‘hey captain I promised to come here to Sydney and here I am’.
“And he smiles and it was amazing – I was so happy. He asked me about the trip and he reminded me to put some (sunscreen) on. Like a father, like a friend – giving me tips, advice for the trip.”
In Sydney, Bordonaro became a “little sister” in the Cove, learned the chants and watched the Italian maestro weave his magic on the field.
Her first match as a Sky Blues fan was a 2-1 home win over the defending champs Brisbane Roar, with a spectacular goal from Sydney’s celebrated marquee on seven minutes.
The second, a 2-1 home win over Adelaide United was followed by an away trip to Melbourne Heart and a dismal 3-1 capitulation to the hosts at AAMI Park. Sydney’s season may have fallen flat but Bordonaro says she can see Del Piero is content.
“Of course the results are bad, it’s not perfect yet but when I saw him on the training field with his team mates, he gives advice to the young ones – they are a good team together and I think he’s happy here,” she said. “That’s why I think it’s a good choice for him.”
It was not always so. Like many Italians she was shocked when the World Cup winner announced his move to Australia last September. Even before the press conference had started, rumours circulating about his departure brought her to tears.
Bordonaro allowed herself one day of despair before she began planning the “impossible” – an expensive trip, her first outside Europe, to a country she knew little about.
“I said, okay I will find a way,” she added. “I want to get there, I have to go there, I promised. Because you know our official chant in Juventus for him says sarò sempre al tuo fianco which means we’ll always be by your side. So when I sing something like that I really mean it.”
It is not just his exquisite skill, which at 38 still mesmerizes crowds, nor the silverware he has amassed over a celebrated career. It is the 19 years with the Old Lady of Italian football, through the highs and lows – such as the 2006-07 season relegation – that has become, what Bordonaro describes as, the “great love story” of football.
This, she says, is what sets him apart. It is a lesson learned from her first football hero. As a child she was captivated by Roberto Baggio – former Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year winner – who played for Juve between 1990-1995.
“I thought that Baggio would stay forever but I was very very little,” she said. “I didn’t think of him moving to other teams because it was an impossible idea to me.
“Then something in myself was very sad because I thought there might be wonderful players but they will always leave us for money reasons, for convenience or whatever they feel like.
“You can have fun watching, for example, (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic. He changes a lot of jerseys, he’s famous for that. He’s a crazy guy and when I see him score I’m happy, I like him. But he left Juventus in that very bad year in which we were relegated to Serie B but Del Piero would never have left us.”
The freelance writer returns home this week but is already planning a return trip now that Del Piero has signed for another season.
“I met many fans of Ale here, either Italian or Australian or coming from all over the world,” she said. “And we have all something in common because our eyes get wet when we talk about the captain.
“So it’s something, a feeling – we become friends at once. We know what it feels like and we know other people can’t understand really because they think he is only a player and that’s only soccer.”
But in a world where loyalty can be bought and sold, Del Piero she says stands above the rest.
“They say he is a way to understand life and to live life – he’s not only a man so you can’t really know another player like this.
“No – there won’t be another captain in my life.”