President Sergio Mattarella and Premier Giuseppe Conte on Thursday led the tributes to Paolo Rossi, the striker whose goals powered Italy to victory at the 1982 World Cup, after his death at the age of 64.
“His goals in the summer of 1982 gifted a dream to whole generations,” Conte said via Twitter. “He was the symbol of a national team and of an Italy that, united and tenacious, was able to beat opponents of enormous quality.
“Goodbye Paolo Rossi, unforgettable champion. “Italy will remember you with affection”.
President Sergio Mattarella said he was “painfully struck by the premature death of Paolo Rossi, the unforgettable star of Italy’s 1982 World Cup-winning team who has always been in the affections of all those who love sport.
“Remembering his mild manners and his humanity, I express my condolences and support to his relatives,” Mattarella said in a statement.
Rossi’s former team mates and opponents paid homage too. “I’m so sorry. It was a bolt out of the blue,” Dino Zoff, the capital of the 1982 World Cup-winning team, told ANSA via telephone.
“I always had a great relationship with Paolo. He was charming and intelligent. “We hadn’t spoken for a while. He said something to us (about his condition) but we didn’t think it was so serious.
“It’s difficult to understand it”. Antonio Cabrini, another of Rossi’s former Italy and Juve team mates, said he was devastated. “I lost a brother six months ago. Today I am mourning another,” Cabrini told ANSA.
The headline of Brazil’s Globoesporte was “Goodbye Paolo Rossi, the ‘executioner of Brazil”. Junior, one of the Brazil players who took part in the epic match at the 1982 World Cup, described Rossi as refined and polite. “He was always respectful and we Brazilians have always had great respect for him as a player and as a man,” he said.
The Italian Soccer Federation (FIGC) is flying the national flag at half mast at its offices in Rome and at the national team’s base at Coverciano near Florence.