Italian football hero Christian Vieri was recently quoted by TuttoSport as saying that he harbours a desire of playing club cricket in Italy.
“I did not know that there was a Cricket Championship in Italy. Now that I have discovered it, you must invite me to play even if I am a bit rusty, because I have not batted for twenty years”, quipped the 47-year-old Azzurri Legend, who has represented Italy in two FIFA World Cups.
The remark was prompted by Vieri meeting with the Councillor of the Italian Cricket Federation, Francesco Moscatelli in Milan. While it is possible that Vieri was just indulging in some light-hearted banter with Mr. Moscatelli, his passion for cricket is genuine.
Vieri spent his formative years (between the ages of 4 and 14) growing up in Sydney, Australia, when his father was playing for Marconi in the National Soccer League as an overseas player. It was during this time that he caught the cricket bug, making a name for himself as a talented left-handed batsman. In a 1998 interview with Daily Mail UK, he confirmed that the game of cricket was actually his first true love.
“To be honest I wasn’t very good at football. I loved cricket and when I started making some big scores for my boys team, I dreamed of becoming the next Allan Border. Like the great man, I was a left-handed batsman and wanted to play in the Ashes and win it for Australia.”
Unfortunately, Vieri’s cricket dreams remained unfulfilled, as he had to move back to his native Italy before his 15th birthday. However, cricket’s loss was football’s gain. Upon his return to Italy, he excelled at the sport going onto represent the Italian football team on 49 occasions, in addition to playing for several celebrated clubs such as Inter Milan, Juventus, Lazio and Atlético Madrid.
Vieri was a muscular and prolific striker who scored 235 goals over the course of his club career, and 23 goals for the national team. In 2004, he was included in Pele’s list of the 125 greatest living players for FIFA’s centenary celebrations.
It would be a major coup for the Federazione Cricket Italiana, if they were able to get a high profile figure like Vieri involved in the domestic club cricket setup, in any capacity.
As per Federazione Cricket Italiana President Fabio Marabini, the sport has achieved tremendous growth over the last decade, largely on the back of increased migration from South Asia. The sport is even being used as a vehicle for migrant integration by the refugee advocacy group Ospiti in Arrivo, in the Northern Italian city of Udine.
BBL player Ben Manenti set to make his Italian debut
In other Italian news, Big Bash League player Ben Manenti is set to make his debut for the Italian national team, as soon as COVID-19 restrictions are eased. An Italian passport holder, Manenti was supposed to travel to Spain to participate in this year’s European Qualifier Tournament, but unfortunately the tournament was postponed due to the coronavirus shutdown.Embed from Getty Images
Speaking to cricket.com.au, Manenti mentioned that he has been working hard on his fitness, in preparation for the upcoming cricket season and also hopes to make his first appearance for Italy next year, alongside his brother Harry.
Manenti admits that while he is not well informed on the local Italian cricket scene, he is motivated by the chance of becoming an international cricketer and playing for his grandmother’s home country.
“I’ve got absolutely no idea what (the quality) is like, but they’re very passionate. They play against the Netherlands and Germany and Jersey and Guernsey, who are all steady sides. Hopefully it gets opened up again because that’d be a good trip. I know it’s not that big a thing, but it’d be an experience, nonetheless.”
Manenti made his Big Bash debut back in 2018 and had a steady season for Sydney Sixers last year. To date, Manenti has taken 10 wickets at an average of 26.40 and an economy rate of 6.95 in the BBL.
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