No matter whom you ask in Torino, one thing is agreed upon. Francesco Coco is one used to being talked about. His name often shows up in Italian gossip magazines and his off the field exploits have often made more news than his on the field play in the last few years. Only a few weeks ago stories were written about his visit to England to a try-out with Manchester City. The English press made quite a story out of the fact that Coco showed up to practice smoking a cigarette… and soon was heading back home to Milan.
And he has a history with the city of Torino and her fans as well….
After a good 1999-2000 season in which Coco played 21 games with the team, he left with a remark that many fans still remember. Should one walk into a caffè flying a granata flag or find two Toro fans together this week the conversation will likely be revolving around the recent changes in the roster.
Yesterday Coco fielded some questions at his first Press Conference with the new team, responding to some of these issues… acknowledging the past and looking towards the future.
When you left Torino, you stated, “I’m in Champions League and you’re in Seria B.” What do you have to say to the fans now that your back?
“I said those words, but they don’t mean anything anymore. I had problems with Coach Mondonico, who in the end wasn’t letting me play. At the time there was a problem between him and me. That’s all.”
What are you expecting out of this return to town?
“Not to go into Seria B…. (Laughing)
Jokes aside, I believe I’ve made the right decision, that I’ve followed me heart. My decision was a sentimental one, but not only, for professionally I am ready to give my all. It’s obvious that now I need to convince the fans of my worth.”
How are you physically?
“Good, my injuries have healed, I’ve only got to get back into playing shape. I believe that I’ll be ready to go in a few days…”
What do you have to say about the try-out with Manchester City?
“I don’t want to talk about the story of the cigarette. They were looking for a central back, I’m a left-back. They didn’t need me. We shook hands and I came back home.”
Do you already know some of your new teammates?
“Many of them. Above all I have a great friendship with Abbiati as we played together in Milano. After being in the league for many years, at the professional level I know almost everyone.”
Are you also here to redeem yourself, to erase the label as one always in the gossip magazines?
“I’ve never chosen to have this image, it’s been given to me by others. I’m interested in playing and if I haven’t done it lately it’s because I had a back operation and I’ve had problems with my knee. These injuries have stopped me from playing for two out of the last three years. In Livorno I believed I played well, even if everyone criticized me.”
In short, have all these problems only been of a physical nature?
“Yes. Perhaps I wasn’t represented well by Inter, who never declared in an explicit way that I was out due to injury and not due to other reasons. I should have been out for a month, instead I was out for two years.”
Though some fans are looking rather hardly at the re-acquisition of Coco, time will tell just how warmly he will be accepted. One thing is for certain in the world of sport… play on the field will always quiet those gossiping voices on the sidelines.
By California Granata