KEIR RADNEDGE reporting from BRAZIL
—-Italy’s players were wearing black armbands during their Confederations Cup clash with Spain in Fortaleza in memory and honour of one of the most remarkable and courageous of the Azzurri’s old internationals: Stefano Borgonovo.
The one-time Milan and Fiorentina has died at 49 after a long battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease*.
Borgonovo was disagnosed in 2006 but defied his condition in remarkable fashion, despite the paralysis which eventually engulfed all his body, to create a foundation in his name to raise awareness and funds to combat the disease.
A testimonial match in 2008 was organised by his two main former clubs.
Along with winning the 1990 Champions League with the Rossoneri, Borgonovo spent time at Brescia, Udinese, Pescara, Fiorentina, Como and Sambenedettese. He also made three appearances for the Italian national team in 1989.
Last year world federation FIFA supported his publication in Italy, German and English of his book Born Striker.
The book tells – in his own words – of Borgonovo’s career as well as his reflections on the condition which made him a prisoner inside his own body.
ALS kills nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain and Borgonovo was left only able to move his eyes which he used to control the computer which was his last means of communication with his family and the world.
This was how he dictated his book.
Last year his wife Chantal and daughter Alessandra attended the FIFA Gala to help launch a worldwide research project under the guidance of FIFA medical chief Jiri Dvorak.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter was one of the first to offer his condolences to the family.
Previously he had praised Borgonovo as “a fighter” who “never wallowed in self-pity and [who], despite his illness, has continued to love football. He is one of a kind and a role model for us all.”
UEFA president Michel Platini said: “Stefano Borgonovo was and will remain an example for us all. His courage, his joy for life and his love of football – all features which he maintained during his long and brave battle against this terrible illness – provide an important lesson for us all.
“On behalf of all of the European football family, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the Borgonovo family, and our thoughts are with his wife, Chantal, and their four children at this sad time.”
* Who was Lou Gehrig?
Gehrig was an American professional baseball star who played 2,130 consecutive games for the New York Yankees from 1925 to 1939. He also holds the record for most career grand slams.
Born on June 19, 1903, in New York, he was retired in 1939 after being diagnosed with ALS and died on June 2, 1941.
Gehrig was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939, was voted the greatest first baseman of all time by the Baseball Writers’ Association in 1969 and was the leading vote-winner on the Major League Baseball All-Century Team chosen by fans in 1999.