Enzo Bearzot, a legend of Italian coaching, died today. While I can’t say much about what I remember of him, I can say that he is certainly one of the greatest influences on Italian football. Although many coaches focus on drills, tactics, and fitness, Bearzot also made sure he created a tightly-knit group. One of the most human and relatable people to grace the game, Bearzot made sure that people understood his ideas, becoming like an older brother or a father for his players, and ultimately for all of Italy.
As a player Enzo Bearzot was hard-working and versatile. Bearzot had 251 appearances in the Serie A, playing for Inter Milan, Catania, and most notably Torino. He was an important piece in Torino’s side, playing often as a central defender, and helping rebuild the team after the tragic Superga air disaster. In his playing career he also earned one cap for the Italian National team in 1955. He wasn’t a truly fantastic player, but he had great ideas and skills which he utilized in his coaching career.
Bearzot’s greatest moment as a coach was without a doubt when he won the 1982 World Cup at the helm of Italy’s national team. When he first took the job, he was scrutinized by the media due to his, lack of inexperience in big coaching jobs. Italy had a poor start to the 1982 World Cup, and as the Italian media was wildly criticizing Bearzot, the coach issued a “silenzio stampa”, which means “silence to the press”, allowing him and his side to work in temporary silence. Bearzot eventually found the perfect combination with time, and Italy defeated favorites Brazil, then Argentina, and finally West Germany in the final. Enzo Bearzot conquered the 1982 World Cup, Italy’s third, ending 44 years of drought in which the Azzurri hadn’t been crowned as world champions.
There weren’t many other highlights like 1982 in Bearzot’s coaching career, nonetheless he was a man with the right ideals.
“The player profile has also changed, especially regarding loyalty to clubs, which have themselves become profit-making businesses. What’s more, football has now become a science, if not always exact, but for me, it’s
still first and foremost a game.”
I mentioned before that Enzo Bearzot was more than just a coach. He did his best to rid Italy of the tight and defensive catenaccio, instead trying to imprint a more fluid and attacking style, inspired by the Netherlands which played total football in 1974. While the Azzurri didn’t play total football, they became a more attacking side, entertaining crowds with exciting performances. In the end Enzo Bearzot had a simple philosophy regarding how his teams should play,
“For me, football should be played with two wingers, a centre forward and a playmaker. That’s the way I see the game. I select my players and then I let them play the game, without trying to impose tactical plans on them. You can’t tell Maradona, ‘Play the way I tell you.’ You have to leave him free to express himself. The rest will take care of itself,”
A simple yet wonderful idea of football from a true legend of the game. While Bearzot was often criticized at the beginning of the campaign of 1982, every Italian loved him by the end of the tournament. It wasn’t love just because of what he achieved, but it was a love which extends past the fact that many never knew him. Bearzot was a father figure for all of Italy, guiding the country while taking criticism by ones which would ultimately be proven wrong. Not only did Bearzot create a family with his players, he brought all of Italy closer together, winning a tournament which lives in a nation’s hearts.
Enzo Bearzot, born 27 September 1927, died 21 December 2010.