Italy falls silent for Piermario Morosini

The death of Piermario Morosini has naturally left the world of Italian football and sport in general reeling.

The official announcement that the Livorno midfielder had lost his life during the Serie B game at Pescara was swiftly followed by the decision to postpone all matches over the weekend.

At the San Siro, AC Milan and Genoa players were warming up for their late afternoon game and the stadium was slowly filling up as the players went through their paces.

In the press room, the journalists were already in possession of the shocking news and few had drifted out to the stand, leaving the international television commentators to inform their viewers that there would be no football.

Down on the pitch, the players were taking the news in and as the team officials explained the situation, they slowly walked off in pairs or alone, some of them shaking their heads, others looking up to the stands seemingly for further confirmation that such a tragic event was in fact true.

There was a muted exit from the stands as fans made their way into the early evening and 45 minutes after the announcement the San Siro was left in eerie silence – as all stadiums up and down the country would remain.

In a country where footage of car-crash victims is flashed across prime-time news screens, replays of the moment the 25-year-old collapsed on the pitch were re-shown through the evening – not through any morbid fascination, but that is how Italians deal with death: in a very open way for all the world to see.

The Livorno players arrived at the hospital in stunned silence and left emotionally drained and in tears of genuine grief.Tributes flooded in from the whole world of football, from former team-mates to those who had never met the player; in Spain and England a minute’s silence was held ahead of their late Saturday and Sunday games.

Morosini may not have been one of the big names of the Italian game but he was a popular figure who had been building a solid career after having come through the Atalanta youth ranks before joining Udinese where he made five appearances, and was still under contract.

He also had spells at Bologna, Vicenza on two occasions, Reggina and Padova, and had represented his country from under-17 to under-21 level. Many of those players preparing for the Euros this summer – such as Domenico Criscito, who had been his room-mate at under-17 level and described him as “a brother” – had played alongside him at international level.

Morosini had known enough tragedy in his short life. Both of his parents had died when he was a teenager, his disabled brother had committed suicide and his elder sister, who will now be supported by Udinese and Livorno, is handicapped. He was active in the footballers’ union, especially in helping players who had difficulties of their own.

Morosini’s death immediately drew comparisons to the case of Bolton Wanderers player Fabrice Muamba. As at White Lane so inside the Stadio Adriatico there was a doctor in the stands who happened to be head of cardiology at the nearby Santo Spirito hospital.

The doctor, Leonardo Paloscia, raced on to the pitch in an attempt to revive the player and although there were reports, backed up by photographs, of a traffic police car blocking the emergency entrance – Pescara players Marco Verratti and Damiano Vanon sprinted to the stranded ambulance to retrieve the stretcher – ahead of the autopsy Paloscia maintained that everyone had done all they could and carried out their duties in a professional manner.

No one could deny this was the case, but with former Italy volleyball international Victor Bovolenta collapsing and dying during a match last month, there have been calls for great prevention of life-threatening incidents, with every sports club forced to have a defibrillator on site and someone trained in its use.

Italy is proud of its screening for those participating in sports at all levels and can point to the check-up that discovered Nwankwo Kanu’s heart defect, while Antonio Cassano is back playing after having a heart malformation diagnosed and corrected.

As the Italian Medical Sports Federation head Maurizio Casasco pointed out, even the most intense screening cannot always prevent cases such as this – and most times only a rapid response can help save lives. 

In one of the many eulogies through Saturday evening, former Udinese coach Giovanni Galeone, who was in charge of Morosini for a season, recalled that the player had a real sadness in eyes but his face was always lit up by a wonderful smile. 

Morosini had been popular for many reasons and that more than anything was why the stadiums were rightly silent this weekend.