Fraquelli on the road to redemption
ATHLETICS AS a teenager, becoming a marathon runner was never part of Andrea Fraquelli’s plans. All he wanted to do was play football. He practised whenever he could, and dreamt of a future as a professional.
At 13, he was scouted. “I was picked up by Tranmere Rovers, who were in what is now the Championship,” recalls Fraquelli. “From playing for Highgate School, I went straight into games against teams like Manchester City academy. I felt like a superstar.”
Having introduced running into his training to help his fitness as a central midfielder, Fraquelli went on to play for Fulham academy, before joining Watford. “As a shy, middle-class Jewish boy, I never felt I fitted in at Fulham, but when Watford released me at 15, I was devastated,” he said. “Unbeknown to me, though, my brother entered me for a football competition, and I beat 600 others to win a place at Leyton Orient. I was soon training with the under18s, the ones on a full-time contract.”
Fraquelli was at his happiest at Orient. Then everything changed. “I went back to school to do my A-levels, and it cost me the Orient situation. I couldn’t play football at that level while studying. That’s why I also had to turn down a contract with QPR. I blamed my parents for a while, but it was really me; beneath it all, I had a massive fear of failure. I became very depressed, and got into drink and drugs.”
From the deep disappointment of not making it as a professional footballer, it was running that eventually brought stability back into Fraquelli’s life. Still dependent on drugs and alcohol, yet somehow keeping his addictions hidden, he graduated in modern languages from Nottingham University, which brought another change of direction. He said: “I had grown up in the restaurant business—my grandfather cofounded the Spaghetti House chain— so I started working with my father, joined Serpentine Running Club, and took up running seriously.”
By chance, through family friends closely involved with Norwood, Fraquelli was offered a place at the London marathon, going on to run for the charity for 10 consecutive years. A year ago he was the second-placed British athlete at the New York marathon, and 57th overall. Last weekend he ran a personal best there of 2:33.30.
Now 34, newly engaged to his partner Amy, he attends Marble Arch synagogue and is the successful owner of two London restaurants. He credits running for enabling him to overcome the setbacks in his life. “I had it all as a boy, but I was unhappy, lacking in confidence, and never content with myself,” he commented.
“I am grateful for what athletics has done for me, and I want to be a voice for people who lose their way. For five years now I’ve been free of my demons, and I volunteer with addicts to try and give back.”
“Long-distance running has given me the realisation to appreciate the simple things,” he remarked. “For me it is no longer the achievement that brings satisfaction, but the doing. I use running as a metaphor for life. You get out of it what you put in, and that’s the message I want to get across.”
I am grateful for what athletics has done for me’