Fraque­lli on the road to re­demp­tion

The Jewish Chronicle - - SPORT - BY ROS­ALIND ZEFFERTT

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’

An­drea Fraque­lli

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