Toronto Star

World Cup hero an ‘icon’ of soccer

Italian forward won Ballon d’Or as best player in Europe in ’82

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ROME— Paolo Rossi, who led Italy to the 1982 World Cup title and later worked as a soccer commentato­r in his home country, has died. He was 64.

Rossi’s wife, Federica Cappellett­i, said Thursday he died in her arms. She said Rossi died in his sleep at the hospital after she promised him she would care for their children and assuring him that he “had already done so much.”

“He didn’t want to go, but I hugged him hard and I told him, ‘Paolo, now go. Enough, you’ve suffered enough. Now leave this body,’ ” she said. “And then he went to sleep.”

Cappellett­i spoke to reporters outside the La Scotta hospital in Siena, where Rossi had been treated over the past year and where family members gathered Thursday. State-run RAI television, where Rossi worked as a sportscast­er, said he had been diagnosed with an incurable illness.

Cappellett­i had announced the death on Instagram, posting a picture of the couple with the caption “Per sempre,” Italian for “Forever.”

In a Facebook post, Cappellett­i added: “There will never be another one like you, unique, special, after you there is absolute nothingnes­s.”

Rossi had a remarkable career comeback, leading Italy to the World Cup title after returning from a suspension following a betting scandal in 1980.

He scored six goals at the tournament in Spain, including a hat trick in a 3-2 win over Brazil and the opening goal in a 3-1win over West Germany in the final.

He was also won the Ballon d’Or award that year as the best player in Europe.

The Italian soccer federation said it would fly flags at halfstaff in a sign of mourning.

“We have lost a friend and an icon of our soccer,” federation president Gabriele Gravina said. “He took an entire country by the hand, which rejoiced in the streets, for him and with him. He is permanentl­y linked to the Azzurri and has inspired generation­s of forwards with his style.”

Italian president Sergio Mattarella also offered his condolence­s for Rossi’s “premature”

passing.

“Rememberin­g his courtesy and his humanity, I express condolence­s and closeness to his family,” the Italian head of state said in a statement.

Former teammate Stefano Collovati told RAI Radio 1 that he received the news from the phone chat used by the 1982 team members, many of whom expressed devastatio­n at Rossi’s passing.

“I heard five minutes ago. I’m so sorry. It was out of the blue,” former teammate Dino Zoff told the ANSA news agency. “It had been a while that we hadn’t spoken, he had said something

but we didn’t think it was so serious.”

Rossi won two Serie A titles and a European Cup while playing for Juventus. He also played for AC Milan before moving into sportscast­ing at Italy’s top networks. RAI sports presenter Enrico Varriale, who worked with Rossi, posted on Twitter about the star forward’s death.

“Very sad news: Paolo Rossi left us,” Varriale wrote. “Unforgetta­ble Pablito, who made us all fall in love in that summer of ’82 and who has been a precious and competent workmate at RAI in recent years. RIP dear Paolo.”

 ?? ALESSANDRO SABATTINI GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO ?? Italy’s Paolo Rossi, left, scored six goals during the 1982 World Cup, including a hat trick against Brazil and the opening goal in a 3-1 victory over West Germany in the final.
ALESSANDRO SABATTINI GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO Italy’s Paolo Rossi, left, scored six goals during the 1982 World Cup, including a hat trick against Brazil and the opening goal in a 3-1 victory over West Germany in the final.

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