Musician Giovanni Zarrella played for the Roma in his youth and describes football as his great passion alongside music. Before the start of the European Championship (Italy vs. Turkey, 9 p.m. in LIVETICKER), the 43-year-old singer talks about his friendship with national player Antonio Rüdiger and explains why Italy is on a campaign of revenge.
In addition, Zarrella reveals who was last with his second album “CIAO!” first reached the top of the charts as a solo artist, at which end of his career he howled snot and water, how he almost died sitting in the car at the 2006 World Cup from tension and how much he suffers with the Roma.
Other topics: Francesco Totti’s farewell live in the stadium and the memorable evening when he had to serve 113 Kölsch.
Mr Zarrella, the Roma are your big heart club, you even played in the Roma youth yourself, how did it go back then?
Giovanni Zarrella: It all started at an international youth tournament in which I played and which also included the Roma youth. I was practically scouted there. (laughs) My advantage was that the Roma people on site spoke bad English and were happy to have someone with my father with whom they could talk in Italian. In addition, I was left-footed on the one hand, which are still rare today, but that was even more the case back then, and on the other hand I embodied the German characteristics for the Italians. Diligence, perseverance, discipline. I was first invited to a trial training session and I was immediately at Il Tedesco. The German.
Zarrella: “I listen to Roman radio every day”
Zarrella: I got the chance to stay and for us as a family it was a direct hit back then. My dad comes from Rome and was really happy to return to his homeland in Italy. Unfortunately, the time was then relatively short, in the end we weren’t even in Rome for a whole year, also because my grandfather unfortunately passed away during that time. He was the head of the family, that was a big blow to us. In those days football was the straw that saved me because it wasn’t that easy at school either.
But in terms of language it should have been easy for you.
Zarrella: But I was like a foreign body, I didn’t speak very clean Italian at the time either. And writing is another story again. In terms of music, I didn’t have any contacts in Rome either, it was really football that caught me. I took the bus to the training ground alone, my parents allowed me to do that. Today I would have a heart attack as a father, but my parents thought I could do it. So I went there, trained and came back late in the evening. That was great. That’s one of the reasons why I still think back with fondness to the short but wonderful time. I still have the training bag that I got back then. Also a couple of old training shirts, I’ll never give them away. And especially in terms of football, I remember very well how stark the difference was between Germany and Italy in terms of tactics training.
In what way?
Zarrella: When I was there at the beginning of the 90s, the really big time of Serie A was just beginning, it was the heyday of Arrigo Sacchi – and you could see that in every single training session. It was constantly interrupted in order to push a player from A to B again and to explain something tactically. Sometimes I was almost annoyed by it because I was used to playing more, but in retrospect I have to say that this time was extremely valuable. You have rightly seen how automatisms can be implemented much faster and better.
How does this triad express itself in your home?
Zarrella: Our whole everyday life is determined by it. I’ll give you an example: We had breakfast this morning and there was music in the background. This is always the case with us. Then I turned on the Roman radio to find out what was going on with the Roma. I listen to the Roman radio every day. Sometimes my wife can hardly stand it, always Roma, Roma, Roma, she then says, but I need it. (Laughs) So it was about football. Then I signed fan boxes, and then I was back to the music. And now we’re talking about football again. This goes on all day. We are also currently building a small soccer court at home, on which I can play football with my son.
Zarrella: Total. Music and football have so much in common. When I sing and get the applause from the audience, the same feelings of happiness are released in me as with a goal or a great defensive action. With a hot tackle. And just as I love the team feeling in football, clapping in the dressing room, pushing each other, I try to create this team feeling in music as well. I’ve found a team around me where one wheel meshes with the other, similar to a soccer team. And when we release an album, do everything together for success and then land at number one in the charts, it feels like a big title in football to us. The feelings of happiness are very similar.
Who was your great idol when you were young?
Zarrella: As mentioned before, I’m left-footed, so my direct role model has always been Paolo Maldini. Maldini was the ultimate in my position. When I imagine how he stood there, as if painted, as if cast from lead, like Hercules. Maldini was like a young god. Francesco Totti soon joined Maldini as the great symbolic figure of my club. And my first real hero was Roberto Baggio. When he stopped, I cried snot and water. Baggio was the symbol for Italianita. For the character of Italy. He wasn’t a footballer, he was an artist. There has never been a player like this who personified the hope of an entire country like Baggio did back then.