On the evening of 9 July 2006 Fabio Cannavaro lifted the World Cup trophy into the night sky. “We players have had plenty of good fortune in our lives,” the former Italy captain said.
“Now it’s time to give something back.”
Fabio Cannavaro: Very good. I quit playing a good while ago and have been acquiring all the requisite coaching and sporting director qualifications over the last few years. Right now I’m coaching in Dubai but who knows what the future might bring? However, I’m definitely very happy with the position I’m currently in.
You’ve not entirely given up playing in fact…
I frequently get together with former greats of the game for fund-raising matches and what they call Exhibition Games. I particularly enjoy playing for a good cause.
We all had plenty of good fortune in our lives and played football for big clubs. With our professional playing days over, the time has come to lend a helping hand to others and give something of our good fortune back. I always hope to see plenty of fans at the benefit games donating money to good causes.
There were two things. On the one hand, the long years as a pro took their toll physically. Once you reach a certain age you’re always feeling pain somewhere in your body. In my case an old knee injury flared up and gave me horrendous problems. On the other hand, my decision was prompted by a lack of motivation. An unmotivated sportsman can make a real fool of himself, and that would be a shame after a successful career.
On the first day I didn’t miss football in the slightest. Very shortly afterwards I started to travel. I spent two years as an ambassador for Al Ahli of Dubai. I travelled around Asia a lot and acquired my qualifications in the meantime. The role of coach and sporting director really suits me now. I sense the drive to put my ideas into practice.
Definitely. I’m Italian and the privilege of working in my home country would fill me with pride. However, the opportunity to work in a variety of countries, learning new cultures and footballing mentalities, is also very valuable.
No, it’s impossible! It could even be that I feel it even more strongly now than I did at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. Now, eight years later, I’m properly conscious of what this World Cup triumph has made out of a group of ordinary players – namely legends. It’s the reason we’re invited to appear in fund-raising matches all over the world nowadays.
It’s only changed for the simple reason that we became heroes in people’s eyes. We wrote footballing history. On a personal level I’ve stayed the same, and my life is exactly the same as before. Those who know me well can confirm that.
You’re representing an entire nation and you’re up against the best players in the world. It’s a bit like the Japanese cartoon “Captain Tsubasa” [“Holly e Benji” in Italian].
It involves the crème de la crème. It takes a huge amount of preparation. A player can’t be thinking the World Cup will just take care of itself. He has to make huge sacrifices, not only physically, but also mentally.
The World Cup pushes you to the limit. The pressure is enormous. Many players only get one shot at the World Cup in their whole lives. I was lucky enough to contest four World Cups.
When the talk turns to Brazil, you talk about football. Obviously, the news emanating from the host nation at the moment isn’t all positive. We keep hearing they’re late with completing the stadiums for example. But at the end of the day it’ll be a fantastic World Cup. We’re all going to enjoy it a lot.
Italy are a strong team and Cesare Prandelli is a very good coach. I hope the lads can bring home the trophy. You always have a smile on your face. That’s the way I am. It’s my nature. I
always try and keep things in perspective. There are lots of people out there suffering serious and real problems. You have to try and find the strength to work your way out of trouble even at the most difficult times. As long as I have this strength, I’ll always smile. You celebrated your 40th birthday last autumn.
(laughs) My mother says I grew up very early actually. I’m setting myself new targets now. I’d like to take on the job of head coach, for example. I learned from the best coaches in the world. I want to pass on my expertise.
I think I’m ready.