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Atalanta, an antidote to the horror of the pandemic


The team from the city of Bergamo, crushed by covid-19, will face Real Madrid in the middle of a divorce with their captain, Papu Gómez

Very few would have been able to place Bergamo on the map of Europe at the beginning of last year.

But that image with a line of Italian army trucks parked on the avenue of the cemetery on March 18 went around the world.

The 70 convoys were transporting 700 coffins that the crematorium could no longer handle.

A few days ago, Atalanta, the local team, had crushed Valencia in their Champions League round of 16 in what for many was the origin of a great outbreak in the Spanish city.

The game should have been canceled when the bells were already tolling for death in every church in the province, but nobody knew yet that they lived under the volcano of the pandemic.

Atalanta, the team that will meet Real Madrid in the round of 16 just a year later, is today the antidote to that memory.

The world was collapsing, but things in the country were going very well at that time.

Gian Piero Gasperini, a master of the benches and somewhat complicated in personal treatment, had transformed a small team from a rich province four years earlier into a total calcium machine.

A kind of Lombard Liverpool that drowns its rivals with pressure all over the field and speed.

He qualified for the Champions League and was the top scorer in Serie A. Today he is not afraid of anyone.

Last weekend he strangled Juve on his court.

But in the beginning, when Gasperini arrived from Genoa five years ago, things did not turn out quite well.

The first season had one foot out.

Then he freed himself, bet on young people and leaned on a small Argentine who had been about to sign for Atlético and had made a living in the Metalist of Ukraine since 2013. The war had just exploded in the former Soviet republic and Papu Gómez, a footballer grown up a footballer who had already played for Catania de Simeone, panicked and looked for a way out for himself and his family.

The Atalanta put four million on the table and took the first plane to return to Italy.

Papu is a normal guy, but a different footballer.

Gasperini got the best of him.

He gave him the 10 to move freely on the field and made him the captain.

Ready, quick, dribbler.

Most of the game goes through him.

The symbol of Atalanta (eighth in Serie A), a club chaired and managed by hand by former players (businessman Antonio Percassi was the central club).

But also from a small city 40 kilometers from Milan, a jewel of the Renaissance and economic engine of the region, where he is perfectly integrated and already has three children who speak with the local accent.

He lives in the center and until two weeks ago he was just another Bergamasco.

The other day, before starting the game against Juventus, he skated.

The cameras caught him humming the opposing team's anthem while laughing.

It was the last chapter.

Yesterday he was not called up for the game with Roma, where the team was again a gale and finished 4 to 1.

The divorce was certified on December 12.

There were two minutes to go to the end of the first half and Atalanta drew 0-0 with the Danes from Midtjylland in the penultimate match of the Champions League group.

Gasperini called Papu Gómez, and asked him to go to the right wing.

The Argentine played deaf.

No way.

When the team came out again after the break, Papu was no longer at 11. He had never been changed at a time like this.

He played everything.

The row in the locker room was huge.

Some say they came to blows.

"When I go I will tell the whole truth," he announced before spending the next two games on the bench.

Nobody knows yet what really happened.

But Papu, when at the age of 32 he had managed to return to the Argentine team of Lionel Scaloni, already has half Series A offers. The crisis comes at the worst moment.

Real Madrid and the Lombards will play the pass one year after the start of the pandemic.

The city, still open, will miss Papu if the Christmas spirit fails to fix it.

Source: elparis

All sports articles on 2020-12-21

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