Following the release of Chantal Borgonovo’s book, Una Vita in Gioco (A Life in Play), which discusses her life with former Fiorentina striker Stefano Borgonovo, Roberto Baggio has written an open letter to his friend, first published in Il Venerdi di Republica.
Baggio and Borgonovo spent just a single season together in Florence, finishing as Serie A’s fourth and fifth highest scorers respectively, and leading Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Gigliati to a UEFA Cup finish. Though their time in Florence together was brief, the pair formed a friendship that would endure the test of time. In 2008, Borgonovo was diagnosed with ALS, and attended a testimonial match between Fiorentina and another former club AC Milan with Baggio at his side. As his condition worsened Borgonovo lost the ability to move, and tragically passed in 2013.
Below is Baggio’s letter, translated in full.
Your heavenly journey has long begun, and I hope it is rich, for you, in light and serenity.
So that your valiant struggle may be of help to research, and above all to give support to those who struggle and suffer, your beloved bride Chantal, a great woman, has written a book.
Whilst reading it, I found myself, with a pen in my hands, in a time when a ball united us: a ball that span our dreams, and our futures. The passion I read in your eyes, coupled with your joyous and light-hearted smile, was our way of being united.
What united us was a magical formula, dubbed by the sports papers as “B&B” you and I ran into space, knowing where we would meet for an assist, or a goal. Your space today is called by some Paradise, and by others Eternity, but for me it is your gate to heaven.
We have always been united, are united, and will be united by our sincere friendship.
You are far away now, and yet Chantal and your wonderful children feel you, as well as all those you loved, and who loved you. We are so close that we all hear you!
Strong and powerful to our hearts, comes the memory of the strength and your formidable fight against “the Bitch” as you wanted to call the disease that brought itself to you. ‘The Bitch’ did not known what an adversary she had chosen! ‘The Bitch’ did not imagine she was to mark a true striker, a warrior who up until his last had been able to encourage and support anyone.
My dear friend, you have been able to offer a valiant example of how one can, even if deprived of voice and movement, be until the last a great father and a great husband. When I think of you, there are infinite images that flow past my eyes, so scintillating are the memories that bind us. As you know, I do not really like to talk publicly, and prefer intimacy to expressing my opinions. So I would prefer to keep those images and memories in my heart, to protect them from the wear of time.
So, this is what my letter hopes to be, but a light breath, to bring to you, my dear friend, forever, my deepest respect, and all of my affection.
I love you.