Before I dive into this article, I’d like to caveat that the below are my thoughts only and do not reflect the thoughts of my other VN colleagues.
For those who don’t know, yesterday the Financial Times published a very in-depth interview/conversation with Fiorentina’s owner, Rocco Commisso. It was a great piece of journalism and it can be found HERE for those who’d like to give it a read.
As the son of an Italian immigrant, I can relate to Mr. Commisso probably a little bit more than a lot of other Fiorentina fans, minus the difference in our bank accounts (mine has a lot less zeroes). My brother and I were raised in a household where education and hard work were preached above everything and else and quitting wasn’t an option. My father demanded the best from us (and still does). If we got a 95 on a test the response was always, “Why didn’t you get a 100?” For some, that’s a bit disheartening but we knew it was always coming from a good place, from a place of love. He didn’t want us to leave High School at age 17 to go and work because someone had to provide for the family, he wanted us to do better than him.
A quote of his always stuck with me and I think it motivates me more than anything else, “I worked with my hands so you can work with the pen.” Obviously, the pen was replaced by the computer but the general sentiment remains. He busted his ass doing jobs that required manual labor so we can get college educations and work in cushy, well-paying, and respected jobs.
I feel you need to know a little bit more about me for you to truly understand my perspective on this topic and if you don’t agree, that’s okay too. We live in a world where it’s rare for people to agree to disagree, it’s always both sides pushing their agendas and not caring about hearing the other side.
The first thing I noticed when I read the article was just how honest and blunt Rocco is about a variety of topics from Italian bureaucracy, to agents, to the club itself. For some people, he comes off as a bit crass, but for me, it’s exactly what we need more of in the world. Too often people in C-Suite positions chose their words carefully and try to please everyone, Rocco doesn’t seem to care about that. He’s a self-made BILLIONAIRE trying to give back to the country that gave him his first love, football. There is one point in the article where he talks about how Fiorentina have only been able to capture two league titles in their illustrious 95-year history. Some fans may be angered that he downplayed the significance of the Artemio Franchi, but he’s 100% right. La Viola have only won two titles and those were over a half-century ago. The stadium needs to be replaced and unless we start to find other revenue streams there is no way we can return to the summit of Italian football.
We are not a big club like Inter or Juve with great history, tradition, or success. Fiorentina has been a team who’s been idling on the edge of something great for decades but just can’t seem to put it all together. To go forward successfully we must first come to terms with our past and present. We aren’t a big team, but with Rocco’s help, we’ve been able to start to attract new players and build infrastructure like Viola Park. He’s laying the foundation while spending all of his hard-earned money in a country where getting your way isn’t the easiest thing to do. All of this while living, working, and operating in a Global Pandemic.
You may not like his methods but Rocco has always been honest and to the point, not one for mincing words. This whole article is a testament to that fact, he will always do and say what he feels because that’s the Italian-American in him. He became successful in America (which has a lot of flaws) but gives immigrants the opportunity to make something of themselves if they work hard and do right by people. He’s earned the right to demand respect from Italian bureaucrats who haven’t worked a real job in their life because he’s been poor and he’s been wealthy. He understands the struggles and successes of coming from nothing and becoming something. All the Italian-Americans I grew up with will always give it to you straight. Whether you want to hear it or not doesn’t matter, but you’ll leave every conversation knowing where you stand with someone.
He was educated at one of the world’s premier institutions in Columbia University and that’s something I feel often gets overlooked. He’s a smart man and is not going to get mistreated by the likes of anyone whether that be player agents or journalists. Everything he does is with the betterment of Fiorentina in mind and I wish that would get more attention. He’s the 352nd richest person in the world, he definitely does not need these headaches. He could buy an island anywhere in the world and be drinking piña coladas, but he chooses to give back to his birth country. He deserves our respect and appreciation.
From one Italian-American to another I’d just like to say thank you to him. Thank you for giving your all to make this club a better one than you found it. I can’t speak for everyone but you will always have my support and I hope to God one day I can shake your hand and say that to your face. Keep fighting Rocco, don’t give up until you get the Stadium and you’ve made Fiorentina one of the top clubs in Italy.