Fallen star

Posted on 16/11/2010


Selecting 50 club legends was always going to be a tricky affair for Juventus, but, as Antonio Labbate writes, the inclusion of one particular player has caused some uproar

Of the 50 stars that will adorn the new home of Juventus from next season, one is destined to not shine as brightly as the rest. For no matter what Zbigniew Boniek did as a player for the Old Lady in that all-conquering side of the 1980s, today he’s widely perceived as a legend non grata in Turin.

Boniek himself knows as much. Fearing more than a frosty reception from the Olimpico crowd, he opted against joining a select group of former greats in being presented to the home support ahead of the game against Cesena recently. Not that it mattered, they still heckled him as stadium monitors streamed a selection of his finest strikes.

The Accendi Una Stella – light up a star – initiative was a concept conceived by the club, effectively creating a Hall of Fame that would then be transported into the outfit’s new state of the art stadium. The idea being that the arena would be split into 50 different sections, each one dedicated to a past great.

After drawing up an initial shortlist of 100 names, the club wisely gave the fans the final say. Perhaps unwisely, they only allowed those with subscriptions to online membership schemes to vote – thus restricting it to a very small fraction of the 12 million followers that the outfit reputedly have in Italy alone.

As expected, the final 50 raised a few eyebrows. Some asked where the likes of Luisito Monti, Roberto Boninsegna, Edgar Davids and Paulo Sousa were, others questioned the inclusions of Alessio Tacchinardi and Moreno Torricelli. But it was Boniek’s ascent into the Bianconero galaxy of superstars which caused the biggest furore.

Boniek joined Juventus in the summer of 1982 after leading Poland to the World Cup semi-finals, although La Vecchia Signora had already secured his services for the new campaign as soon as April of that year.

He would serve the side well and become dear to Gianni Agnelli, the club patron who regularly awoke him with 6am phone calls after baptising him as Il Bello di Notte – beauty of the night – for his exploits in European games.

His contribution on the pitch was thus arguably worthy of gold star recognition, but it was his later behaviour towards the same outfit – a club which allowed him to win the honours he perhaps never would have – which make him such an unpopular figure amongst those who once cheered instead of jeered.

Boniek hasn’t been shy in his criticism of his former club down the years. Whether fuelled by his past as a Roma player or betrayed by the need to have an opinion on Italy’s wide variety of football talk shows, he has angered, sometimes incensed, people with his anti-Juventus theories. It’s that conduct which has led to some reservations over his selection.

Leading the protest is the Italia Bianconera group. They’ve attacked Boniek for what they term as scarce gratitude, simultaneously asking the club to withdraw the star from Zibi and re-assign it to Alessio Neri and Riccardo Ferramosca, the two youngsters who tragically died at the club’s Vinovo training ground in December 2006.

There have been similar calls for Andrea Fortunato to take over the star, the promising young left-back who was signed from Genoa in 1993 and who sadly lost his life less than two years later in his battle with leukaemia.

The Italia Bianconera society is not alone in raising concerns over Boniek’s inclusion. Various online petitions are gathering more and more virtual signatures, while elements of the Curva have already made moves in an effort to have the Pole overthrown.

Juventus, for their part, have their hands tied. The votes came in and they were counted. The only man who can appease the fans now is Boniek himself, but only if his ego allows him. While Juve can do nothing, Boniek could, in theory at least, hand the star back and ask for it to be transferred to someone else. It would be an act of courage, a gesture which would see him be respected as a man as much as he was as a player.

The 50 Juventus legends: Anastasi, Baggio, Benetti, Bettega, Bigatto, Boniek, Boniperti, Borel, Brio, Buffon, Cabrini, Caligaris, Camoranesi, Capello, Causio, Charles, Combi, Conte, Cuccureddu, Del Piero, Del Sol, Deschamps, Di Livio, Ferrara, Furino, Gentile, Hansen, Montero, Nedved, Orsi, Parola, Peruzzi, Pessotto, Platini, Rava, Ravanelli, Rosetta, Rossi, Salvadore, Scirea, Sentimenti IV, Sivori, Tacchinardi, Tacconi, Tardelli, Torricelli, Trezeguet, Vialli, Zidane, Zoff.

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