Aston Villa want the Thor lookalike to work at the youth academy. Here's why...
Simone Farina’s career had been one of an above-average player who made a decision that has him into an extraordinary person that had nothing to do with footballing talent.
It was at the tail-end of last year and the then 29-year-old defender was earning a decent salary of 90,000 euros at Serie B side Gubbio. While he had long given up hope of playing at a higher level Farina knew that he still had the good fortune to be a professional footballer so he refused to sell his soul to the devil when he came calling.
The call from the dark side came from an old team-mate from his time with the AS Roma youth side Alessandro Zamperini, who according to Farina when he gave his statement to Cremona prosecutor Roberto Di Martino who was heading up the investigation into an ever-developing match-fixing scandal, offered him a sum of 200,000 euros to help throw a match.
That match was an Italian Cup tie between Gubbio and Cesena where there would be little coverage in the media, certainly no television replays to expose a tumble in the area, a slip by a defender, in short no one to think anything was untoward.
People with money were interested in the outcome of a match that few even in Italy would have taken a second glance at the score but if Farina could have a word with a couple of other influential team-mates and ensure Gubbio lost by a wide margin then everyone would be “taken care of”.
So, this was the norm and not the exception: fellow professionals were throwing matches to line their own pockets
According to Farina, the conversation which lasted for some time and had started out innocently enough with a discussion on the type of car he was driving and how life away from the pitch as he approached his 30th birthday in the lower tier of the Italian game was going, turned to extending a helping hand to not only to the player but to Gubbio if they found themselves in relegation trouble come the end of the season.
So, this was the norm and not the exception: fellow professionals were throwing matches to line their own pockets – and as the silence at the other end of the line went on and on after the offer was made Farina knew there and then his life would never be the same again.
That mobster pause may have got to a lesser man or a player bitter that the treasure-trove that the likes of the top Serie A stars possessed would always be out of reach even though he never had the talent to get anywhere near it in the first place, but when Farina put the phone down there was only one outcome.
Di Martino had what he was desperately seeking: an angel to rise above the dirt that was dragging Italian football into the abyss and in turn football had a role model-hero who may have lacked the top-level talent but more than made up for it with guts to stand up to the bad guys.
In fact, Farina certainly has the look of a super-hero; long, blond flowing locks and an imposing physique although more in the Fabio Cannavaro mould than the true beanpole in the centre of defence.
Having started his career with his home-town club it was then the story of the journeyman footballer travelling around the byways of the lower reaches of the C and B leagues until that fateful call when Farina demonstrated he was ready for the big-time of a different kind.
Sepp Blatter made him a Football of Hope ambassador, there was a medal of recognition from INTERPOL and Italy coach Cesare Prandelli handed him a “call-up” to the national squad
UEFA president, Sepp Blatter made him a Football of Hope ambassador, there was a medal of recognition from INTERPOL and Italy coach Cesare Prandelli handed him a “call-up” to the national squad for a day’s training ahead of Euro 2012 after he exposed the wrongdoers.
However, the shadow of the scandal passed across that moment when on the same day he was set to train with Italy, Domenico Criscitio was questioned at the Azzurri training camp where Farina was to arrive a few hours later.
Since then a number of high-profile names have paid the price for not speaking out including Juventus coach Antonio Conte who has been banned for 10 months.
The reaction that Aston Villa have apparently offered Farina a role working with their youth players rather than compete for a starting role in the first team has been met with regret in Italy - only in the sense that a genuine inspirational figure will not be guiding future generations on the right path at home.
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