June 13, 2021

Roberto Baggio, eternal star of Italy

It is the story of a childhood dream that became the nightmare of one of the greatest players in Italian football. Letizia Lamartire’s film, The Divine Codino. L’art du but par Roberto Baggio, broadcast on the video-on-demand platform Netflix, looks back on the career of the famous transalpine number 10, from his debut at Vincenza in the 1980s until his improbable return to Brescia in the early 2000s. Ideal to prepare for Italy’s return to an international competition, five years after its participation in Euro 2016 in France (elimination in the quarter-finals against Germany, 1-1, 6-5 after tab) .

The hagiographic film opens with a kid imagining a winning penalty kick in a World Cup final. A dream that could have come true in 1994, during the World Cup in the United States. In the final, the Squadra Azzura, led by Franco Baresi, coached by Arrigo Sacchi, face the Brazil of Romario and Bebeto. A boring match, which ended with a sad 0-0 in extra time.

The shootout session then opens. Baggio, star of the team, has the fate of Italy at the end of his shoes. The sequel is known: the 1993 Ballon d’Or misses and sends the ball into the air. A trauma that will always haunt him.

If this finale is the highlight of the film, Lamartire paints the portrait of a simple man (played by Andrea Arcangeli and whose resemblance to Baggio is striking), passionate and withdrawn, who never ceases to doubt: of him, of his talent, his physical form (a rupture of the cruciate ligaments almost got the better of his career), the love of his gruff and unfair father, but also of his coaches, except for Carlo Mazzone. The coach of Brescia will organize, in fact, his strategy around “Roby”, making him come back to the fore, while all observers put him on retirement.

Baggio will find some of his answers and will be able to rebuild himself, physically and mentally, thanks to Buddhism, which he converted to when he was at Fiorentina (from 1985 to 1990), still recovering from his first injury, which will have him several months away from the land.

Still very popular

Throughout the ninety-two minutes of the film, which is the duration of a football match with stoppages in play, Baggio appears to be close to people, a thousand leagues from current players. He is still very popular in Italy, where no one blames him for having played for rival teams who hate each other (Fiorentina, Juventus, AC Milan, Bologna, Inter Milan, Brescia).

In addition to rediscovering a champion (a “champion”, in Italian), the interest of the film lies in its precise reconstruction of a bygone era. That of a past greatness, where Italy dominated world football, when Arrigo Sacchi revolutionized strategy, abandoning the traditional catenaccio (the defensive “lock”) for a more collective, fast and offensive game.

At the end of XXe century, football was still human, not fully financialized, even if we can see the beginnings here, with the already huge sums of transfers from the player to the funny mat (pigtail, in Italy).

On the other hand, the film fails by a certain slowness and a rather flat realization. Likewise, the story plays too much on ellipses, blithely skipping essential passages in the player’s career, such as his selection for the World Cup in 1998 or his time in the biggest Italian clubs. With as result the impression of having a tale with holes.

The Divine Codino plays the nostalgic string, with a lot of music from the time and with particular attention to detail, be it fashion, cars and especially outfits. Diadora, the equipment supplier of the 1994 Italian team, was not mistaken: on the occasion of the film’s release, the Italian company has just reissued its line from the American World Cup, using Baggio as a sandwich man. It ranges from shoes to tracksuits, jerseys and even socks. Almost everything was out of stock in just a day.

The Divine Codino. L’art du but par Roberto Baggio, by Letizia Lamartire, Italy, 92 min, available on Netflix.