In an age where transfer stories dominate the headlines as big money moves rule all in the European soccer landscape, it’s almost seemingly too easy to lose sight of footballers as people above all.
Yet recently, the story of a humble, 28-year-old Serie A midfielder has served as a reminder that the lives of the men that grace top flight pitches extend far beyond the touchlines. Just over one week ago, Livorno’s Andrea Luci revealed that his six-year-old son had been diagnosed with Stone Man Syndrome, an incredibly rare disease that causes the body to replace fibrous tissues with solid bone.
The response from the community surrounding the career journeyman, a youth product of Juventus, was instant as it was supportive in a poignant moment that brought humanity back to a stage that is often riddled with rumor, speculation and controversy. Roma defender Nicolas Burdisso immediately reached out to the Amaranto skipper, able to relate to his fellow player after indefinitely suspending his career in 2004 as his daughter fought acute leukaemia.
The Argentine penned an open letter in a public demonstration of support, providing encouragement to Luci and advising him to carry on with as much strength as possible.
Beyond Burdisso’s compassionate words of experience, Livorno’s supporters were quick to offer assistance to the club captain, establishing a charity fund to raise money to be put towards researching the uncommon condition, which affects one in two million children. In slightly over one week, the Amaranto fans have been able to come up with €15,138 to put forward, a sum worth far more in symbolism to a man that has turned his focus away from sport and to his family.
Luci and his son will continue to fight on and despite the support received, trying moments are certainly ahead for the Italian.
However, the difficulty that his family has been plunged into has shone the humanity of the game – a reminder that players have dreams, hopes, fears and tragedies of their own.
And with the critical, hyperbolic and overwhelming systemic structure of sport and how it is presented to the public, a moment of contemplation and of real compassion from rivals on the pitch and supporters alike has come forward to demonstrate that what truly comes first, and that the capacity to pull together is still there underneath the turbulence of the sporting environment.