Excitement and applause at Borgonovo tournament

For the fourth year in succession, the Stefano Borgonovo Foundation international youth tournament took place in Giussano near Milan. The field for the tournament, whose supporters include FIFA, comprised Italian teams such as Juventus, Inter Milan and Bergamo-based Atalanta, with Swiss pair Young Boys Bern and Servette Geneva also involved for the first time.

The U-12 tournament was won by Vis Nova, the U-11 event by Atalanta, and the U-10 contest by Inter.

The emotional highlight was an appearance by Stefano Borgonovo. The former Italian striker, who suffers from the incurable condition amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as motor neuron disease, was given a frenetic reception by the 300 players and 5,000 spectators.

When I was little I was just like them – or to be more precise, I was Johann Cruyff, and Giussano churchyard was the stadium of my dreams.
Stefano Borgonovo on the young participants

"The kids are and remain my greatest source of joy," said Borgonovo, who runs the Extra Sport Vis Nova football academy together with his friend and former team-mate Marco Barollo. "Healthy and happy players, dreamers at the right age: so many mirrors, in which I see my own reflection. When I was little I was just like them – or to be more precise, I was Johann Cruyff, and Giussano churchyard was the stadium of my dreams."

On behalf of FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, FIFA representative Bernd Fisa congratulated the Stefano Borgonovo Foundation on the success of the tournament and presented the former player with a commemorative pennant. "Stefano has all my sympathy and my full support," Blatter said last January on meeting the former player’s wife Chantal at the FIFA Ballon D'Or Gala. "Despite his illness, Stefano has never stopped loving football. He is an exceptional person and an example to us all," he added.

Borgonovo revealed the extent of his illness in 2008. At the same time, the father of four launched the Stefano Borgonovo Foundation with the aim of raising funds for ALS research, and published his book Attacante nato ('Born striker'). The extraordinary tale, currently only available in the original Italian, has now been sent for translation into German and English by FIFA as a contribution to the Stefano Borgonovo Foundation.