Former Italy striker Stefano Borgonovo died on Thursday, at the age of 49, due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, as known as “motor neurone disease”), a severe and mystifying illness, which he had battled bravely for five years.
Born in the city of Guissano in Lombardy, Borgonovo debuted in Italy’s top flight on 14 March 1982 in a Como jersey in a match against Ascoli. His hour of glory came in the 1988/89 season with Fiorentina (14 goals in 30 games) and, in particular, the following year with AC Milan, who won the European Champions Cup and Intercontinental Cup.
His debut in an Italy strip came on 22 February 1989 against Denmark. Within a month, Borgonovo had played three times for the Squadra Azzurra, but they were to be the only full caps of his career. In 1990, he suffered a serious knee injury and never fully recovered. He finally hung up his boots in 1996 and then coached Como’s youth teams for five years.
On 5 September 2008, Borgonovo announced he was suffering from the degenerative disease. Although he could only communicate through a voice synthesiser, he never stopped fighting and launched the Stefano Borgonovo Foundation, a non-profit organisation. His aim was to mobilise the great football family, who organised various events to raise funds for research into ALS.
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter sent a letter to the family on Friday 28 June, paying tribute to a “great man of football and a great champion of life”. Borgonovo will be buried next Monday at 2:30pm in his native Giussano, where he lived. “He was, and will continue to be, an example to us for the tenacity and composure with which he fought his disease (…), and he will continue to be a symbol of strength and dignity,” wrote the FIFA President, offering his condolences to Borgonovo’s relatives for the “loss of a man who combined both human and sporting values”.