With the fight against doping all too prevalent in news stories over the past few weeks, the words of former Italy international and European Cup winner Stefano Borgonovo may strike a chord, particularly with young footballers.
In his autobiography Attacante nato (Born Striker), Borgonovo recounts a powerful incident between himself and a heroin addict while playing for Como when he was just 18 years of age.
“The man without a name had a lot to say to me,” he recalled. “It was like listening to a sermon: 'Never become what I am. Life is for living, not for throwing away. Don’t throw life away like my generation is doing. Look at me and don’t forget that I ought to serve as an example for you.'
“There was now no stopping him: 'Once you get into this tunnel, you’ll never get out again. Think carefully of that before making a mistake like this. Anyone using this stuff comes to a nasty end.' He left me speechless. He had become someone who wanted to teach me something.
“He was wanting to say one last thing to make sure that I had understood: 'Promise me that you’ll never become like me.' A week later, his photograph was in the newspaper – in the obituaries section. I have kept my word. I have never been on drugs. Never.”
Borgonovo is suffering from ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Syndrome), a rare disease which kills nerve cells in the spinal cord and the brain. At present, his body is completely paralysed. The only thing he can move are his eyes which he uses to control a computer, yet despite his condition, he showed immense courage to not only pen his autobiography, but to be the face of the fight against ALS.
The Stefano Borgonovo Foundation was established in 2008 and FIFA have supported it by sponsoring the youth tournament held in his name, commissioning translations of Attacante nato in English and German and also studying the relationship between ALS and sport, to provide the basis for further epidemiological studies.
*To learn more about the Stefano Borgonovo Foundation, please click on the relevant link which can be found on the right hand side.