Nazionale treasure, Rossoblù royal

  • Angelo Schiavio scored the goal that won Italy their first World Cup

  • He inspired Bologna’s halcyon days

  • Schiavio passed away 30 years ago today

Monti or Schiavio?

The shot-caller agonised over that La Gazzetta dello Sport headline over espresso in the early 1930s. “It was the toughest decision I ever had to make,” Vittorrio Pozzo recalled.

Italy boasted two players the esteemed sportspaper championed as “the best in the world in their position.” The issue was that one loathed the other like Iago loathed Othello.

Monti, a stretcher manufacturer’s darling, and Schiavio first clashed in 1929, when Bologna played San Lorenzo on their South American tour. Fist-fights between them became commonplace once the former joined Juventus in 1931. Infamously, with Bologna winning what was effectively a Scudetto showdown in 1932, Monti barbarously stamped on his prostate rival’s knee.

Juve rallied against ten men, and won that game and the championship. Schiavio labelled Monti a “criminal” – a ghastly offence in Italian at that time.

“It should have been an easy decision,” explained Pozzo. “Half my squad was from Juventus, including my captain, and we had several Argentinians. Not picking Monti would have upset too many players.

“Besides, Monti had played in the World Cup and there was no player like him, whereas we had so many great forwards. But Schiavio was simply too good to ignore.”

So, after overlooking ‘Anzlein’ for Italy’s final three matches before the FIFA World Cup™, the man who served as an Alpini lieutenant in World War I decided to settle this personal war with military strategy. If the other 20 players summoned to the Western Alps for a pre-tournament training camp were shocked to see Schiavio there, they were dumbfounded to hear Pozzo announce he would be sharing a room for the next two months with Monti!

It took until the fourth night for Monti and Schiavio to even exchange a word. Gradually, however, bloodthirsty thoughts subsided and they entered the tournament cordial with one another.

‘The Old Master’ had pulled off a masterstroke. It reaped immediate rewards. In La Nazionale’s first outing, indeed, Monti was involved in the moves for two of Schiavo’s goals as he became the first European to score a World Cup hat-trick.

A more consequential goal was to follow. Czechoslovakia monopolised the last nine minutes of normal time and the early minutes of extra-time. Meazza and Schiavio, battered and exhausted, looked like they had done 15 rounds with Italy’s world heavyweight boxing king Primo Carnera.

Somehow, however, they fused to give Italy a world title in another sport, with Schiavio pirouetting around Josef Ctyroky and firing the ball into the bottom corner of Frantisek Planicka’s net.

What would Italy’s glorious, four-star story look like had the Bolognese not scored that goal? Moreover, what would Schiavio’s story look like had it not been for a chance opportunity?

Angiolino, as he was affectionately known during his childhood, grew up snatching every opportunity to kick a ball around. When he was 12, however, the sudden death of his father forced him into employment in the family clothing business.

He started at silly o’clock. It was dusk by the time he got home. He simply had no opportunity to embrace calcio.

Two years later, the business arranged a football match against a local factory. A 14-year-old would have never been considered to play in an adults’ match, but when his older brothers Raffaele and Marcello both took ill, Angelo was summoned as a makeshift option.

The skinny kid wowed the factory’s captain, who duly opined to Raffaele that his little brother had the potential to make it as a footballer. Raffaele, then heading the family business, therefore relaxed Angelo’s hours, enabling him to indulge his passion.

Schiavio effortlessly zig-zagged past opponents, the ball seemingly glued to his boot. He was quick, tough. He boasted a rare capacity to get shots off that half-second before others, catching goalkeepers off guard, and he was the emperor of improvisation.

It didn’t take Bologna long to notice. Schiavio joined them as a 16-year-old in 1922 and spent his entire, 16-season career there – despite the best efforts of Italy’s titans. Juventus relentlessly courted Schiavio. Inter Milan went to greater lengths.

“Shortly after we won the World Cup, Peppino Meazza turned up at the office in Bologna and invited me for dinner,” explained Schiavio. “He told me the Ambrosiana-Inter president wanted me at all costs.

“The next day the president rang me and said, ‘I know you have three stores in Bologna. Calculate their area in square metres and I will give you a store of their combined size in the gallery in Milan.

“I politely told him, ‘Here in Bologna I work with my family and I play for my club. Money can’t compete with that.’”

Schiavio loved his city. He loved his club. He represented it for very little money – a luxury the successful family business afforded him – and shunned financial bonuses and gifts his team-mates received for winning trophies.

And there were plenty. Four Scudetti, two Mitropa Cups – the first made Bologna the first Italian team to win a continental crown after Genoa, Inter Milan and Juventus had all fallen short – and the 1937 International Tournament Expo, a sizeably-hyped, eight-team event in which the Emilia-Romagna outfit thumped Chelsea 4-1 in the final.

There’s indubitably no doubt about Schiavio’s most prestigious trophy, though. The hands he and Monti had used to swing haymakers at each other were now parading football’s biggest prize.

When Monti passed away, aged 82, in 1983, his family were touched to receive a telegram from Bologna.

Angelo Schiavio was more than just a remarkable footballer.

Did You Know?

  • Angelo wanted to become an accountant before he left school.

  • Schiavio loved fashion. He embraced leather jackets and flat caps in his youth, and sported Guccio Gucci and later Brioni suits. After retiring from football, he helped run his family’s clothing business in a chic district of Bologna.

  • Schiavio was the only member of Italy’s 1934 World Cup-winning squad not to receive congratulations from prime minister Benito Mussolini two days after the Final. He elected to return to Bologna for a business meeting.

  • ‘Anzlein’ registered 249 goals in 361 Bologna appearances, comfortably a club record.

Quotes

“Of all the Italian players I have seen, he was the one who most impressed me. He had a magical intuition, could get to balls that others couldn’t get to, was so brave, an excellent dribbler, had a fierce shot. I will always cherish playing alongside him.” Giuseppe Meazza

“Do not compare me to Angelo Schiavio. I am not fit to shine his shoes.” Giacomo Bulgarelli, one of Italy’s greatest-ever midfielders

“Schiavio was a puzzle nobody could work out. His dribbling, improvisation, snap-shots, ability to link up with team-mates and change positions… there wasn’t anybody like him.” Ettore Berra, former footballer and journalist

“A magnificent player. A scorer of such beautiful goals.” Hugo Meisl, the coach of Austria’s ‘Wunderteam’