«I am from Ponte San Giovanni, born and raised along the Tiber. This river has meant- and still means- a lot for me».
My phone rings.
«Good morning, it’s Serse Cosmi. Can we have our interview right now, as I am busy later?».
«All right, give me five minutes».
I admit that I still had not turned on the computer and I was half sleepy, but I immediately woke up.
Rarely someone called me to anticipate an interview and not to cancel it: not Serse Cormi, he is one’s word! I did not confess it (now he will read it here), but I was at the the Curi stadium when he was coaching Perugia. Chatting with him was fun, there was more than a laugh. Despite having toured Italy to train many teams – from Pontevecchio to the Maremma, from Perugia to Genoa, up to Udinese, Brescia, Livorno, Palermo, to name a few – he is genuinely from Perugia, as he says, «a perugino from Ponte San Giovanni».
What is your link with Umbria?
The Umbrians are tied in a deep way to their land and their roots: having a profession that makes me trael around Italy, I feel a lot of this link. When you’re out, you appreciate even more where you were born and your home town. For me it is, and remains, a very strong bond.
Do you still consider yourself “the Man of the river”, a man from Ponte San Giovanni?
Absolutely yes. I am from Ponte San Giovanni (n.d.r. suburb of Perugia) and here there is a big difference: when I was a child, there were the inhabitants of the Perugia’s downtown and those of the “bridges”. I claim loudly to be from Ponte San Giovanni and to have being born near the Tiber, a river to which I have been linked since childhood.
What did the Tiber represent for you?
My generation is perhaps the last one who had a bath in the Tiber: I learned to swim in its waters, I played there and of course, I went to dance at the “Lido Tevere”. I spent my childhood near the river, growing up by seeing it flowing, is something that you carry in forever.
Today there is a plenty of coaches who didn’t work their way up the ladder, starting from junior teams as you did: what do you think, is a change of our time or the rush to have someone famous as a coach?
Both of them Who has been a great footballer has already had great privileges in that trade, but I do not consider it right, because if he undertakes another profession – that of coaching – he should before gain a lot of experience so as he did to achieve the highest levels as a player. Let me explain: who has played with Juventus, Inter or Milan has made its own path, starting from the minor series until playing to that high level. The same thing should apply to a coach, considering that it is another job. But if the profession of the coach is considered as an extension of the career of player, then I shut up! Obviously a great player can also become a great coach…
But not even the opposite is not to be taken for granted: a great player will not necessarily become a great coach…
Yes, indeed. I always remember a phrase by Arrigo Sacchi: “It’s not that to be a good jockey you must have been a horse”.
Gaucci, Zamparini, Preziosi… you met some real mastiffs: during these years do you think that the relationship between coaches and presidents has changed?
Times have definitely changed. The presidents are now more than managers, the passionate aspect has diminished – even if their managerial role has always been there. Many roles have changed in football, and that of presidents has also changed: today they are dealing with very different aspects compared to 20-30 years ago. They openly confront the coaches and talk to them about football as if they were doing the same job, but it is not interchangeable. Gaucci, for example, was one of the least intrusive presidents who I worked with. He was more a supporter so as his reactions, but I never had the feeling that he pushed me – even in a veiled way – to make me play one player in place of another. If it happened, it was so good that I never saw it! (Laughs).
Is there a player who you have a special relationship with?
There are many, but I was more tied to those of early career with whom I had shared many human and sporting moments. I think of the guys from Pontevecchio, from Arezzo and those of early years in Perugia. Then I also met other players that I often stay in touch with, but the most direct relationship I have maintained, is with those with whom I started.
Which player would you have wished to train but you never did?
Francesco Totti. He is a player who has always intrigued me.
Are you nostalgic for Perugia? Have you ever thought of coming back to train this team or is it an era that ended by now?
Not nostalgic. We are nostalgic for something that can never be verified again. As long as I do this job there could always be an opportunity to return to the bench of Perugia, the fact is that – during there 30 years as a coach – I have never went back to a society where I have already been.
Maybe for Perugia it would be possible…
Let’s say it’s one of the few teams I would do it for.
Is there an episode of your career which you remember with more affection?
The phone call from Luciano Gaucci in the locker room after our victory at the San Siro’s stadium against Milan: it was before Christmas and before his birthday. That episode will remain indelible for me because I had the perception of how much he cared about the team, the players and how much when he was involved humanely. At that time he was not a president, but a fan who had realized that his team had achieved an exceptional goal: it was the first time in its history that the Perugia team had won at San Siro.
If you did not worked as a coach what job would you have done, the DJ?
Actually I’m a DJ who is a coach as a hobby! I am a teacher of physical activity, I had a gym for 10 years so I thought that I would remain in the field of sport. Even though, at the age of 60, I sometimes think about reinventing myself and doing another job. For me, music is a hobby and it remains so, “soccer” started as a hobby, but then it became a job.
Tell us something about you that your fans do not know…
When I won the championship with the Pontevecchio and I obtained the “D series”. My father was a founder of the company and the team had never arrived at playing in that category. I drived all night, thinking about my childhood and many other things. It was the most exciting thing since I have coached.
And a secret not related to the soccer world?
I would like to work at the theater, meet people and discover everything about it. It is a world that has always appealed to me a lot.
Do you do superstitious gestures?
When I was training amateurs I used to change my underwear for every game, I never wore the same. Or after winning a game I always did the same path.
Do you have an anecdote related to Perugia, when you were only a fan?
With the Perugia club of Ponte San Giovanni I went to watch a match in Foggia: halfway we were really in a bad condition, because of beers and various drinks. Fortunately, thanks to the long journey by bus, we recovered and we arrived at the stadium in a dignified way.
How do you consider the Umbrian soccer schools, how should they be strengthened?
When I will stop being a coach, my dream is to create or do something in the soccer field. Surely it will not be called soccer school, but youth sector. In my opinion, one of the worst aspect in this field, is the fact of having matched the word school with the word soccer: the school has a value and it is a place where there are teachers who train the boys, while in the soccer, the real problem are those who teach because they show soccer in a misrepresented way or at least in a different way from my point of view. This is the reason why my dream is to create a youth sector where you do not pay, where talent emerges and where soccer can be a real social value. A place open to everyone, where talent is rewarded, but also where everyone can play.
How would you describe Umbria in three words?
Tough- about the attitude of people – authentic, distant.
The first thing that comes to your mind thinking of this region…