Every so often, when scouring the internet looking for inspiration on a new piece to write about, you come across a story or player that just screams WRITE ABOUT ME!
Such a turn of events happened to me just the other day, as I scrolled through a fan blog for Fiorenzuola Calcio (as you do). Sieving through snippets on the latest goings on in the club, I came across a very short piece on a former player called Andrea Talignani.
Even though the piece consisted of only 107 words, what really drew me in was an image of an old newspaper headline. The headline was simple and short, but powerful in its meaning. It read “Talignani, il Maradona dei poveri,” (Talignani, the Maradona of the poor). Usually, anyone who draws comparison to Maradona must be treated with a level of scepticism, as players rarely live up to the man himself. However, another small newspaper headline beside it reading “Talignani, the terror of goalkeepers,” suggested the first one was not just some form of hyperbole on the journalist’s behalf.
Shifting down through one or two more pictures of Talignani, a series of stats came into view. They were stats from the career of the man himself, a career that spanned from 1979 to 1997. The clubs he played for are inconsequential to all but the nerdiest of calcio followers. As for the level, it never rose higher than the old Serie D. Nevertheless, the stats remained mesmerising. In 432 career games Talignani scored 301 goals. His lowest goals tally in a season was 12 (12 in 22 during the 1991/92 season and 12 in 20 during 93/94’), whilst his highest was 29 (29 in 30 during the 1980/81 and 29 in 29 during 82/83’).
With this prolific goal-scoring record in mind, it was now easy to see why he was dubbed the Maradona of the poor. The man was simply the fuoriclasse of the amateur leagues, a non-league star!
With this base knowledge in tow, I set forth confident of finding more out about the man who averaged 1.43 goals a game in his career. My confidence, however, was misplaced as immediately I stumbled upon an issue; there are two football players by the name of Andrea Talignani. Funnily enough, the other Talignani, a 26-year-old defender, happens to play his football at a similar level to our Andrea and to make matters worse, they both play(ed) in the same part of the country. In truth, it was an obstacle I should have foreseen, having attempted on numerous occasions to sign the younger Talignani in my Football Manager adventures across the lower leagues of Italy (he i a decent left back by the way).
Needless to say, Google is chock full of information on our younger friend but on the more mature Talignani, not so much. Maybe I am just not skilled enough, but try as I did; no new information on Andrea came to light. This left me with a predicament, how to write a biopic piece on a player when I can find little to no information to go on. Then in a massive stroke of luck, I stumbled across a short video on the Gazzetta Di Parma website, titled “Taglinani: I gol del bomber di provincial.”
Thanks to the 77-second-long clip – with no audio and visual quality that would make you cry – the legend that was Andrea Talignani had finally become more than just stats on a page. The video revealed a man who possessed a rocket of a left foot and a forward equally adept at scoring the poachers goals as thunderous free-kicks from range. It was easy to see in this small highlight reel how Talignani had earned such a devastating reputation among the amateur leagues.
Sadly, this video would prove the high point of my research into the career of Andrea and as such, it left me wondering whether a piece on him would be worth writing. In the end, though, I decided that no matter how short the article, it was a story I wanted to tell. I fell in love with calcio not just because of the glitz and glamour of Serie A, but also because of the thousands of fascinating, little-known, tales that intersperse all levels across the peninsula.
And there are few stories more fascinating than a man who scored goals for fun and earned the title il Maradona dei poveri.
Words by Kevin Nolan: @Kevin Nolan