ERASMO IACOVONE: The heart and soul of Taranto
“Now Roma too!
They say Gustavo Giagnoni, the Giallorossi coach, is also interested in me.
After selling Pierino Prati to Fiorentina, it seems he is not happy with his two strikers, Musiello and Casaroli.
A few weeks ago it was Fiorentina themselves who apparently asked President Fico about me.
In November they said they both tried to take me away from here.
All very flattering.
But no one has yet asked me what I think!
I am like a king in Taranto.
I travelled up and down Italy before arriving here.
In Trieste I even thought of quitting.
Playing in Serie C doesn’t make you rich and if you’re a centre forward and in 13 games you don’t score once… well, some negative thoughts come to mind!
Then at Carpi everything changed.
Not just because I scored so many goals and because we won promotion from Serie D to Serie C, but because in Carpi, amidst the wonderful people there, I found the love of my life.
Paola, the most beautiful of all the beautiful Emilian women.
She will give me a son in a few months.
My son will be born here, in Taranto.
And perhaps he will grow up there.
In the midst of people who have loved me from the first moment, despite all the money spent on my tag.
I have never felt mistrust around me.
The hope of a city that is growing, that is giving bread and work to its children and that loves football viscerally, without football ever giving it much back.
This year, however, we are dreaming!
We players and all the people of Taranto who fill our little Salinella every Sunday.
It looks like a British stadium, all wood and tungsten.
We are playing for promotion to Serie A.
Apart from Ascoli, who really seem to be in another category, with Catanzaro, Avellino, Monza, Ternana and Palermo it will be a battle to the end.
I’m having the time of my life playing football.
The team is strong, very strong.
We are close-knit, we are a ‘group’ as the coaches say.
We love each other.
By my side I have two genuine phenomena.
Franco Selvaggi and Graziano Gori.
I’m not as good as them with my feet.
In fact, every now and then the ball escapes me and my teammates make fun of me, saying that I can’t even stop a sack of cement …
But with their passes and especially their crosses they make me look good too!
I’m not a giant with my 174 centimetres but I manage to jump easily.
I arrived in Taranto last season, from Mantova, in the November market.
I scored eight goals in just over half a season.
All by headers.
They say I look like Savoldi, the Bologna “bomber”.
All I know is that it would be really wonderful to go to Serie A with Taranto.
Of course, to do that we would need a bit more luck than we had today!
With Cremonese here at Salinella the ball just didn’t want to go in!
Ginulfi parried everything.
It’s a good thing they said he was old and that he wasn’t the one of the Roma days!
And when he didn’t get there, the goal posts took care of it.
We caught three today, two myself and one Franco.
That’s how it went.
Let’s look ahead.
Of course 1978 could really become an unforgettable year!
At the end of the summer my first child will arrive and maybe a few months before that, promotion to Serie A will also arrive!”
Erasmo Iacovone will not achieve promotion to Serie A with Taranto.
Erasmo Iacovone won’t play any more matches with Taranto.
Erasmo Iacovone will never play a football match again.
… Erasmo Iacovone will never even see his daughter born.
It’s the 5th of February 1978.
His team-mates at the end of an unfortunate performance against Cremonese insist that ‘Iaco-gol’ (as he was called by all the people of Taranto) join them to spend the evening together at ‘Masseria’, a well-known restaurant in the area.
Erasmo doesn’t feel like it.
He does not like going out.
He is a very quiet person ‘all football field and home’, as his friend and teammate Adriano Capra would define him.
In an interview a few weeks earlier, Erasmo will confess that his hobby is cooking for him and his wife Paola.
Paola is not in Taranto that Sunday.
She is back at her parents’, in Carpi.
She has a check-up visit.
She is pregnant with their first child.
Like every evening they talk on the phone.
Perhaps it is Paola who convinces him to go out, to distract himself a little and to spend an evening in company without constantly thinking about football, about games won or lost, goals scored or failed…
Eventually Erasmo is convinced.
He leaves the house.
He climbs into his very humble Citroen Dyane 6 and hits the road to join his companions at the restaurant.
He is still angry about what had happened on the pitch a few hours earlier.
Ginulfi, the Cremonese goalkeeper and Roma’s historic number ‘1’ from a few years earlier, parried everything for him and the few times he didn’t get there, the goalposts denied the Taranto bomber a goal.
A draw and a point lost in the race for promotion.
After dinner, Gori and his companions told him that there would also be a little cabaret show.
After all, a few laughs could be just the right panacea for his mood … to forget the near goals and especially the distance from his beloved Paola.
He spends the evening with his companions.
Once the show is over, the group of ‘bachelors’ in the team would like to ‘dawn’ elsewhere, but despite his companions’ insistence, Erasmo decides to go home.
Alone, as he had arrived.
It is the early hours of the morning.
Erasmus leaves the restaurant and climbs back into his Dyane.
He drives the few tens of metres along the inner road leading to the “Masseria” to get onto the state road to return to Taranto.
At that moment, a car arrived.
It is being driven by Marcello Friuli, a local criminal.
The police are on his tail after Friuli has forced a roadblock in his stolen Alfa 2000 GT.
He is travelling at crazy speed.
The police will say it was close to 200 km per hour.
But above all it is with headlights off.
Erasmo cannot see him.
His Dyane is hit head-on by the Friuli car.
Erasmo is thrown from the cockpit.
He dies instantly.
His body is found several dozen metres from the car.
Taranto will wake up a few hours later without its idol, its emblem … its hope.
A wife, with a baby in her lap, will wake up without her man.
The town is stunned.
No one can understand what has happened.
Not now … not here … not now that our dreams, thanks to that humble, good and brave number 9 were finally taking shape …
The shape of this boy from a small village in Molise who, after wandering around Italy, had found his paradise in Puglia, bringing his love with him from Emilia.
Erasmo, who played with his heart in his hand and who seemed to have hidden thrusters in the soles of his boots that made him jump like a kangaroo to head balls that seemed unreachable … even for those much taller than him.
There is so much anger at this absurd death.
There are many who cannot accept it.
One of these is the Taranto goalkeeper, Zelico Petrovic, a close friend of Erasmo’s, who is barely restrained when he rushes to the hospital where Fico was hospitalised, even breaking a glass with his fist in an attempt to get at the thug’s neck.
The president, Giovanni Fico, is devastated.
His beloved Taranto was fighting for something never even dreamt of before.
Erasmo embodied this dream more than any other.
For him, Fico had ‘broken the piggy bank’ by spending more than 400 million, an incredible sum for those times and for a player who had never played in Serie A.
It was his idea, just two days after Erasmo’s death, to name the stadium after him.
Taranto and its people had stopped dreaming since that cursed winter night.
Promotion to Serie A, so close until that terrible 5 February, soon became a chimera.
Only one victory in the last 12 matches will sanction, more than any comment, how fundamental Erasmo Iacovone was for this team.
Taranto football is still stuck on that day.
Since then, a lot of Serie C with a few brief excursions in the higher category and even the shame of the national amateur championship.
Series A, however, was never spoken of again.
Nor was it dreamt of.
In Taranto, however, everyone knows the story of that Taranto and Erasmo Iacovone.
Even the children.
Handed down from generation to generation, as it used to be.
For some years now there has also been something tangible to help the memory of ‘Iaco-gol’:
A statue dedicated to him, placed at the entrance to the hottest corner of the Taranto fans.
It is placed on a pedestal.
High … so that everyone can see it.
High up … like when Erasmo would soar into the sky towards the ball to send it with one of his proverbial frames into the back of the net …
Rest in peace ‘Iaco’.
For an entire city and for the many who loved you, your memory will never die.
Taken from http://www.urbone.eu/obchod/storie-maledette
I was able to write this memory of poor Erasmo thanks to the support, backing and kindness of two people: Adriano Capra, his teammate at Taranto, and above all Mrs Paola Raisi, Erasmo’s widow. Thank you very much and I hope I have paid the right tribute to this excellent footballer and wonderful human being.