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As a youngster growing up here in the United States, every time the Eurosport catalog arrived in the mail was like the new wave of cars hitting the lot. It was before internet was fast enough where streaming games became routine, so access to watching games for yours truly wasn’t nearly what it is like these days.
Each section of the catalog had different pictures of players. Seeing as it was the early 2000s, it was a world filled with David Beckham, Thierry Henry and the likes. But, being Italian and being a goalkeeper in high school, I didn’t necessarily care much for them.
It was Gigi Buffon that drew me in as I looked over the latest lot of keeper equipment. It was right after he signed with Juventus from Parma for what is still a world-record fee for a goalkeeper. Buffon ... Juventus ... amazing goalkeeper ... what else could a 14-year-old kid want in a club to start getting interested in, right?
From there, I was hooked.
Some folks have grown up in Juventus families that go back generations. Some fans have rooted for their favorite team in Turin because it came natural. For me, it was because of one player in a equipment catalog. It all started with a picture of Buffon next to a bunch of goalkeeper gloves and jerseys I had no chance of buying. He was decked out in a pink and black Juventus keeper kit like you see to the right, with those same brand of Puma gloves that he wears now.
Like many people, Buffon was the goalkeeper I wanted to be. I bought the Puma gloves that I probably couldn’t afford because that’s what Buffon wore. I slicked my hair back because that’s what Buffon did. He was the guy to model your game after. Like so many young goalkeepers in Italy talk about these days, he was the guy to look up to and try to emulate.
But the more I learned about Buffon, the more I learned about the club he still plays for as he’s approaching his 40th birthday.
You learn about the history. You learn about the trophies and the players who have become those who are currently wearing the fabled black and white stripes. You learn about how the club came about — and this was long before Juventus Stadium wasn’t even a thought and Alessandro Del Piero was sitting with Giampiero Boniperti on the little park bench telling us about Juve’s origins on opening night of Turin’s new footballing fortress.
Juventus isn’t about just one player or one season. We can point to the 35 Scudetti and smile. We can point to the 12 Coppa Italia titles and smile. We can point to the Ballon d’Or winners, the legends that graced the Delle Apli or the Stadio Olimpico and smile. Even when somebody leaves via transfer, what is it that we always seem to say? “Nobody is as big as the club itself.”
Obviously the last six years have been fantastic when it comes to winning. And there would probably only be a couple of things I’d want to see changed — you know, like a certain result against Barcelona in Berlin around this time two years — from over the entire six-year run. But what has been most important has been the Juventus spirit, that wonderful grinta, being re-instilled. Antonio Conte started it, Max Allegri has continued it. No matter who has played, no matter what formation is being used, Juventus and its grinta returned when the 2010-11 season started and it hasn’t left.
That’s what I love about Juventus. It starts with the passion, and there’s nobody better than showing how they feel on the field than Buffon.
What started with a picture of Gigi Buffon in a catalog is now a full-blown obsession with Juventus. The early wake-up calls some weekends sure do suck, but when it’s for a club that you love, it’s worth it — most of the time. But no matter what, no matter how Juventus does if I’m awake as the sun is rising here in California, it’s for the club I love. I’m a fan of Juve, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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