The story of the Brazilian champion’s arrival in Italy and the thousands of controversies associated with him
Udine looked like Hollywood. At 18.53 on Sunday 31 July 1983 Arthur Antunes Coimbra known as Zico appeared in all his glory, waving to the crowd from a 1924 blue Torpedo with Taranto 2748 license plate. There were eight thousand of them in the streets of the city; five thousand delirious in Piazza XX Settembre alone, where waiting for him was a white carriage with a pair of horses in black cloaks. At 19.24 Zico was – literally – crowned, with a crown of flowers on his head, thanked him in Portuguese and said – in less halting Italian than it was possible to imagine – that “I too feel a bit Friulian”. It was love at first sight. A man took the stage, took hold of the microphone and asked the crowd if he agreed that the square – dedicated to the Friulian bersaglieri who had entered Rome in 1870 through the Breccia di Porta Pia – was named after the Brazilian champion. The roar was so loud that the horses, runaway, began to kick without peace, certain of the apocalypse that would soon arrive. And indeed the apocalypse came, but to the rhythm of samba.