Conte's home pride
When Antonio Conte burst into the penalty area to score Juventus
FC's opening goal in their 3-0 defeat of US Lecce on 3 February,
no one would have been surprised if the 32-year-old Italian
international had indulged in an extravagant celebration.
|Captain since Peruzzi's departure,
Antonio Conte has scored many decisive goals through the
After all, it was his first goal of the season and one that
signalled a splendid comeback from a difficult period marked
by injuries and dressing room tensions. Conte, however, hardly
moved a muscle as his team-mates jumped on his back to congratulate
Conte, you see, is Lecce-born and proud of it. Out of respect
for his home town, his own people, and for the club where
he started his professional career back in the summer of 1985,
Conte contained his celebrations. "I was born in Lecce
and I am proud of that," said the player after the game.
"I started my career in Lecce, it's my home town and
I didn't want to offend anyone."
Fierce southern pride, grit and determination have been the
hallmarks of Conte's successful career. Where others make
the most of traditional Mediterranean virtues, such as close
control, native intuition and sheer elegance, Conte's trademark
has been his fearless midfield battling qualities.
Less flamboyant than many of the famous names he has performed
alongside, Conte is nonetheless the sort of rugged player
coaches tend to use when the chips are down. And with good
reason, has he won 20 caps, playing in both the 1994 FIFA
World Cup(against Spain in the last eight and Italy's semi-final
victory over Bulgaria) and EURO 2000 in the Low Countries.
Mention of that last tournament highlights another aspect
of Conte's career, namely injuries. His combative style means
that he tends to stick his leg in where others might decide
discretion is the better part of valour. Conte's last game
for Italy came in their EURO 2000 quarter-final meeting
with Romania when he had to limp off following a crude tackle
by Romanian legend Gheorghe Hagi.
Conte marked his presence
in the Azzurri lineup with a fine bycicle kick in the
match against Turkey during Euro2000.
He has spent much time on the injured list since then, first
recovering from Hagi's tackle and then from knee surgery last
summer. Conte's combative style has also tended to get him
into trouble off the field.
As team captain, his clashes with Juventus coach Marcello
Lippi probably played an element in Lippi's surprise resignation
from the club in February 1999. More recently, following Lippi's
return to the Delle Alpi stadium last summer, Conte and the
coach appear to have put their differences behind them.
Conte underlined this when saying recently: "Lippi took
a very positive attitude to me during my recovery period,
you could even say he helped motivate me. Everything is OK
between us, we've sorted out all our previous problems and
misunderstandings and things could not be better."
|With the presence of veterans
Conte and Ferrara, Juve have picked up the pace after
a slow start to the season.
With Juventus chasing honours on three fronts Serie
A, the UEFA Champions League and the Italian Cup Lippi
knew only too well that sooner or later he would need Conte.
Remarkably, however, Conte's return, beginning wth a brief
appearance in the second half of the 1-1 draw with Milan AC
in early December, has coincided with a tremendous run that
has taken La Vecchia Signora to second place in Serie A, one
point behind leaders AS Roma, as well as to the final of the
Draw in Rome
Consistent starter Conte started six Serie A games in succession,
all of which were wins, ahead of Sunday's game against AS
Roma at the Olimpico stadium on Sunday night - a 0-0 draw
in which he replaced Alessandro del Piero at half-time.
World Cup dream
Whatever happens between now and the end of the current campaign
with Juventus, Conte has another objective in mind. "Now
that I'm back to my best, I want to be able to prove on the
field that I'm useful not just to Lippi but also to Italy
and to coach [Giovanni] Trapattoni," he said. "It's
my dream to play in this summer's World Cup finals."
Given his current form, Conte is entitled to keep on dreaming.
This article is entitled from "Conte's home pride",
taken from UEFA
Magazine. The images are not original.