Rome (AP) – Italy mourns a football hero: Former world champion Paolo Rossi died in a hospital in Siena on Thursday evening, a hospital spokeswoman for the German news agency confirmed.
Football clubs, politicians and the media recalled his performance at the 1982 World Cup, when Italy defeated Germany and won the title for the third time, with photos of the cheering striker. Rossi’s wife Federica Cappelletti announced the death of the 64-year-old early on Thursday morning with posts on social media.
“In the summer of 1982, he gave whole generations a dream with his goals”, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wrote on Twitter about the striker on Thursday. “He was the symbol of a national team and an Italy, united and tenacious, capable of defeating opponents of enormous size,” said the prime minister enthusiastically. “Addio campione” – goodbye, champion – Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio wrote on Facebook. He recalled that Italy could beat teams with Rossi such as “Brazil with Zico, Argentina with Maradona, Germany with Rummenigge”.
Rossi, who led Italy to the 1982 World Cup title against Germany, died after a protracted illness, according to media reports. According to Ansa news agency, the ex-footballer had to undergo surgery a few months ago.
Rossi scored a 1-0 win against Germany in the World Cup, scoring a total of six goals in the last three games of the tournament in Spain, becoming the tournament’s best player – and a football legend in his home country. In 1982 he also received the Ballon d’Or, which at the time went to the best football player in Europe.
“Ciao Paolo” wrote the Serie A club Juventus Turin on the internet about a large portrait of Rossi and said goodbye to the star player. Rossi was discovered as a young athlete in the northern Italian city in the 1970s and after several positions there also played in the Italian top class.
Rossi was born in 1956 in Tuscany, in Prato. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was involved in a gambling scandal in Perugia. Rossi was temporarily banned by the Italian federation, but then he was able to show off during his World Cup appearance in 1982.