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  • Writer's pictureSimon Basten

Arcadio Spinozzi

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

Arcadio Spinozzi played for Lazio from 1980 to 1986.


Source Wikipedia

I used to play football once. I was pretty terrible (Dag was the phenomenon) but I did my best and my speciality was being the ruthless defender. It was difficult to get past me because I stopped everybody, in one way or another. I was often accused of being worse than Spinozzi. The accusation was theoretically an insult, but for me it was the best possible compliment.


Arcadio Spinozzi is certainly a legend, maybe not so much as quality was concerned, but because he epitomises that ruthless Italian man-to-man marking player. And he sure did it well.


Spinozzi was born in Mosciano Sant’Angelo near Teramo on October 3, 1953. He began his career in the youth teams of Sambenedettese and debuted in 1971-72 in Serie C. He then went on to play for Angolana in Serie D in the 1972-73. After a difficult personal period which lasted three years, he came back in the 1975-76 season and had a couple of successful years in Serie B before his debut with Verona in Serie A, on October 23 1977, against Genoa.


He was a very promising defender and many clubs had set eyes on him including Inter who looked as if they would be his new destination at the end of the 1978-79 season after Verona were relegated. Instead he signed for Bologna where he stayed a year before arriving in Rome to play for Lazio in the summer of 1980


He was unlucky. Spinozzi’s time with the Biancoclesti coincided with the worst decade in Lazio's history. Three days after his arrival, Lazio were relegated to Serie B for the Totonero scandal.


His first year at Lazio however started well. The Biancocelesti had one of the best teams in Serie B and were favourites for promotion. But there were problems. Internal battles between Luciano Moggi, at the time General Director, and Antonio Sbardella, former referee who had been one the most important figures at the club in the 1970s. All this created havoc at club level. There was no money, the players were not being paid, but the people managing the club used the media to put all the blame on the players when things were not going well. The psychological pressure of having to perform despite the chaos at managerial level took its toll and the team started to collapse. They managed a comeback towards the end of the season, but a missed penalty by Stefano Chiodi in the last home match against Vicenza meant that Lazio had to stay another year in Serie B. Spinozzi himself played quite a lot that season but it was a huge disappointment.


In the end it took Lazio three years to get back to Serie A thanks to the fact that, due to a two year amnesty following Italy's 1982 World Cup triumph, Bruno Giordano and Lionello Manfredonia were allowed back to play after having been suspended for the Totonero scandal. Spinozzi played less than usual due to injuries and a difficult relationship with manager Roberto Clagluna.


The return of Giorgio Chinaglia who bought the club in 1983, then gave renewed hope for the future. After a very difficult first year where Lazio avoided relegation in the last match, things precipitated with the arrival of a new manager, Juan Carlos Lorenzo, after a few games of the following season.


Lorenzo had been Lazio manager when Chinaglia joined and he was very fond of him. However, Lorenzo was past his prime as far as managerial style was concerned. His third stint with Lazio was almost farcical. In his book, in collaboration with journalist Stefano Greco, Spinozzi lists a number of his “exploits”. Daniele Filisetti was forced to lose 5 kilos in a week because Lorenzo wanted him to be of the same weight as Trevor Francis who he had to mark in the next game. Filisetti fainted after the end of the first half. He was very superstitious to the point of insanity. He got the players to train running after chickens. Once he told Giordano that when there was a free kick, he was supposed to go to the men in the wall and insult them. The plan was to get them agitated so that the wall would open and increase the chances of scoring. He also ordered Giordano to never shoot from outside the box again. There were many more. Spinozzi had the habit of keeping a diary so the book was an extensive list of the crazy things Lorenzo did. As a consequence Lazio were relegated despite having a squad with Micheal Laudrup, Bruno Giordano, Lionello Manfredonia, Joao Batista and Vincenzo D’Amico. Spinozzi hardly played at all that year despite having been a regular in the previous season. Problems with the manager and injuries limited his games to only 9.


The next season was also pretty disastrous. Never in contention for promotion, the team suffered from the chaos in the club. Chinaglia was forced to back down as President and the new owner, Franco Chimenti, could not sustain the financial commitment alone. In the end, Lazio, on the verge of bankruptcy, changed hands and the Calleri Brothers, Giorgio and Gian Marco, together with entrepreneur Renato Bocchi, took over the club. Lazio managed to avoid a shock relegation also thanks to Spinozzi.


Spina's injuries continued and he could not give a valid contribution. At the end of his contract he left and signed for Reggina in Serie C1 were he played his last professional year. At Lazio he played 36 games in Serie A, 73 in Serie B and 9 in Coppa Italia with one goal.


He became a manager and coached the Udinese primavera team from 1992 to 1995. He also worked for Juventus as a talent scout. In 1999 he was assistant to Vujadin Boskov at Perugia and even had an experience in Ghana.


Among the many things that have happened to Spinozzi in his life two things stand out more than others.


On April 15, 1978, the entire Verona team was forced to travel via train to Rome for the game against Roma after their flight had been cancelled due to bad weather. They were all in the first carriage, but had moved to the centre of the train for lunch. That saved their lives. There was a ravine, the train derailed and a few seconds later a second train crashed into it. There were 42 dead and 72 injured people. The restaurant car was one of the ones that suffered less damage so Spinozzi and the Verona team managed to escape the disaster. Just because they had booked the first lunch shift.


The second event was comically tragic. On the eve of the first derby when Lazio returned to Serie A, an anonymous letter arrived at the press agency Ansa implying a direct involvement of Spinozzi in the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi.


Emanuela Orlandi was a 15-year-old girl who disappeared on June 22 1983. She was the daughter of a Vatican City employee. She has never been found. There have been constant rumours over the years of the involvement of secret services, international terrorist groups, links to the attempted murder of Pope John Paul II, organised crime. Nobody knows what happened to her.


“Why don’t you interrogate the Lazio football player Spinozzi? He knew Emanuela, he gave her to us and supplied the first hideout”. This anonymous note was sent from Bari. It was obviously a hoax, but there were three more notes sent in the next three weeks. This fact created enormous pressure on the player but also on the team, the families and the club. Why? What was the point? And who sent the notes?


Whoever sent the notes had a deep knowledge of Lazio since in the successive letters two minor figures of the club were mentioned. At the time there was no internet so info came mainly via the media and if you were not mentioned in the papers there was no way you’d be known. Unless you had previously worked for Lazio.


In recent years Spinozzi has fought big battles against the football system, denouncing Gea World, the group that up to 2013 acted as agent for many players. Gea is managed by Luciano Moggi’s son, Alessandro. Moggi father was general Director of Juventus from 1994 to 2006, until the Calciopoli refereeing scandal exploded. Calciopoli was a vast refereeing lobby scandal. Spinozzi, who had never had a good relationship with Moggi right from his time at Lazio, accused Gea of criminal conspiracy but in the end nothing happened because the crimes ended up being statute barred.


Spinozzi has written two books. His first “Le facce del Pallone” denounced what was happening in Italian football at the time, years before the Calciopoli scandal erupted. The second “Vite da Lazio” on his Lazio experience. The book is at times comical and at times tragically sad for a supporter like me who was only a kid in the 80s and had no idea of what was happening behind the scenes.


The Lazio fans will always be very fond of Spinozzi and they have shown their affection many times over the years.


Lazio Career

Season

Total appearances (goals)

Serie A

Serie B

Coppa Italia

1980-81

35 (1)

-

31

4 (1)

1981-82

29

-

29

-

1982-83

14

-

14

-

1983-84

32

27

-

5

1984-85

9

9

-

-

1985-86

13

-

13

-

Total

132 (1)

36

87

9 (1)

Sources


Arcadio Spinozzi & Stefano Greco. Una vita da Lazio. Ultra Spot 2012

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