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  • Writer's pictureSimon Basten

Luciano Re Cecconi

Luciano Re Cecconi was, is, and always will be, Lazio’s blond angel. A fantastic player, tireless, powerful, but also a great footballer. His tragic end left a huge void in the hearts of all Biancoceleste supporters.


Official SS Lazio photo

Re Cecconi was of humble origins. Born in Nerviano, near Milan, on December 1 1948, the “Re” in his surname was due to the fact that King Victor Emmanuel II, after the battle of Magenta in 1859, spent some days at Nerviano and S. Ilario Milanese and allowed residents to take the “Re” to show his appreciation for their loyalty to the crown.

 

Luciano went to school in the morning and worked in the afternoon. Money was short and he needed to contribute. He worked as a shoemaker, greengrocer, and as a mechanic. He was good with cars; he practically rebuilt a Fiat 500 starting from the sole body of the automobile. But his passion was football and he was very good at that too so in 1967 he signed for Pro Patria. He debuted in Serie C on April 14 1968 and in the next season he moved down to Foggia. A big leap for a Northerner, but the manager of the Apulia team, Tommaso Maestrelli, had seen him play and wanted him in his team. He debuted in Serie B on November 30 and the Satanelli were promoted to Serie A. His first game in the top tier came against Milan on October 10 but that year, after a spectacular first half of the season, Foggia collapsed and were relegated. Maestrelli left to join Lazio and Re Cecconi played one more year for Foggia in Serie B.

 

In 1971-72 Lazio were promoted and one of the players Maestrelli wanted to re-enforce the squad with was Re Cecconi. President Umberto Lenzini beat the competition and offered a large sum of money for the player who then joined the team on the right side of the Tiber.

 

The beginning of the 1972-73 season was dismal. The Coppa Italia games, which in those days preceded the start of the Campionato, were just plain awful. Three defeats and one goalless draw. But then things got going. After five games Lazio were joint top with Milan, Roma and Inter. In the seventh, after beating Palermo 2-0, they took the solitary command of Serie A and stayed there until game 10 when they drew 0-0 at Genoa against Sampdoria. One has to remember that the last time Lazio were solitary leaders in the Italian Serie A so late in the league was on January 10, 1937.

 

On Sunday December 17, there was the clash between Milan and Lazio as well as Roma and Inter. Neither of the games finished. The Milan match was suspended due to fog, and the Rome match suspended due to the continuing pitch invasions by angry Roma supporters. The referee had given a penalty to the Neroazzurri in the 90th minute for a foul on Sandro Mazzola that the Roma players claimed was outside the box. After Roberto Boninsegna scored, all hell let loose and Inter were awarded a 2-0 victory. Eventually Lazio lost the replay 3-1 and after a few draws ended the first half of the season in third place together with Inter (who had one game in hand) and one point behind leaders Milan and Juventus.

 

In the first three games of the second half Lazio drew in Milan with Inter, at home to Fiorentina and lost to Juventus. Milan and the Bianconeri now had a four-point lead over the Biancocelesti and Inter. Then Lazio won eight consecutive games with the final victory against leaders Milan. Four games to go, Milan and Lazio had 39 points, Juventus 37. In the next games the Biancocelesti drew against Torino, Juve and the Rossoneri won. Milan 41, Lazio 40, Juventus 39. With three games to go the Biancocelesti drew at Bologna, Milan at Torino and the Bianconeri won in Bergamo. Milan 42, Juventus and Lazio 41. All three of them won the last but one game so the positions stayed the same coming into the last match of the season.

 

The final three games were Verona-Milan, Napoli-Lazio and Roma Juventus. At the end of the first half the results were Verona-Milan 3-1, Roma-Juventus 1-0, Napoli-Lazio still goalless. As a consequence, the table read Milan and Lazio 44, Juventus 43. But everything changed in the second half as Juve overcame the deficit and won while Lazio lost in the final minutes of the game. Juventus won the scudetto.

 

A big blow for the club. Re Cecconi, nicknamed Cecco in Rome, had played really well with 33 appearances and one goal. Lazio’s left side of the field was virtually unbeatable. Luciano and his great friend Gigi Martini were complementary, when one attacked the other one covered and vice versa. Martini and Re Cecconi were inseparable both on and off the field. The Lazio players were split into two groups (clans) with Giorgio Chinaglia and Pino Wilson on one side and the left wing on the other. In the training sessions the two groups were completely separate, but on Sunday they became one and the team played beautifully. 

 

A lot of teams offered large amounts to Lenzini for Re Cecconi, but the President had no intention of selling his blond angel. The team started the 1973-74 season virtually unchanged. Re Cecconi scored in the first match against Vicenza, the start of a triumphant season that gave Lazio their first scudetto.


In campionato, the Biancocelesti started well winning the first two games (Vicenza and Sampdoria) but then lost to Juve away and drew the next three (Fiorentina, Cesena and Inter). With two points per win, they were fifth but only two points behind leaders Napoli and one behind Inter, Juventus and Fiorentina. Then they started to climb up the table. A win at Cagliari, against Roma coming from behind and then a home win against Napoli took them to first place together with Juventus and the Neapolitans. Lazio's win at Verona gave them a solitary lead, two points above Juve, Napoli and Fiorentina, confirmed after the 1-0 against Milan with a Re Cecconi last minute goal.


Lazio won the next game too but were then beaten by Torino at home and Juve caught up. But the joint leadership lasted only a game as a win at Foggia allowed the Biancoclesti to lead again. In the last game of the first part of the season, a 4-0 win against Bologna, gave the Biancocelesti a three-point lead.

The second half of the season started with a win against Vicenza but then the Biancocelesti lost at Genoa against Sampdoria. Juventus were two points behind and the next game was Lazio-Juventus.

The Biancocelesti faced the mother of all games without Re Cecconi injured, replaced by Fausto Inselvini who had arrived in the autumn transfer window, an excellent all-rounder who could basically play anywhere. Lazio crushed the Bianconeri, went ahead 2-0 and could have scored more. Two controversial penalties were awarded to Juventus in the second half, the first one saved by Felice Pulici but not the second. The Biancocelesti reacted, created a massive chance with Long John and then scored their third thanks to a Chinaglia penalty. Lazio top, three points clear of Napoli and four ahead of Juventus. 

The lead remained the same for the next two games (draw in Florence and win over Cesena) and reduced by one when Lazio lost against Inter. The +3 returned after a week thanks to a 2-0 win over Cagliari. The Biancocelesti then beat Roma for the second time, again coming from behind, taking them to a +4 lead.

The next two games were remarkable. In the first, away to Napoli, Lazio fell behind three times and managed to equalise every time thanks to a Chinaglia hat trick. In the second, against Verona at home, at the end of the first half the Biancocelesti were losing 2-1. Lazio had played well, had had numerous chances, but been unlucky. On entering the changing rooms at the interval, Maestrelli refused to open the doors and sent the players back out on the pitch. The crowd could not believe it. Why had they come back on to play so early? There were more than 10 minutes to go until the beginning of the second half. After a few minutes of bewilderment, the fans got it and started to shout Lazio-Lazio. They did that for the entire interval so when Verona came back onto the pitch, they saw the Lazio players already raring to go and the crowd all wound up, it was like walking into a den unarmed against 50,000 lions. In the second half the Biancocelesti ripped them apart and won 4-2.

A goalless draw in Milan allowed Juventus to pull a point back but Lazio then won the next game against Genoa. Three games to go, three-point lead. The Biancocelesti lost to Torino 2-1 but Juventus lost too. Two games to go. If Lazio beat Foggia at home, the scudetto was theirs.

Against Foggia, paralysed by fear, the Biancocelesti possibly played their worst game so far, but won thanks to a Chinaglia penalty. The scudetto was won, the first in the club's 74-year history. The final game at Bologna was basically a friendly and ended 2-2.

Lazio played the most exciting football, had a bunch of wild players who fitted perfectly together, managed by the Maestro.


Official SS Lazio photo

The 1974-75 season was going OK, Lazio were no longer the force to be reckoned with of the previous two years but they did well. At the end of the first half of the season they were second, three points behind Juventus. With six games to the end of the season the Biancocelesti were third together with Roma, two points behind Napoli and four from Juventus. But then came the tragic news: Mastrelli had cancer and not long to live. The team collapsed at home to Torino and lost all focus. They managed to arrive fourth but things were never going to be the same. They were not only losing their manager, but a leader, a father figure to them all. For Cecco it was even worse. Back in his Foggia days Maestrelli often left his twin children with Luciano who used to take them out to the cinema. He was one of the family and the illness was a big blow.

 

Lenzini, following some disastrous advice by new manager Giulio Corsini, in the summer sold Mario Frustalupi, Giancarlo Oddi and Franco Nanni. Corsini lasted just seven games and Maestrelli returned, seemingly cured. But Lazio had been built badly and had trouble all year. With four games to the end of the season Lazio were third from bottom, one point behind Sampdoria and Ascoli. Three teams went down (two points for victory). The Biancocelesti had to play against Torino who were the Serie A leaders. Lazio scored in the second half but an unfortunate own goal with 60 seconds to go gave Torino the equaliser. With three games left, Cagliari were doomed on 15 points, Como had 18, Lazio and Sampdoria 20, Ascoli 21 and Verona 22. This was Chinaglia’s last game for Lazio. On that evening he left to join New York Cosmos. 

 

Lazio lost the next match 4-3 in Florence. So now Como and Lazio were on 20, Ascoli 21, Verona and Sampdoria 22. Lazio needed to beat AC Milan in the last game at home and they did. Not only, they literally destroyed them, scored four goals and they could have scored many more. Como had 20 points, Lazio, Sampdoria and Ascoli 22, Verona 23. Last match at Como. After 15 minutes Lazio were losing 2-0, but they managed to equalise and avoid relegation.

 

In the summer of 1976, Luis Vinicio became the new manager. The team was filled with young hopes from the Primavera team, some of which had debuted the year before: Bruno Giordano, Lionello Manfredonia and Andrea Agostinelli. There were still some of the scudetto old guard with Luciano: Pulici, Wilson, Martini and Renzo Garlaschelli

 

Lazio played their first game against Juventus and lost 3-2 at the Olimpico with a Re Cecconi goal. In the next game they won in Florence and in their next match played Bologna. In the 20th minute Re Cecconi suffered a serious knee injury and had to be substituted. It would be his last game.

 

On December 2 1976 Maesterelli died. Re Cecconi was one of the players holding the casket on the day of his funeral.

 

On January 18, 1977, Re Cecconi was happy. The doctor had told him he would start playing again soon. That evening he went to meet a friend of his with Renzo Rossi and Pietro Ghedin. Pietro Fraticcioli had a perfume shop. As they left Pietro told Cecco and Ghedin that he had to stop by a jeweller to leave a couple of things and if they could accompany him.

 

In that period jewellers had been targeted by the numerous right- and left-wing terrorist groups who robbed these shops to finance the purchase of arms. Fratticioli showed himself to the jeweller outside the shop. Bruno Tabocchini opened and Fratticioli walked in with Ghedin and Re Cecconi.

 

Different version of events

 

There are two versions of what happened: an official one, as depicted by the media and in part by the court sentence, and a real one, as demonstrated by logic and also partly during the court hearing.

 

The media at that time, and some to this day, stated that Re Cecconi, always the joker, told Ghedin that he was going to play a practical joke on Bruno Tabocchini. Once all three were in the jeweller’s shop, Cecco said “hands up, this is a robbery” with his hand in his pocket as if it was concealing a gun. At that point Tabocchini took out his pistol and shot Re Cecconi.

 

The small pamphlet written by Maurizio Martucci, but also statements made by his son Stefano and Gigi Martini who was like a brother to Cecco, indicate a different story.

 

Luciano Re Cecconi was called the “wise one”, he was not a joker. He’d be completely silent with people he met for the first time. And Bruno Tabocchini was not his friend, he was a friend of Pietro Fraticcioli. He would never have made such a practical joke on somebody he did not know. Furthermore, as mentioned in the book, there were quite a number of people in the shop at the moment Re Cecconi was shot: Fratticcioli and the two players, Tabocchini, his wife and nine-year-old son, a butcher friend of the jeweller and his two kids. None of those present ever mentioned Re Cecconi saying that phrase. And Cecco would never have said “hands up, this is a robbery” in front of three children.

 

The truth, as always, is probably simpler. Tabocchini was in quite a state since a year earlier he had been the victim of attempted burglary and shot one of the robbers with his pistol. Later on in the year he heard his wife shouting and, fearing an attempted mugging, fired two shots against a man on a scooter. As mentioned, many jewellers had been robbed in the last 18 months and the category felt like they had been targeted. He opened the shop to someone he knew and in came another two strangers. He felt threatened, reached for his gun, aimed at Ghedin who took his hands out of his jacket, so he moved his aim sideways. And shot Re Cecconi.

 

Cecco arrived at the hospital already dead. None of his teammates had the strength to go and see him so it was Felice Pulici who went for the recognition of the corpse. 

 

I was only little and I can still remember today the shock and horror when the news announced his death. It was towards the end of the TV News and I was about to go to bed. Emilio Fede, the journalist, said that some tragic news had just come in. He could not believe it himself. “The Lazio player Luciano Re Cecconi was fatally shot an hour ago”. Something I have never forgotten. Re Cecconi left a wife and a two-year-old son.

 

Tabocchini was acquitted for acting in self-defence. A controversial decision, Re Cecconi was unarmed, but the defence claimed that Cecco did actually say that phrase and he had his hands in his pockets as if he had a gun. Hence, the jeweller felt his life threatened.

 

Aftermath

 

Nobody has ever forgotten Luciano Re Cecconi. At every match there is a massive flag with his face waved by the Lazio supporters in Curva Nord. 

 

Ghedin never spoke about what happened, never spoke with Cecco’s family, never spoke about what happened with his team mates, never spoke with Gigi Martini.

 

RAI, the state-owned television, in 1983 made a fictional account of what happened to Re Cecconi. It never saw the light of day. The Tabocchini family took Rai to court to try and block the film but lost. Rai shelved it anyway. Only in 2012 were a few shots shown when a programme did a report on Re Cecconi. The footage sees the actors go inside the jewellers and the shooting of Cecco. The script did not show Re Cecconi shout the infamous phrase.

 

Re Cecconi was only 28 when he died. He made 139 appearances with nine goals for Lazio. 

 

He was a blond angel, our blond angel.


Lazio Career

Season

Total games (goals)

Serie A

Coppa Italia

UEFA Cup

1972-73

33 (1)

29 (1)

4

-

1973-74

34 (2)

23 (2)

7

4

1974-75

33 (1)

29 (1)

4

-

1975-76

35 (3)

25 (1)

8 (2)

2

1976-77

4 (2)

3 (1)

1 (1)

-

Total

139 (9)

109 (6)

24 (3)

6

Sources


Maurizio Martucci. Non Scherzo. Re Cecconi 1977, La verità calpestata. Edizioni Eraclea, 2012.

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