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  • Writer's pictureSimon Basten

Luigi Vettraino

In July 1932, the Lazio manager Karl Strumer organised a draft for the under 14s.

Source Centro Studi Nove Gennaio Millenovecento

This was something unheard of at the time in Italy. The Microbes, as they were called, kids born in 1920 and 1921, trained twice a week, had tactical and behavioural lessons, and started playing and winning around Italy. They became so famous that they were invited to play on June 11, 1933 in Vienna for a game against Wacker. The match was played before a 45,000 crowd, gathered to watch the national Wunderteam play against Romania. It was a 40-minute game.


The Microbes managed to draw the game and with a bit of luck might have even won it. The tiny little Biancocelesti against the much bigger Austrian youngsters left the stadium to an enthusiastic crowd. For the Italian media it was a triumph and when the kids arrived in Rome they were overwhelmed by fans, relatives and the entire Lazio first team.


Among the players in Vienna, there was the smallest of them all, only 1.34 metres and nicknamed Squirrel. His name was Luigi Vettraino.


Vettraino was born on September 21, 1920 in Rome and the story that has just been described is how he started playing for Lazio. At 18 he was part of the team that was invited to play in Germany in the Easter of 1938. The scores of the three friendlies were: Neustadt-Lazio 1-4, Berlin Representatives-Lazio 0-5, Mannheim-Lazio 1-6. In this game Vettraino scored a hat trick.


His debut in Serie A took place on October 9 of that year and he played six times that season. He became a first team player the next season and was Silvio Piola’s ideal attacking partner. Vettraino was still small, 1.60 metres, but he was fast, imaginative, good dribbler, powerful and acrobatic. Despite becoming famous he never gave up his day job, a doorman for Immobiliare, a real estate company.


Unfortunately in 1941 he got a very bad infection and had to stop playing. It took him a long while to get back on the pitch and he did so in the local War Tournaments with Fulvio Bernardini’s team Mater. Once the conflict was over he returned to Lazio but he never played. His physique was not the same as it was, the illness had had devastating effects. He played in some Rome teams but de facto his career was over at just 26.


Once he stopped he continued to be in the Lazio orbit and was part of the travelling management staff for the youth teams in the 1980s.


He played 64 games in Serie A for Lazio with 14 goals and 8 times in Coppa Italia with 4 goals.


He died in Rome on July 25, 1998.


He was probably one of the greatest players Lazio has ever had and would have reached incredible heights if he had not been so unlucky.


Lazio Career

Season

Total appearances (goals)

Serie A

Coppa Italia

1938-39

14 (1)

13 (1)

1

1939-40

30 (8)

27 (7)

3 (1)

1940-41

25 (8)

23 (6)

2 (2)

1941-42

3 (1)

1

2 (1)

Total

72 (18)

64 (14)

8 (4)

Sources



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