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Marco Materazzi: A Bandieria Among Bandierie

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Materazzi loves inter

After 10 years, 276 appearances, 20 goals, 5 Scudetti, 4 Coppe Italia, 4 Suppercoppe, a Champions League winners medal, and Club World Cup, Marco Materazzi has left F.C. Internazionale Milano. And I, for one, am going to miss him. (beware, this one gets a little gushy)

I think I have been pretty clear that Marco Materazzi is a specail favorite of mine. In point of fact, he is my first Inter love. That is, he is the first Inter player that I connected with on an emotional level. Or, the first that I went completely fangirl for. My first Inter jersey is a #23 and I even have his autobiography, "Una Vita da Guerriero." Basically, he turned me from an interested fan to a flat out Interista. And you never forget your first.

materazzi goal celebration
Marco's goal celebration left no doubt as to who had done what.

Matrix has done a lot with Inter these last 10 years but, strange as it may seem, he had a life before the Nerazzurri. He was born in the South, in Lecce, where his father played midfield for the Lecce football team. Football runs in his family. Anyway, he grew up following his father from club to club. He says in his book that it wasn't an easy life, always moving from town to town, but it made his family unit strong. It also made him appreciate how lucky he was to find Inter and have such a steady job and a club he could be proud of.

marco-materazzi-perugia
Matrix's first upper division club was Perugia.

When it was time for Matrix to make his own way in the world of Calcio, he spent his youth in the lower divisions, largely in Sicily. His first step on the road that would lead to Inter was when he was 20 while playing for Marsala in the lower divisions. There, coach Andrea Baiata finally recognized his true potential and played him as a central defender. It took Marco a five years to really grow into this position and it wasn't until his 2000/1 season with Perugia that people began to notice him. And when I say people, I mean Inter.

Everton materazzi
His only time outside of Italy was a season in Liverpool playing at Everton.

Marco was coming off a record-breaking year with Perugia, scoring 12 goals in all competitions, when Inter secured his services for about 10 million euro (which was a lot back then). He made 32 appearances for Inter that season, scoring two goals in the process. He also made his National Team debut, coming off the bench to play the last 30 minutes of a 2-1 win over Georgia in a Euro Qualifying match. Marco Materazzi was on his way.

Materazzi bloody
Bloody-faced in an Inter jersey, an enduring image of Materazzi.

It was the start of a love affair for the Interisti while the rest of the calcio world were not so endeared. Let's be clear, Matrix has a bit of a bad reputation. And rightfully so. I like to think of him as clumsy but I think the evidence may say otherwise. He got into quite a bit of trouble in 2004 when he punched Bruno Cirillo in the tunnel after the Inter-Siena game. I wont go into it, Matrix apologized and served his two-month ban, but it shows that whatever reputation he has was at least in some part earned. He says that this was a turning point for him in his attitude both on and off the pitch. I dont condone violence in any setting, but I do applaud Marco's passion for the game and for the shirt. It is that self same passion that saw him play 15 minutes against Werder Bremen with a broken cheekbone, and the bad reputation that awarded him a yellow for simulation in the play where it was broken. He may have been an enforcer of sorts, but he was our enforcer. And even with his bad rep, he was only sent off seven times in his entire career (Nico Burdisso also has 7 to date, Mexes has 12).

As he says in his book, Marco is a defender by calling and by choice, but one with a taste for goals. He has scored quite a few in his many years, some of them real beauties. One of my personal favorites was the header in the 3-4 win over Milan in 2006. That one got me on my feet screaming (and the kiss to Figo's boot was a nice touch as well). His personal favorite was the bicycle kick against Messina in that same year.

Really, the 2006/7 campaign was the best of his career. It began with the amazing World Cup win in the summer of 2006 where he scored a goal in the final and was, shall we say, instrumental in bringing that trophy home for Italy. That season saw Matrix score 13 goals in all competitions, 10 in the Serie A alone, including two in the scudetto winning game against Siena. It was a record-braking Serie A campaign for Inter as well. We only conceded 34 goals that season, only losing one game and accumulating 97 points. Without a doubt, Marco was instrumental in that break-out season, the first of many for a resurgent Inter. Unfortunately, he suffered a devastating injury in August of 2007, one that could very easily have ended his career. He battled back from it but, in my opinion, he was never the same again.

marco etoo celebrate
Even from the bench Marco was important to the team.

As Marco's pitch career wound down, his influence behind the scenes and in the locker room became more important. He helped to bring in Eto'o and Sneijder to Inter and Mourinho said he was too important for his locker room and was unsellable. He tried to help Balotelli and keep him in Milan, but when Mario disrespected the shirt Marco dedicated his life to, it was too much and I think that was the final straw between Inter and Balotelli. Marco continued to be a team (and fan) favorite, though, and a quick look through any highlight video show half the team come to celebrate with Matrix after a goal. For the last couple years, he made it his mission to help the younger players on the team and build the sort of esprit de corp that brings a team to within striking distance of a scudetto after starting the midwinter break at mid table.

No matter his faults on or off the pitch, there is no denying his love or loyalty to the Nerazzurri. He bleeds for this team and when he does, he bleeds black and blue. He will take his place among the Inter legends, and, I hope, a place in the front office. Marco, ti amo.

Now and forever, Tutti Pazzi Per Materazzi

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