Silvio Piola, the anti-star bomber

The man and the footballer, beyond the scoreboard.

Maybe not the best on a technical level, but still the most prolific Italian goalscorer. With 290 goals he is in the top division Silvio PiolaFlag of Lazio, but also of Juventus and Novara in twenty years of absolute greatness, the bomber par excellence of our football. It is a story that begins on September 29, 1913 in the province of Pavia, almost on the border with Piedmont, and ends on October 4, 1996. A portrait of a champion who is the exact opposite of the star.

The life of an athlete, never excesses (unless we want to consider hunting and fishing as such), not a bad word against colleagues or professionals. Healthy rivalry with Meazza. An elegance in his style that ideally collided with an iron will: that of emergence, of the point always and in any case. To assert physical and technical means. To lift trophies and win rankings, to achieve the goals that a privileged fate enabled him to achieve. Silvio Piola, a glory of Italian football who should never be forgotten. Let alone on the day of hypothetical birthday #110.


What do Silvio Berlusconi, Andrij Shevchenko and Silvio Gioacchino Italo Piola have in common? They all made important contributions to Italian football and all three were born on the same day in different years. The future world champion in the Azzurra jersey was born on September 29, 1913 in Robbio. Piola in the Piedmontese dialect it is the tavern, the bar, and this surname denotes humble but very proud origins, rooted in the region. In reality, the family members, both from Vercelli, are fabric traders who are used to traveling around northern Italy for work. And when they move, they all move together.

«Silvio Piola represented the antidote. He didn’t drink, he didn’t smoke, he didn’t date women, he didn’t like appearing in advertising.

John Foot, English historian and author of “Football, 1898-2010. The history of sport that shaped Italy

The Piola family has an attachment to football that will find its greatest expression in the youngest children. Serafino Piola (born 1909, died 2001) is a good footballer limited by vision problems that force him to wear glasses and quickly give up his dreams of glory. But his brother Silvio, who is four years younger, seems to be just as good. Maybe even more than Serafino. Less technical, but more concrete in front of the goal. For the Pro Vercelli is worth putting this young player to the testwho speaks little but has earned respect on the pitch since his first appearance.

Some people half-heartedly whisper that it is recommended. «But who, Silvio? No, come on, he is smart».

His cousin Paolino is already in the squad and his uncle Giuseppe Cavanna is the first team goalkeeper (he won the World Cup in 1934, second to Giampiero Combi). But relatives do not go into the field in his place and the value, if any, will be revealed. In fact, you can see it straight away. At sixteenFebruary 16, 1930, “Il Recommended” makes its debut in Serie A. The game is called Bologna-Pro Vercelli and ends 2-2. The Piedmontese team survived the away game in Emilia unscathed, also thanks to a crucial assist from the boy. President Secondo Ressia remains impressed: “This boy will become the center forward that Vercelli never had». At the beginning of the following season, Uncle Giuseppe goes to Naples, nephew Silvio stays in Piedmont.


It is difficult to say whether it is the irony of fate or whether it is rather fate that leads the way to irony. 1930, year VIII “a fascibus renovatis”. The day is that of the dead. For the Forum Boarium In Vercelli the home team beat Lazio. It ends 3-0 and seventeen-year-old Piola opens the scoring, scoring his first goal in Serie A. The hierarchs of Rome are impressednot so much because of the extent of the defeat, which may well be there, but from the safety of their vehicles an attacker who has not yet reached developmental age. And with Roman (sorry, Lazio) will, the president of the Biancoceleste, Vaccaro, takes steps to bring young Silvio to the capital. Another team was recently born in Rome and the competition must be faced vigorously.

Negotiations begin and a year-long tug of war between the companies begins. In this Italy, Giorgio Vaccaro is a powerful general, but Ressia is also a tough nut to crack. The negotiations were successful in 1934. The new addition debuts on September 30th, one day after his twenty-first birthday. On this first day of the championship, he and the newly crowned world champion Anfilogino Guarisi (of Brazilian origin, known as Filò) destroy the Livorno goal together. It ends 6-1 for Lazio and Piola begins his adventure in Rome with first-class goals and conclusions, even if he switches to the role of midfielder for contingent reasons.

A leap in quality

They were years in which Lazio developed a competitive team for the individual group but also for international competitions. Around the wild grit of him Center forward (that’s what it was called back then) A very respectable advanced quartet has emerged. Riccardi, Busani, Camolese and Costa support him. In the 1936–1937 season, Lazio fought for the Scudetto and won the Platonic winter title, but ultimately finished second to Bologna. Piola wins the top scorer list for the first time And he also made a name for himself beyond the Alps: with eleven goals in six games, he led Lazio to the final of the Central European Cup, a kind of “old” Champions League.

The Roman team’s journey ends in the double final duel with the Hungarians from Ferencváros. But the leap in quality, individually and collectively, has been achieved. They have also been opening for Silvio Piola for several years the doors of the national team and it is inevitable that this is the case. On March 24, 1935, world champion Italy traveled to Vienna. The International Cup, the forerunner of the European Championship, will be played against Austria.

It takes little to understand what the attacker is capable of on his debut in Italy, and for our geographical neighbors it is not a pleasant discovery. 0:2, a brace from Piola and everyone at home. Some celebrate, some don’t. On November 24th of the same year, the national team coached by Vittorio Pozzo also won this trophy. In Milan, Italy and Hungary drew 2-2 in their last game. Lazio’s number nine was not on the pitch that day, but his goals had already paved the way to victory.


At first Pozzo was suspicious of Piola’s character and technical qualities, but now he is convinced of him. Having found a striker who is tall, physically strong and has excellent scoring ability, he can let Meazza play a few meters behind. A move that not everyone immediately understood, but which would be decisive in winning the 1938 World Cup in France. During the French edition, Piola scored a total of five goals and became a global star. Before he, too, limited his range of action over the years to favor Boniperti’s involvement in the attack, he scored a goal with the national team a number of networks that until this moment no one can say that he has scored: 30 out of 34 calls.

Only Gigi Riva He will do better (35 in 42 games), but the Lazio center forward’s record stands for decades.

The scores in the Biancoceleste are also excellent. In 243 appearanceswell rested between the championship, national cup and international competitions, the bombers hits the target 159 times. In years when games lasted 90 minutes and the own goal was still an own goal and not a goal from the attacker. But sooner or later everything ends, and the relationship with the capital also ends, but not before winning the second championship title. Top scorer in 1942-1943. Between the spring and summer of 1943, in years when football served to make us forget the horrors of war for at least an hour and a half, Piola played for the cup Luigi Barbesino with a named formation garrison and consists of footballers from Rome and Lazio who have come together for the occasion.


With the end of the war and after a spell with Turin FIAT in the Alta Italia championship, Silvio Piola moved to Juventus. He’s in his 30s and some people turn their noses up at him. Two seasons, lots of goals, no titles. The Grande Torino was too strong at that moment. In 1947, Piola agreed to play in Serie B. He was 34 years old and it seemed to everyone to be a wise decision to return home before the “buen retiro”. But it’s not like that. With him Novara immediately returns to Serie A and stays there many more years. Six seasons followed in which the “Old Man” scored another 70 goals (+ another 16 goals if the year in Serie B is taken into account).

“Football is evolving, but at its core two fundamental qualities remain:the “good feet” and the brain. Even the best coach in the world without players with these qualities can lose out.

Silvio Piola, interview by Roberto Eynard, The pressureSeptember 23, 1993

In 1952 the incredible happened: On the threshold of the fateful “Santa”, Piola was called up to the national team. In Florence, Italy and England are playing a friendly match, and this game seems more like an excuse to celebrate a great champion than anything else. By 1954, even he had said enough. The first great highlander of Italian football will devote himself fully to his other passions: hunting, fishing and family, but not at the same time. In the Biancoceleste jersey, only Ciro Immobile will be able to do better in terms of numbers, but it will take almost eighty years for him to exceed 159.

Silvio Piola died on October 4, 1996, a few days after turning 83. The name is intended for sporting eternity and ends with Hall of Fame of Italian football, even without ever having won a championship in his career. Today The Novara and Vercelli stadiums are both named after him. Another record that only someone like him can achieve. Two stadiums with their own names, not bad for a “recommendation”.

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