Will football welcome back Francesco Flachi who was fast becoming a club legend back in 2007 having scored 110 goals in 280 appearances for Sampdoria. His life changed dramatically following a game against Inter Milan in January of 2007 when he was tested for cocaine and the test came back positive. This led to an immediate suspension from all and any football appearances, perhaps not even eligible for those Grande Vegas casino bonuses and ultimately led to him being banned from playing professional football for two years.
Following Cocaine Ban Will Football Welcome Back Francesco Flachi?
Flachi speaking to BBC Sport said;
“I lost it all in that exact moment. I was an idol in Genoa. I had started the year with two goals and I had recently been picked up by the national team too.”
Unfortunately, that seems to have been just the beginning of his woes and two years later it appeared that his career over.
A Blot on His Reputation
Controversy was not completely new to Flachi. Sometime earlier, in 2006, Flachi was suspected of being involved in match fixing based on telephone tappings of third parties. This earned him a two month suspension but Flachi maintains his innocence;
“I had nothing to do with it. I never accepted that ban.”
It seemed that he had wiped that stain from his reputation and was well on his way to becoming the one of the most talented Italian number 10 players of his generation. He had reached number three on the club’s all time scoring list with his 110 goals for Sampdoria with only Robert Mancini and Gianluca Vialli ahead of him. Undoubtedly, he would have reached a much higher number had he not been banned from playing in 2007 because of the failed drug test.
Following his two- year ban, Flachi was offered a new beginning with Serie B sides Brescia and Empoli. However, his experiences during the previous two years absence had taken their toll. According to Flachi;
“Mentally I wasn’t the same person anymore and I couldn’t avoid falling back into it.”
It was in December 2009 that Flachi once again tested positive for cocaine and as this was not his first time he was given a 12- year ban, basically putting an end to his professional football career.
Trying For a Comeback
12 years on and Flachi is ready to try for a shot at redemption, actively working on making a comeback;
“I want to pass on what I have thrown away.”
During the ban, whilst he could not play, he was involved in an unofficial way in coaching local team Bagno a Ripoli who won league and cup titles. He was also involved in coaching Signa 1914’s youth sides and during the Covid-19 pandemic has been giving individual lessons to around 50 children on different footballing techniques.
Flachi is now 46 years old. The ban officially ends in January and he will make his return as a player at fifth-tier Signa 1914, encouraged by his friend, Andrea Ballerini, and the club’s president.
“I am very excited because the date is approaching. It all started as a joke, but then we got more serious about it. I was already helping out at Signa 1914, lending a hand in the youth sector. Andrea started to provoke me: ‘You can’t play anymore, you’re too old’. I hadn’t entered a proper 11 – a side football pitch for 12 years, but I am a man of football and I live for the emotions which I had missed so much. I am training now and the sensations are similar to those I felt as a real player. Exposure and pressure are different, but some football dynamics, like life in the dressing room, are the same at all levels. I know I made a mistake and I got punished for it. I also know I am not as fast as I used to be, but I can do my part and help these guys believe in themselves. I also want them to understand how beautiful football is. They can’t afford to lose what I threw away.”
So Difficult to Watch Football in the Beginning
Although Flachi is mainly linked to Sampdoria he did win Serie B and the Coppa Italia with Fiorentina prior to his move to Genoa. With his return to training and the possibility of him actually playing again, it has been a time of reflection for Flachi, thinking about the choices he made and the way in which his life has panned out;
“After such a disgrace you think of everything. Of a career thrown in the bin, your public image, the pain you caused your family. People didn’t react well at first, but with time I proved I understood my mistakes and could rebuilt most relations. At first watching football would make me sick, but then I rolled up my sleeves and slowly moved on again. I have opened two restaurants in Florence and I spent my time serving good. Since it’s been known, I am going to play I have been receiving so many calls and messages. This proves a lot of people still love me.”
Will Football Welcome Back Francesco Flachi – Learning From Mistakes
“I am not a victim – I made a mistake and I don’t want others to go down the same path. I receive a lot of positive feedback from my coaching and this is an important proof that my dedication is appreciated and parents trust me. It’s too easy to judge from the outside. Those who know me also know the way I am. I am the same person I was 20, 30 years ago, with my values. I know one can make mistakes, fall, but one can also get back to his feet. Life is full of unexpected events. What I want is to do my part and show I can play a role in football.”
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