BY LORENZO MALATERRA

Right now, there is a man riding his bicycle all along the Italian peninsula, from the southern shores of Crotone up to Turin in the North West of Italy. It is roughly 1300 km, about one third the distance of the famous Giro d’Italia, to make an easy comparison. Davide Nicola, the coach of FC Crotone, is ready to do it in only one week, in order to keep a promise he made in April.

“I am ready to go from Crotone to Turin by bicycle, if we can avoid relegation”, he said before the match against FC Inter, when his team was struggling to remain in Serie A.

Crotone started the championship in the worst possible way; winning just two points from their first twelve games made it unimaginable that the team from Calabria would have been able to save themselves from the drop.

In April, before that game with Inter, Crotone were still in 18th and last place with 20 points. However, salvation was a mere three points away. Only one year before, Crotone achieved their first promotion to Serie A after spending several decades in lower division obscurity. It looked like a step too far for this hitherto unfancied club, until that memorable moment when people inside the city hospital adjoining the Scida Stadium were able to throw open their windows and watch joyously from balconies as Crotone made history.

In the spring, something changed.

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The turnaround was amazing: Davide Nicola’s team was able to achieve vastly improved results, boosted by players’ solid performances, and the galvanizing words of the coach.

As the season’s end approached, Crotone kept gaining point after point, starting with a dazzling win over Inter and soon followed by another 14 points; the one and only defeat came against the title winners, Juventus.

The final game of the campaign saw Crotone facing Lazio, who had had a very decent year; playing some excellent football on their way to European qualification. Once again, Crotone surprised everyone and won 3-1, and thanks to the contemporaneous win by relegated Palermo over Empoli – Crotone’s direct relegation rivals – Davide Nicola’s team was safe.

June 12th marked the fifth stage of Nicola’s personal tour: 151km from Pescara to Ancona, on the Adriatic Sea coast.

On the ride, he will pass by all the cities that had important personal meaning to him; places where he used to live and work before his adventure with Crotone began. As a player, Nicola turned out for several clubs, among them Genoa, Pescara and Torino; ending his career as a defender at Lumezzane in 2010, where he also started his coaching career. Mostly active in Serie B, Nicola was appointed as the head coach of Crotone in June 2016, after their uplift to the big time had been confirmed.

This mammoth bike ride is also a good opportunity for him to raise awareness of the delicate issue of road traffic victims. Two years ago, near Turin where his family used to live, Davide Nicola’s 14-year-old son Alessandro died while he was riding his bicycle, run over by a city bus.

In fact, Nicola has dedicated his success with Crotone to Alessandro and this ride will be also an opportunity to raise funds for two non-profit organisations that actively support families who have lost loved ones in road accidents.

Sometimes football and life are strictly interconnected and the bad moments in our life can provide us the strength to overcome difficulties.

The tale of Crotone and their tenacious coach is yet more proof that football can be a positive example and play an important role in our daily lives giving us the strength of character to overcome our own limits, whatever they may be.

FOLLOW LORENZO ON TWITTER @nevadavietnam

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