At last, for the first time in soccer history, an Italian-Canadian from Toronto has been hired by a Serie A team, Napoli. He is Enzo Concina, a 48-year-old former Toronto Italia central defender who will stand alongside Walter Mazzarri as tactical assistant.
Concina was born in Prato Carnico (Udine) on June 21, 1962. He moved to Toronto when he was a child, and he began playing on Mississauga pitches. As a central defender, he was highlighted on Torontos Italia, which at the time played in the local NSL (National Soccer League). In 1982 he made the big jump to Italian soccer when he was signed up by Ravenna (Serie C), then moved in succession to Cesena, Pavia, Piacenza, Monza, Nola, and Forlì, before ending his playing career in Montreal in 1994. His best seasons were those with Piacenza where, during four campaigns, he made 68 appearances and scored eight goals.
The rumour of Concinas move to Napoli has been circulating for days; it was confirmed by the man himself who we reached by phone at the Folgaria (Trento) retreat.
First of all congratulations, youre the first Italian-Canadian to have reached Serie A.
Thank you. Its fantastic. I dreamt of getting there as a player with Piacenza when we attempted to get promoted to the top league. After 25 years I made it, as coach, or more precisely as Mazzarris assistant.
You played with Mazzarri in Nola.
Exactly. It was the early 90s. Weve remained good friends.
Three years ago, Mazzarri asked you to join him with Sampdoria.
Exactly, but I had other commitments at the time. When he offered Napoli, I couldnt resist.
What are your duties?
This is a role I still have to fully determine. For now, I work with the squad. I help in preparations, I sweat, and Im getting to know the players.
How did they welcome you?
They are all very accommodating. There are no prima donnas among them. They are decent men and top soccer players.
No prima donnas you say. But the big names Quagliarella, Maggio, De Sanctis, Gargano are missing.
I havent met them yet, but Im eagerly looking forward to. Mazzarri is counting on them to make this, his first full season on the Napoli bench, a memorable one
What are the other big-name arrivals?
Lets not get ahead of ourselves, please. I dont involve myself with market issues.
Mazzarri has said he wants a Napoli that is ready to do battle.
Exactly. He also confirmed that to us and the staff. The players understand what they have to do and are working hard.
What about Lavezzi?
Mazzarri described him as being very motivated. Hes likely still angry over not being called up to Maradonas national team.
Regarding Maradona, he has said he would have liked to coach Napoli.
I think he was joking.
How long have you been away from Toronto?
I was there recently, invited by my friend Boccia for a youth tournament.
Is your relationship with Toronto and Canada still strong?
I was raised in Toronto from a soccer point of view. My relatives still live in Toronto. I finished my career with Impact in Montreal in 1994. I often keep in touch with Joey Saputo. He has already told me hed like to have Napoli come to Canada. Ill refer him to the appropriate contacts.