(*that’s the gaffer in Italian!)
As the FAI’s top brass crossed the Mall for a mayoral reception after a press conference at the Tower Hotel, an elderly lady strolling by broke stride to pose a question.
“What’s all the fuss about,” she queried as the sun beat down upon the suitably suited Giovanni Trapattoni & co.
“There’s a reception on for the new Irish soccer manager,” she received in reply. “That’s a good one,” she grinned, moving almost as briskly as Trapattoni did around the city last Wednesday.
Some passers-by on the Dunmore Road-bound bus tapped each other’s shoulders upon catching a glimpse of the bona fide soccer legend in their midst.
The new Republic of Ireland manager’s press conference was a curious affair. With Waterford United’s four-year strategy already launched, and a satisfying meal in Emiliano’s digesting nicely, the questions from the headline-hunters didn’t exactly flow like the vino.
In truth, there wasn’t a great deal for Trapattoni to talk about, though John Delaney got the hack brigade buzzing during his broadside against Fine Gael’s Olivia Mitchell.
The inevitable “are you enjoying Waterford” question arrived, prompting whispers of whether ‘Trap’ had enjoyed a blaa, all washed down by a large bottle during his Milanese-inspired meal.
“I know the name Waterford,” said Trapattoni, who was well acquainted with Waterford Crystal given the wads of glass-clad garlands presented to him during his visit to Suirside.
He jokingly added in his broken but improving English: “I have to say it is beautiful because my president is from here, but no, it is a beautiful city, beautiful.”
Getting around the country is something which Trapattoni said was crucial to his getting a feel for the task he faces.
“I have many, many experiences in football,” he said. “I saw South America, I saw Africa, I saw Europe – it’s important to know the people, to know their mentality.”
At City Hall, the manager happily posed for photos with City Councillors, local soccer officials and kids and seemed genuinely taken aback by the warmth of the reception he received.
From there, Trapattoni’s car, flanked by two Garda outriders, made its way to the home of Southend United AFC, where he cut the tape at the club’s new astro-turf pitch.
“Four years ago, when John Delaney came here to open our new dressing rooms, we said it couldn’t get much better than that,” said club chairman John McCarthy.
“But I can’t believe that standing next to me today is a man of the standing of Giovanni Trapattoni.”
The feel-good factor that’s greeted the former Juventus and Inter Milan manager’s arrival in Irish soccer was beaming more brightly than the welcome Wednesday sunshine; a sentiment replicated upon his arrival at the RSC.
Flocks of fans, both young and not so young flocked around Trapattoni as he opened the new East Stand alongside City Mayor Jack Walsh.
Few could have imagined a year ago that ‘Trap’ would be Irish boss. Fewer still would have imagined him sharing a conversation with Irish rugby coach Declan Kidney at the RSC, but that’s what transpired in Waterford last week.
With commemorative plaque unveiled, presentations packed up and a few more handshakes and autographs dispensed with, Giovanni Trapattoni returned to his car with an enormous amount of goodwill accumulated during his visit to the city.
Buona fortuna*, Giovanni!
* Good luck!