On September 30, 2001, Brescia trail local rivals Atalanta by one goal in the first minute of stoppage time. The stadium holds its breath as Roberto Baggio stands over the ball, on a hat-trick and with the opportunity to swing it into the box from a free kick at the edge of the area.
Brescia’s No 10 hooks the ball beautifully towards goal, looking for a teammate to get a head on it. But the ball skirts everyone along the way and settles in the bottom corner of the goal, behind a feeble Massimo Taibi: 3-3!
Coach Carlo Mazzone erupts, the bewildered staff can’t hold him back as he pushes himself away from his marker like the prolific striker he had never been and storms towards the opposing fans. He doesn’t stop until he’s out of breath, clutching both his fists in the air, screaming towards the travelling fans, shaking the net separating the away stand from the rest of the stadium in an act of revenge. He’d promised them this when Brescia got it back to 3-2. He delivered.
The legendary Mazzone gifted us with one of the most iconic moments of Italian football at the culmination of an extraordinary Lombardy Derby. “Between Bresciani and the Bergamaschi, footballing wise, there’s this excessive rivalry,” Brescia President Luigi Corioni said 10 years later. “And at the time we were losing, the opposing fans were mocking Mazzone and the Brescia supporters.”
Roberto Baggio had put the hosts ahead with a great volley, before La Dea turned the game on its head. Three quick goals by Luigi Sala, Cristiano Doni and Gianni Comandini had made it 1-3 at half time and the away fans decided to target the lively coach in the Rondinelle’s dugout, directing mocking chants and making comments about his mother to make the insults as bad as they could come.
“I was the target of insulting chants, and I was replying to them,” Mazzone said when recalling the episode at the Mario Rigamonti, but when he was busy arguing with the travellers from Bergamo, Baggio pulled one back in the 75th minute. “Meanwhile, he scored the second goal. And I realised the match was still open.”
The former Italy international beautifully put the knock-down by Igli Tare away to give hope of a comeback and spurred the team on. But the minutes passed and the abuse from the rivals grew thicker. It angered the Brescia coach, who promised that he would celebrate under the curva if they would grab a point at the end.
Another legendary character of Italian football, referee Perluigi Collina, granted Brescia a chance at the end, awarding Baggio a free kick in a great position on the edge of the area, one minute into stoppage time. One last chance. And who else would you want on the ball?
“I said: ‘If we score 3-3, I will run to celebrate under the curva’,” recalled Mazzone. “I didn’t even finish the sentence before they had scored the goal.”
And off he went. The fans shouted, he shouted back in Roman dialect: “Li mortacci tua!” Pulling himself free from everyone who tried to stop him. Absurd, but yet pleasing, scenes of desire, anger and boiling emotions. His fists were clenched, shaking them towards the stands, and the Atalanta fans answered by throwing any items at hand.
Perplexed and surprised, everyone inside the stadium focused their attention on their passionate leader, whilst Collina calmly went to the central line separating the two dugouts, where he waited for the coach to be guided back towards the bench by his own staff.
“From my point of view, I have to say it was quite surprising, seeing this gentleman running out of breath making his way towards the away stands,” Collina said. “I only remember waiting for him at the halfway line, but I didn’t have to tell him anything.
“He just looked at me and said: ‘I’m going, I’m going, no problem, I’ll leave’. And then he went down the tunnel and exited the pitch.”
The 3-3 goal scored by Baggio was not only rewarded with a point, but one of the greatest moments in the modern era, and Mazzone himself could only blame the talisman.
“All the fault lies with Roberto Baggio, he was the reason I had to run, let’s all make that clear,” Mazzone joked. “I promised them I’d go there, and I went to ‘salute’ the curva. I just went to the wrong one… They should wash their mouth out before talking about Rome.” He received a five-match touchline ban. It was worth it.