Next Monday evening you could join Londonist amongst the audience at the JZ Young Lecture Theatre on Gower Street as Cristiano Lucarelli, with 18 goals this season currently second top scorer in Serie A behind only Francesco Totti, joins his agent and biographer Carlo Pallavicino in presenting a seminar entitled "Money, Politics and Violence: Is there any more space for passion in Italian football?".
For football fans who are not familiar with Lucarelli the rough equivalent would see Charlton's Darren Bent, London's leading home-grown premiership scorer this season, heading to the University of Rome to discuss how next term's new television deal and the increasing number of takeovers led by foreign businessmen might affect the outcome of the English Premiership title race. Except Lucarelli's footballing accomplishments only begin to tell his story.
He is currently playing for his native Livorno, though until 2004 he was "exiled", leading the line for various Italian and Spanish teams and gradually building a reputation as a proven goalscorer. His career was punctuated with tell-tale moments such as his wife giving him signals about Livorno's progress in a vital promotion match while he was on the field for Torino against Roma. Eventually an Italian-style loan, where a club sells half of a player's contract to another team, enabled Lucarelli to realise his desire to pull on the dark red shirt of his home town and the need for him to take a pay cut was no obstacle. Inspired, his goals earned Livorno promotion to the top flight for the first time in over half a century and the big money offers for his services started to roll in:
After that season I said no to many teams who were ready to pay a lot of money for me. I chose with my heart without thinking of the wallet. There are players who spend money to buy houses, luxury cars and wonderful trips, I prefer to present myself with the gift of Livorno.
This attitude suggests Lucarelli perhaps has more in common with Alan Shearer and his famous dedication to Newcastle, but there is another dimension to Livorno's captain which takes him beyond what most modern footballers, and especially English ones, represent. Lucarelli chose to wear the number "99" on his shirt in honour of an especially dedicated group of Livorno fans who, like many of their fellow supporters, hold a special reverence for Che Guevara. Lucarelli identifies with this to the point of apparently losing favour with Italian national coaches for celebrating his first goal for his country with a t-shirt honouring Geuvara and more recently going out of his way to meet the famous revolutionary's eldest daughter, Aleida, after which he proposed that Livorno should visit Cuba to play a charity match. Such is Lucarelli's status as the symbol of his team and his town that such a proposal might well come to fruition.
Monday's hour-long seminar, which begins at 6pm, will be introduced by John Foot, a reader at UCL and author of "Calcio: A History of Italian Football", who invited Lucarelli to come and speak here. Pallavicino will then talk about the current state of Italian football before Lucarelli takes centre stage. His presentation will include a trailer for a new film about him called "99 Amaranto" and will cover his life and views as featured in Pallavicino's recent biography of his client, "You can keep your billion (lire)". Lucarelli, who recently celebrated his 100th Serie A goal, says of the event:
I am really honoured for this unexpected invitation and I thank John and his students. It would be a real pleasure to answer their questions. I have always admired the way football is played in England and it is also a good opportunity for me to visit London, a city that I love.
Sadly in recent weeks his relationship with Livorno's supporters has deteriorated somewhat and it is not certain whether that bond will heal or whether Lucarelli might reluctantly look elsewhere, perhaps even to London, to finish his career.
If you'd like to go along contact the organiser via the details on Lucarelli's website:
Photo of Livorno street graffiti via loungerie's Flickr stream.