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Two generations of Italian soccer scoring stars compare notes in Toronto

Former Italian World Cup star Paolo Rossi had lunch with Toronto FC’s Italian star Sebastian Giovinco on Sunday, Sept.13, 2015 and took in Toronto’s weekend game against New England during a promotional visit to Canada.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Neil Davidson
September 14, 2015 - 8:53 AM

TORONTO - Two generations of Italian scoring stars met for the first time on the weekend as Toronto FC sniper Sebastian Giovinco compared notes with World Cup legend Paolo Rossi.

The 58-year-old Rossi secured his place in Italian lore with six goals at the 1982 World Cup, helping the Azzurri to their third tournament win. The 28-year-old Giovinco, meanwhile, is turning heads in his debut season in Major League Soccer.

The two had lunch Saturday as Rossi came through town on a promotional visit.

"I had a great time ... I was very honoured to meet him," Giovinco said through an interpreter after Toronto's 3-1 loss to New England on Sunday.

"In Italy he's a hero because in Italy you live with soccer, so winning a World Cup is something unique," he added. "Of course Paolo Rossi was the man of the World Cup."

Rossi won the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player and the Golden Boot as top scorer. He was also named European Footballer of the Year in 1982.

Giovinco was born five years after the '82 World Cup.

Rossi came to the tournament on the heels of a two-year ban from soccer due to a match-fixing scandal, a crime of which he said he was innocent. Rossi scored a hat trick against Brazil in the second round, a brace in the semifinal against Poland and the opening goal in Italy's 3-1 win over West Germany in the final.

He became a soccer icon.

"Everybody knows me wherever I go," Rossi told the Washington Post in 1983. "They treat me like a god. But I am just a normal person. I am nothing so special."

He said Sunday that 33 years on he still regularly fields questions about the Brazil game. But it is nowhere as difficult as it was when he was still playing.

The interest was overwhelming, he admitted. "Now it's something I can manage."

It's not Rossi's first visit to Toronto. He was here in 1983 when Juventus played the Toronto Blizzard.

But Sunday marked Rossi's first MLS game.

"I'm very curious," he said beforehand.

Rossi said he was surprised when he heard that Giovinco, like Rossi a former Juventus player, was moving to North America.

"Because he is quite young and not at the end of his career," he said. "So it was a very courageous choice to join this project in North America."

"Giovinco could be the first of a series of, let's say, high-level players joining the North American soccer league," he added. "It's very important how Giovinco performs and how much he will be committed to this project because he can be a very effective example to attract other young and promising players to the MLS."

Much has changed since Rossi's day.

The Italian star moved from Vicenza to Juventus in 1976 for a then-world record fee of 1.75 million pounds (C$3.6 million in today's money). In 2013, Welsh forward Gareth Bale went to Real Madrid for 86 million pounds ($175.4 million).

"It's a free market," Rossi said with a smile.

Rossi was here to publicize "Italian Football Heroes," billed as a night of soccer, live music and entertainment scheduled for March 5, 2016, at Toronto's Ricoh Coliseum.


Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

News from © The Canadian Press, 2015
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