A goalkeeper’s existence at the highest level is defined by moments and decisions under pressure, and the rise of Francesco Farioli as one of the best goalkeeping coaches in Italy is no accident.
Farioli had ambition and courage to take risks and make sacrifices to achieve his goal. He is an example that opportunities come to those who seek them. The certainty in his decision making has changed the course of his life and his career as a professional coach.
In an exclusive interview to News Hub Asia, Farioli told me: “That reality changes so fast, life, a project, career and a game can change completely in two minutes in a good or bad way, in football and in life.
Farioli knows that better than anyone, if it was not for his former coach, Paolo Galardi, who had seen something in him at nineteen to be a top coach. A meteoric rise to the pinnacle of Italian football may have not been the case.
Italian football would have lost a future star in its coaching ranks.
Surprisingly coaching was difficult for Francesco to accept at first because he always wanted to play as any Italian boy does, dreaming of one day wearing the classic La Maglia Azzurra the illustrious blue shirt in a World Cup.
Farioli persevered with his aspirations, until he received an offer he could not refuse.
“When I was twenty one, I received an offer to start coaching a first team. I knew It was time for me to take the next step and make a decision, a painful decision.
I asked myself do I keep playing and stop coaching or perhaps do I pursue the option of stop playing and continuing coaching? Ten years later I could say that I made a good decision!”
Farioli began his coaching journey for Atlanta in the youth academy setup at Margine Coperta, in Tuscany. This was instrumental in his development as a coach that he attacked with the same mentality on both sides of the pitch.
“I approached the new role with the same big dream, not anymore as a player, but as a coach. I dreamed of reaching the Serie A, but it’s not easy to have luck to make dreams come true”.
Farioli’s luck came by working hard with spells at Fortis Juventus and Lucchese in Serie D and LegaPro with first teams, subsequently gave him the platform to take an opportunity in Qatar with the Aspire Academy.
The opportunity to work with the director Ivan Bravo and important directors in the football department, Robert Olabe and Valter Di Salvo, and the many other crucial people in the football department played a role in Farioli fulfilling his potential.
This only supplemented his development as a top coach and instilled within himself that he had made the right decision for his career progression heading to Qatar.
“Sometimes we have to make brave decisions in life, when I received the offer from Qatar I was in trouble, I was 25 and I said to myself it’s not important to arrive first, but to arrive well and prepare to stay.
“I spent two incredible years, on and off the pitch working in the best facilities in the world with the best people. I grew a lot as a coach and a person and when the opportunity arose to move back to Italy. I was 27 and I felt myself ready to deal with professional players and deal with the demands of the Serie A”. Farioli says.
These pivotal experiences, coaching the next precocious talents of Qatari goalkeepers in the Qatar Youth National Team and at the Aspire Academy, prepared him for his moment in the sun.
The moment came when he received a phone call from the head coach of Benevento, Roberto De Zerbi.
“I did not know what he wanted to ask me, but just in case, I had already decided. I spoke with my bosses in Qatar and they gave me the opportunity to join De Zerbi’s staff. In a week, I had finalised all the papers and I was back in Italy.”
A dream came true for Farioli, he was to work in the Serie A with Benevento in Southern Italy, under auspicious Italian manager Roberto De Zerbi, the future of Italian management.
An experience with De Zerbi, to learn and develop his understanding of game further was a sliding doors moment he could not say no too or have even imagined ten years earlier.
De Zerbi, a man obsessed by his principles of positional play, together with the rest of his staff have no limits on what they can achieve in the game.
“I have learned and are learning many things. He is in love with his job, he has a lot of passion and is an incredible talent. I’m lucky because he wants to always develop his game model and he’s giving me a lot of responsibility in many areas of build-up play and pressing.”
Ambitious is an understatement when you look at Faroli’s resume, having turned thirty-one recently, has achieved what many could only dream of in the game.
Farioli’s curiosity and passion to let people know who he was as a goalkeeper coach proved fruitful in his pursuit of success.
“After a few years, I started to get great feedback from the elite in the game. The opportunity to work with Giovanni Galli a former AC Milan Goalkeeper as well as with Robero Olabe and Inaki Ulloa in Qatar who are now directors at Real Sociedad.
“Too collaborating and sharing ideas with Gianluca Spinelli, the goalkeeper coach at PSG and of course, I’m always thankful to Paolo Galardi, for his suggestions at the beginning and he will always be present in my personal growth as a coach”.
Football is a game of passion and Francesco Farioli believes “the meaning of passion is to do the smallest things with the same emotions of the biggest ones”.
This same passion is also reinforced with Farioli’s philosophy degree, which demonstrates his holistic approach.
Farioli understands his idea about the game and his way of working is about more than just the exercises, it’s the way of leaving the environment that makes a difference.
Similarly, Farioli tells me that goalkeepers today have had to adapt to the modern demands of the role. The right environment on the training track allows goalkeepers to match important moments in a game.
“The modern goalkeeper is nothing more and nothing less than an ultra-specialized modern footballer. A goalkeeper has to have game understanding, decision making, a brave mentality, physical qualities, good hands and good foot-skills.”
These beliefs are the foundations that he has instilled in his players with positiveness and open-mindedness. He also has a bigger vision of giving more to people and the game through his articles on his website and YouTube channel than just taking from the game that has given him everything.
“I want to transfer my beliefs and help the football world to think we can look forward to different things, different methods to achieve different objectives”.
“We are lucky in the football industry; we should not forget about that and we should remember that we are an example for other people of how our impact could be massive in the community”.
His community is the city of three colours in Reggio Emilia where Sassuolo play in the region of Emilia Romagna, known for the best cuisine and cars in Italy.
In the future this may perhaps be a future breeding ground of discovering the best goalkeepers in Italy with two promising goalkeepers in his ranks.
In Stefano Turati (18) and Alessandro Russo (19), there are no limits on their potential to go as far as their ambitions can take them because they have the ability. Also training with experienced goalkeepers, the incumbent Andrea Consigli (33) and Gianluca Pegolo (39), only sharpens their skills to be at the very top one day.
“We have four goalkeepers with different qualities and different improvement points. I set up for all of them individual goals and key points to work on. First of all, my work is focused on creating a common view, a common perspective, a scenario where they can express themselves, with their qualities and specificities”.
In the last ten years Francesco Farioli has expressed himself with his qualities to go even higher than he ever imagined in the coaching world.
The passion he has for the game will take him far as calcio eminently flows through his veins and no one will stand in the way of him achieving his ambition and focus on dreaming of something bigger.
Not many have worked as hard as him to take the chances he has done to make it to the top of the Italian game.
First things first he still has a job to do at Sassuolo in the Serie A with taking the next generation of Italian prodigies to the next level.
Once calcio finally returns one day, when this pandemic ends soon.
To find out more information about Francesco Farioli’s philosophy, career and read his articles on the Goalkeeper and football you can visit his website at www.francescofarioli.com
Rhys Ryan – News Hub Asia Sports Journalist