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Il Cuore di Cassano

You would have to have been living underneath a rock this week not to know that Antonio Cassano is now set to undergo a small surgery on his heart and will not return to football for at least 4-6 months. But all thoughts of club and country get pushed aside now as our hearts turn to the man, his family, and friends in this difficult time. But what can we say about a man at a time like this whose only flaw is that he is all heart?




All of the people in my life who have had congenital heart conditions have, much like Cassano, been truly all heart. Cassano has always embraced life with such passion and zest, and has always embraced friends with such love and affection, that it is hard to imagine that his physical heart could possibly be flawed.

Of course there are some who would question if his passion wasn’t also a flaw in and of itself. His career has been riddled with “Cassanate,” a term first coined by Fabio Capello, who coached the Bari native at both Roma and Real Madrid. A “Cassanata” now refers to almost any misbehavior, but especially one that interferes with football. He had his issues at Roma that eventually forced him to leave. Then again at Real Madrid. And it was his Cassanata with Sampdoria President Garrone that gifted him to AC Milan.

For the Azzurri, he has also fallen in and out of the lineup, most notably left out under Marcello Lippi. While Lippi never said why, Cassano’s immense talent and passion inspired one of the most persistent pitch invaders ever, as well as a whole nation crying out for him to be included in the squad.

But this is how Cassano’s career has been, coaches either love him or hate him. He is either not called up, or he is starting every game, or even the captain. I believe it is his big heart, a level of passion that can be misunderstood. Certainly, if you look at all of the photos, he is always smiling and laughing and embracing teammates or perhaps even being silly. These moments of flawed passion are as small as the hole in his heart.

They also seemed to be corrected by his move to AC Milan. Here, he played alongside teammates that were just as passionate and a coach who is calm yet very passionate, too. Coach Prandelli took over the Azzurri, and instead of overlooking him altogether like his predecessor, he built the team around him. Cassano thrived in this environment of coaches who trusted him and believed in him and weren’t afraid of his big heart, but rather embraced it and all that came with it.


In his personal life, Cassano had gotten married last year to his long-time girlfriend, and in March this year, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. I have never seen anyone so elated to celebrate his first goal as a father as he was after his son was born. I didn’t know if he was going to scream, cry, jump, fall to the ground, or smile until his ears fell off of his head. Turns out, it was a bit of everything, really, combined with the ritualistic thumbsucking. He was so happy.

And so it figures, when life was going too well for him, something had to give. Finding peace and happiness in his personal life and his career, enjoying the form of his career, no less, he was not going to give the media the satisfaction of another Cassanata. And so his body kicked in. He was feeling unwell on the way home from Roma, and suffered what is called ischemic cerebral damage, caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain.

But it isn’t entirely tragic, as it seems to have been a very minor episode, and forced doctors to look more closely, where they found the tiny hole in the wall of his heart. So while the surgery is very scary, and no one wants to see this happen to anyone, least of all someone of Cassano’s fantastic talent and personality, this may have been the best case scenario if it did in fact have to happen.

I just wish it didn’t have to happen at all. Cassano’s big heart and bigger personality makes him beloved, even by fans of opposing teams. His smile is infectious, his talent is breathtaking, and our Fantantonio leaves a hole in our squad that is not just physical, he leaves a void of fun and passion that would be hard for anyone else to fill. But better that void is temporary, we would never want to lose him permanently.


First and foremost, I want him to be healthy. Secondly, I want him to be able to enjoy his family, and to see his son grow up. After that, I hope that he will be able to play again someday, if not for us, the greedy fans, but also for himself - it is clear that he enjoys it so much. So I send my best wishes to you, Fantantonio. May your surgery go well and your recovery be speedy. We all miss il cuore di Cassano - the heart of Cassano.


This post inspired by the music of Diana Krall