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Gianni Brera : biography

September 8, 1919 - December 19, 1992

Giovanni Luigi "Gianni" Brera (September 8, 1919 - December 19, 1992) was an Italian sports journalist and novelist.

This is a description by himself: « My real name is Giovanni Luigi Brera. I was born on 8th September 1919 at a San Zenone Po, in Pavia province, and grew up like a wild man among woods, river banks and still waters. (...) I am a Padan from the banks and flood plains, the bush and the sandbanks. I soon realized I was a legitimate son of the Po's. »


Brera was born in San Zenone al Po, near Pavia, the son of Carlo, a tailor, and Marietta Ghisoni. Among his ancestors was a Hungarian great-grandmother who married a Lombard sergeant of the Imperial Austrian Army.

He obtained his degree in Political Sciences at Pavia University in 1943, while on leave from his post as Lieutenant of the paratrooper division "Folgore". In late spring 1944 he joined the Italian Resistance movement and fought in the Ossola Valley. He took pride in having lived through World War II without ever shooting another human.

In 1943 he married Rina Gramegna (teacher, 1920–2000) and had four sons: Franco (1944-1944), Carlo (painter, 1946–1994), Paolo (novelist, 1949-), Franco (musician, 1951-).

When he was demobilized in 1945, he entered La Gazzetta dello Sport (Italy's first and foremost sports daily) to become its Editor-in-Chief in 1949, the youngest-ever Editor-in-Chief of a national newspaper in Italy.

He is credited with innovating the Italian language, notably by creating a whole new vocabulary for football (soccer), some of which has spilt over into languages other than Italian. The word libero for a player's particular role was created by Gianni Brera: famous nicknames of Italian players created by him included Abatino ("Little Abbot") for Gianni Rivera and Rombo di tuono ("Rolling Thunder") for Gigi Riva. Apart from the lexicon, Brera was noteworthy for his rich style and very free usage of foreign or regional phrases. He spoke fluent French and Spanish, quite a little German and Latin and some English.

Gianni Brera wrote in La Gazzetta dello Sport, Il Guerin Sportivo, Il Giorno, Il Giornale, La Repubblica and several other publications. His articles were translated into several European languages. He often referred to himself as "Gioannbrerafucarlo" (a reference to Italy's long-foregone system of including the father's name in a citizen's complete name).

He also wrote a number of books (handbooks, essays and fictional works), a theatre play, and a couple of radio plays.

Gianni Brera always took the point of view of a northern Italian from Lombardy. Some people state that he disliked people coming from southern Italy. He always denied the charge, citing his friendship with Leonardo Sciascia and other prominent southern Italians.

Living and working in Milan, his claim to be a fan of Genoa (short for Genoa Cricket and Football Club) always raised some surprise but, beside testifying Brera's love for the "heroic age" of Italian football (Genoa CFC was Italy's first club and dominated the football championships until the early 20s of 20th Century) it also proved instrumental in preventing him being cast into just one half of Milan's football world, rife as it was with the rivalry between AC Milan and Inter. He could thus write about both teams, and draw his readership from either team's supporters. "Vecchio Balordo" (Cranky Old One), still used today by Genoese tifosi, is a nickname he coined for the Genoa team. After Brera's death the original foundation charter of the Genoa Cricket and Football Club was found among his papers, and his family donated it to a museum in Genoa.

Brera is considered to have been the most influential Italian sports journalist of the 20th century. In 2003, the monumental Arena Civica (stadium), built in Milan by Napoleon I of France in the early 19th century, was renamed Arena Gianni Brera .

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