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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 November 2007, 20:43 GMT
The Scotsman who played for Italy
By Giancarlo Rinaldi
BBC Scotland news website reporter

Johnny Moscardini
Johnny Moscardini played nine times for Italy scoring seven goals
In Italy they are known as the Oriundi.

They are the footballers born overseas who have played for the country thanks to their ancestry.

Most of them came from the huge emigrant populations of South America as the Azzurri boosted their squads with Argentineans and Brazilians.

One of their number, however, came from the slightly cooler climes of Falkirk.

To this day Giovanni "Johnny" Moscardini is the only Scottish-born male footballer to have played for Italy.

Born in 1897 to Italian parents, he had dual nationality but when World War One broke out he made a decision which would change his life in many ways.

As a teenager he joined the Italian army in the terrible conflicts of the Great War.

Gian Piero Biagioni
If they won they gave him a bottle of olive oil, if they drew he got a bottle of wine, and if they lost he got nothing
Gian Piero Giannotti
Johnny Moscardini's nephew

He was seriously injured at the military disaster at Caporetto on the Austrian front.

"He was a machine gunner, he was injured, he got shrapnel in his elbow," said his son Anthony, who now lives in Liverpool.

"He was sent to Sicily to recuperate and when he got there he organised a team.

"As soon as he recovered he went to Barga (his family's home town in Tuscany) he was spotted there by a scout from Lucchese which was then a Serie A team."

It was a deal which should make modern footballers blush.

Johnny Moscardini and the Italian national team
Moscardini remains the only Scots-born footballer to play for Italy

"They gave him the return train ticket from Mologno to Lucca," explained Johnny's nephew Gian Piero Giannotti.

"If they won they gave him a bottle of olive oil, if they drew he got a bottle of wine, and if they lost he got nothing."

His club career saw him play with another side from Tuscany, Pisa, and also one of the big teams of the day Genoa.

It was while at Lucchese that he captured the attention of the post-war national team.

"Italian commentators say he resembled most of all Paolo Rossi who will be remembered from the 1982 Italian campaign," said his son.

"Although he wasn't very tall he was considered to be a very strong player.

I think a lot of people in Scotland didn't realise how famous he was but in Italy he was very much a VIP
Anthony Moscardini

"There are many reports saying that when he scored a goal he followed the ball into the net and often took the goalkeeper with him."

In total through the 1920s his robust "Scottish style" saw him play nine times for his country netting seven goals - an impressive strike rate by anybody's reckoning.

He made his debut in 1921 against Switzerland and signed off in style in 1925.

"His last game was the 7-0 win against France - we were a strong team at the time and they were not much of a force," said another of Johnny's Barga relatives, Mauro Moscardini.

"However, professionalism in Italian football was virtually non-existent at the time so he had to got back to Scotland."

Barga
The young footballer was spotted in his family's home town of Barga

Moscardini, who married in 1924, faced a decision which would be unthinkable in the modern era.

Should he run a shop in Scotland or continue his international football career?

"Today I am sure he would have a great transfer value but in those days he made no money at all out of football," explained his son.

So he returned to Scotland, first to Campbeltown and then to Prestwick - where he ran the Lake Cafe until his retirement in the 1960s.

He barely touched a football again and his playing prowess was largely unknown in the country of his birth.

Strong influence

"I think a lot of people in Scotland didn't realise how famous he was but in Italy he was very much a VIP," said his son.

"He had a badge which let him into any football stadium in Italy free of charge."

Although the footballing pioneer died in 1985 his influence is still strongly felt back in Barga - the town he put on the footballing map.

Johnny Moscardini outside stadium named after him
The stadium in Barga was named after the Falkirk-born star

The local stadium bears his name and his relatives speak with pride of his achievements.

More than 80 years after he last kicked a ball for the national team, the mention of his name still brings smiles to local faces.

"I think he is so famous in Barga that if you go there you find that everyone claims to be related to him whereas, in fact, they are not!" commented his son.

He is yet another symbol of Barga's close links with Scotland thanks to the huge number of its sons and daughters who emigrated north.

No doubt if he had still been alive he would have loved to have savoured the sights, sounds and spectacle of Saturday's clash between the two countries at Hampden.

Even if, to be honest, he might hardly recognise the game which earned him little more than a few bottles of olive oil.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The only Scotsman to play for Italy



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