“Federico Fabbio told me: ‘Before you die, let me play in Serie A'”

Sports – Volleyball – The team manager of Ecosantagata Civita Castellana Francesco Santini remembers the player who died last year: “I didn’t have time to satisfy him, but this promotion is his too”

by Alessandro Castellani

Sport – Volleyball – Ecosantagata – The team remembers Federico Fabbio

Sports – Volleyball – Francesco Santini

Civita Castellana A chase that never seemed to end. Four years of hell amidst the pandemic, defeats at the last point and the disappearance of a player killed by an incurable disease at just 30 years old. And it is precisely to him, Federico Fabbio, that Francesco Santini, team manager of the Ecosantagata Civita Castellana, addresses his first thoughts after the longed-for promotion to Serie A3.

How did it feel when the winning point fell to the ground?
“A sense of liberation. I put my hands on my face and said ‘we did it’. Something terrible had been going around for years, hitting this promotion had become almost an obligation. Many things have passed through my mind, first of all Federico Fabbio”.

A boy you have always remembered and could not miss a moment for him even in these days of celebration.
“I will forever be in Federico’s debt. One day, when the disease had already hit him, he said to me ‘promise me that before you die you’ll let me play in Serie A’. I promised him, but then that year we lost the final in the golden set (Santini stops to cry, ed). And now that we’ve made it, he’s no longer with us. I couldn’t get him this gift, I didn’t have time. He’ll never forget the look he had when he said that to me.”

Once again this year things had gone badly, with Buzzelli’s injury. Was he afraid of losing everything again?
“Yes. When Buzzelli broke his Achilles tendon in Santa Croce, I felt the season slip away. Suddenly we lost the captain, the symbol player of the team. On the way home from that away game, I saw everyone with empty faces and thought we wouldn’t even make the playoffs.”

In fact, the team struggled to react.
“The week after the championship he stopped to make room for the Italian cup final four, for which we had qualified. To recharge the atmosphere, we told the kids not to think about the result and try game solutions without Buzzelli. But something didn’t work and a very bad performance came out of it ”.

And immediately afterwards you decided to exonerate Mr. Beltrame. What happened in those days?
“After the cup match, the most representative players asked me for a meeting to tell me that the team had lost faith in the coach. I was surprised, after all we were still first in the standings, but they reiterated to me that there were no longer the conditions to go on. So I demanded an agreement: I would have taken responsibility for this choice with Beltrame and with the other managers, but the players would have taken responsibility on the pitch. In the following match, against Prato, I saw a possessed team and I understood that we had done the right thing”.

And how did Beltrame take it?
“Obviously he was disappointed, but he understood the situation and told me ‘if I have to step aside for the good of the team, I’m leaving’. Unfortunately we were at a crossroads and we had to choose whether to send away 14 players or the coach”.

How did the decision to entrust the team to Cristina Gargagli come about?
“We were suddenly without a coach and the club didn’t have the desire or the economic strength to find another person. So I called Cristina, even though I knew she had never coached men’s. I guaranteed her that the guys were 100% ready to help her and that it would be enough to direct the work, then they would go on their own. She replied ‘you’re crazy, but let’s do it’. In a short time, a beautiful mix was created, an incredible spirit of collaboration and we became stronger and stronger, game after game”.

Before the decisive match against Turi, Captain Genna had said that we had to win at all costs because making another playoff with Massanzago and Arno would have been very difficult. Was it true?
“Yes. We knew from the start that we could win the home game, the important thing was to score points in Massanzago. Having managed to win in Veneto, an unrepeatable opportunity had arisen. Against Turi we were in top form, from then on there would certainly have been a decline, perhaps even on a physical level, and facing Arno and Massanzago again in declining condition would have been almost impossible”.

You have arrived at the A3 series after four years of nuanced attempts in the most incredible ways. What was the worst moment?
“The defeat in the golden set in the final two years ago at home against Marigliano. We had lost in the first leg 3-0, then in the return we had overturned it and there was incredible euphoria in the arena, we were all ready to celebrate. Losing that golden set was a tremendous blow, we spent whole days wondering where we went wrong and how we could start again after that blow. The year before was also tough, when the championship was canceled due to Covid while we were first in the standings, but the defeat on the pitch hurt us even more”.

Would you be willing to relive four years like this to celebrate a promotion?
“Time passes and fatigue begins to make itself felt. By now it takes three days to recover from a game and immediately we have to think about the next one, keeping up at this pace isn’t so easy anymore. I would do it all again, but I wish I didn’t have to suffer all this time”.

Let’s talk about the future. How is the situation going on with Palasmargiassi?
“We are waiting for the municipality to give us some indications on the works at the arena, because registrations for the A3 series must be submitted by June 13th. We’ve already gone through it with the previous administrations: many promises and then we did three years in Serie A away from Civita Castellana. Now we don’t want this thing to happen again, because we don’t move from our house. We will only make Serie A if we can do it in Civita”.

In case everything goes well with the arena, do you already have an idea of ​​how to set up the roster?
“The intention is to confirm this year’s block, by hiring a replacement for Buzzelli, who will still have some for several months. Compared to the Serie A teams we are at a disadvantage, because for them the championship has already ended and they have already made the transfer market, while we will start late and we will have to look for those who have not already married”.

Will Gargagli remain on the bench?
“No. Cristina was extraordinary and we will never stop thanking her, but next year she will return to focus on the women’s sector. We will think about the market, and therefore also about the new coach, when we are sure we can play in Serie A”.

Alexander Castellani

May 26, 2023

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