If you have followed Juventus for some time you might have heard the names ALE and RICKY mentioned and indeed may have seen players and fans laying tributes to them before games. It will be happening again this week as their tragic anniversary is once again upon us. Perhaps the reasons for this have passed you by, even those supporters who have watched the Bianconeri for many years could have missed the tragic tale, given both the circumstances surrounding it and also the timing of when it took place. Here’s Adam Digby with the full story.
In the summer of 2006, after Juve sealed their 29th Serie A title and Italy went on to play a memorable FIFA World Cup (with several Bianconeri playing key roles in the tournament), the Scudetto and Cup took second billing to the events and fallout unfolding after Calciopoli. Whatever our opinions may be on the relegation, lifetime bans, and points deduction, Juventini’s losses that year were far greater than any sense of sporting injustice.
The suicide attempt of Gianluca Pessotto on June 27 was difficult enough, but even that would fade into the background following what would transpire at the club’s training ground on December 15 in that blackest of years. Heading back inside after a hard day’s Primavera training, concerned teammates raised the alarm after noticing the clothing and bags of Alessio Ferramosca (aged 17) and Riccardo Neri (16) untouched in the locker room and being unable to find the two youngsters.
They were eventually discovered by divers from the Turin fire brigade, who sadly pulled the two boys from an artificial lake near the club house at Vinovo. Built to collect rain water to lessen the facilities impact on the environment and measuring 50 x 30 feet, it seems Alessio and Riccardo chased a lost football onto the plastic sheeting that covered the water.
When they were recovered, it was sadly too late. Ferramosca, in addition to hypothermia, had suffered cardiac arrest and was immediately pronounced dead. Neri, whose body temperature had dropped to 20ºC, was taken to hospital where attempts to revive him continued until midnight, tragically to no avail. The club immediately cancelled its Serie B tie with Cesena – scheduled for the same day – while all levels of the Youth Sector would contest no fixtures for almost two weeks.
Investigators ascertained that the two youngsters had stood at the edge of the lake attempting to recover lost balls, only to slip on the covering sheet. They were unable to determine whether they fell in together, or if one fell first and the other followed while attempting to save his friend.
So talented were the pair, and their generation, that their Berretti side (a now disbanded U-17 team) was already five points clear of the standings. Ferramosca was a talented midfield prospect who only arrived at Juventus that same summer, moving from local amateur club Atletico Mirafiori where his father was President. He had celebrated his 17th birthday at the club just three months before and had been enrolled in a local school.
Neri was an even greater prospect, born in Florence, and arrived at in Turin two years earlier from Empoli. In June he helped the Giovanissimi Nazionali (U-15s) team win their own Scudetto, saving the decisive penalty against Perugia and he had already established himself as a regular in both the Berretti and Primavera sides. He had made a huge impression on Michelangelo Rampulla, former Juve player and the first team’s goalkeeping coach at the time. Speaking to him about Neri, Rampulla told me:
[Neri] had great qualities. That year he won the championship and grew very well physically and technically. We had already thought of taking him with us into the first team after Viareggio and train him personally.
It is well worth remembering that the only other keeper behind Gigi Buffon at that time was Antonio Chimenti mand it is more than plausible he would have become a familiar face to us all had he not lost his life in such terrible circumstances. Their joint funeral was held at Turin Cathedral and was attended by well over a thousand people, including many young people from both the Juventus youth teams and their schools, some first team players, the club management and representatives of other teams.
There was still a huge feeling of shock and sadness, emotions that only intensified when the white coffin of Neri was carried in, draped with his #1 shirt and two scarves (a Black & White one, and another Viola of his beloved Fiorentina). Gianluca Zambrotta, by then at Barcelona but still in attendance, was visibly moved when Ferramosca’s coffin followed his companions up to the altar.
The club made clear its intention to honour their memory and continues to do so even today. The pitch where the Primavera play their home games has been named ‘Campo Ale e Ricky’ after them and a huge mosaic of the pair – commissioned by local artist Leonardo Pivi – is next to the field.
Supporters regularly make efforts to do the same and on one occasion passed out 22,000 golden flags at a match against Milan at the Stadio Olimpico while the “Alessio Ferramosca e Riccardo Neri foundation” also hold many events to preserve their memory. Charity dinners were also held, and by 2007 the club announced plans to host an annual tournament for U-15 sides and held at Vinovo, aptly named the ‘Ale & Ricky Sempre nel Cuore’ tournament.
Ciro Immobile, a former teammate of the two youngsters, finds Ale & Ricky impossible to forget. Shortly after making his UEFA Champions League debut at Bordeaux with the Juventus first team, the forward dedicated his performance at the 2010 Viareggio Tournament to the pair. Scoring an all-time record 10 goals at the event and being named Player of the tournament, Immobile netted in the final and told RAI Sport during the celebrations:
This victory is dedicated to Alessio Ferramosca and Riccardi Neri, they are in our hearts and they are always with us, from up above they helped us win. This Viareggio has been unforgettable: for the team, for me, and because of them.
From that tragic moment right up until the present day, Ale & Ricky’s memory has remained with everyone and their legacy will never fade. All it took was a bad pass, a ball rolled in the wrong place. Darkness, slippery ground and freezing water. A ball which seemed destined to give them a bright and happy future instead united them in tragedy. Alessio and Riccardo left us one last time to chase their great love of that ball which fuels the hopes and dreams of so many of us as children. They must never be forgotten.
This article first appeared in Indonesian at JuventusClubIndonesia.com, translated from the original English (© Adam Digby).