Giovanni Trapattoni: Ireland’s most popular man - barely speaks English, is not even Irish


The show, as Trap also states regularly, can be found at La Scala in Milan. The result is everything for this Italian purist. “If you want the show, you go to the opera,” he says, playing air violin in the process.

“The football history will not tell you about the show, only about the result.”

Whatever about his style of play – and Euro qualification will paint over many cracks - Giovanni Trapattoni is a charming man, a Jack Charlton with charisma if you like.

His personality is warm and engaging. His smile is infectious. His language, a mixture of English and Trapattoni known by Irish journalists as Trappish, is always colourful. Ball is ball, ball is round, football is football – these are just some of the regular gems.

Fluent in Pidgin English, he loves to quote Italian sayings, even if they make no sense whatsoever when he asks interpreter Manuela Spignelli to translate.

A particular story about a chicken’s bum and a hen’s egg had the room in stitches before the friendly game against Italy in Liege last summer.

“We are not philosophers, we only need the words for our job and our job is football manager,” said Trapattoni. “When I first studied English my teacher, an American, said that all I need are the words for my job. That is all that concerns me.

“A maximum of 200 or 300 words allow you to give meaning to your job as a football manager but it can be less. We are not here for a debate on politics or the economy or social issues, obviously not.

“There are specific words that refer to football and, like my teacher says, as a manager I only need the words for this sector.”

Trap is known to stand up and enact what he is trying to say, often scoring the header from a very quick corner which Italy notched up at the 2002 World Cup finals before the Gods and FIFA conspired against him, as he sees it, and they were dumped out in rather controversial fashion by co-hosts South Korea.

Away from the public eye though and Trapattoni is ruthless. Skilful Andy Reid was axed from the squad for leading the sing-song through one tune too many on the night of a World Cup qualifier against Germany in Mainz.

Journalists were told at a press conference two months ago that Kevin Kilbane’s services were no longer required after over a hundred caps for his country. One of the press present at the conference broke the news to a stunned Kilbane via a text message.

Reputations don’t count for much in the Trapattoni ‘schema’. You only cross this man once as those who long for the good old days when Irish players bonded at the bar have quickly discovered.

“I have told the players a number of times since I came here that they need to change their drinking habits,” confessed Trapattoni, a man who has consistently preached the need for a winning mentality since his coronation ceremony at the RDS.

“They have to have a little more responsibility in their work and their mentality. To live this type of intense life you need to be a very well balanced professional.

“It is okay to have a drink after a game. That is the habit, not in Italy but in this part of the world. But if you are falling over you cannot train properly the next day. That is what I repeat to the players.

“It is important for the players to have one evening off after a game but then they must prepare properly for the next five or six days. They have to stay professional – for themselves and for the Irish fans who pay for the tickets to see their team.

“They must be professional. I believe we have changed this mentality, maybe only a little bit but we have changed it.”

A deeply religious man who also happens to be incredibly wealthy, Trapattoni is not bothered by any need to earn more than he does from the FAI-Denis O’Brien agreement.

For all Ireland’s current success and appeal to the marketing community,  he won’t even look for any nice little earners a la Big Jack and his contract precludes him from writing a book about his roller-coaster ride with Ireland. He has a good lawyer but no agent.

“I have never in my life used an agent,” he admitted. “Maybe that is a pity because you can earn more with an agent and I have had many, many opportunities.”

The two year extension to his current deal with the FAI will take Trapattoni up to 2014 and all the way to Brazil if he can negotiate a path around Germany, Sweden, Austria, the Faroes and Kazakhstan in the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers.

By then, his football journey will surely be coming to an end. “I am 30 years in this profession and there is always the result, you sleep for one night on the result then immediately you have to achieve the new situation,” he said. “For us the next situation is the European Championships and I believe we can achieve something at this tournament.

“That is my job now and my job keeps me young. The expectation will be big but we can do well.” If they do, they will put a much needed smile back on Irish faces.