Friday, 7 September 2007

Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007)

The world lost a genuinely nice man yesterday. The word "nice", in these circumstances, may seem a little understated or lame. But having read a number of pieces on him since his death, "nice" is the single description that surfaces again and again.

Pavarotti was an ardent football fan. He was (almost) as passionate about the game as he was about his singing. By all accounts, if you were lucky enough to meet him, you were more likely to become engaged in a conversation about football than about opera. The son of a baker, football had always been a part of his life. He contemplated a career as a professional goalkeeper but it was his mother who persuaded him otherwise. His team was Juventus and the recent troubles at the club must have saddened him.

Pavarotti played a significant part in bringing Opera to the masses by making it more accessible, and no more so than during the 1990 World Cup - Italia '90. His rendition of Nessun Dorma was used as the theme tune for the BBC coverage of the tournament and for me this song will be forever associated with football. All subsequent World Cups were to be more than simply football tournaments. They became festivals, where football and music became intrinsically connected.

I've always believed that the game of football is a great leveller. It is the ice-breaker with strangers, it is the common language no matter which country you are in, it can be the bridge between factioned societies. And maybe it was partly Pavarotti's love of the game that allowed him to keep his feet on the ground. He was genuinely unassuming and self effacing. He knew what mattered in life. He was a nice man.

On Wednesday, we lost one of the good guys.

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