A life as a midfielder

Lele Oriali SCROLL TO READ STORIA N.46 / 110
It was the match I always loved the most. The derby never scared me, on the contrary it fired me up in a special way.

“A life in midfield” is one of the songs produced by Luciano Ligabue and is inspired by Lele, a nickname used for Oriali by his friends. As for Gianni Brera and his vivid imagination, he instead called him Piper, comparing him to one of the oldest French champagnes. This was not due to a tendency to drink it, but instead because he was unpredictable and effervescent out on the pitch. He enjoyed 13 seasons with Inter during which he played a total of 394 matches. With the Nerazzurri he won two Scudetti and two Coppa Italia trophies. His success was also matched with the National Team, as he was part of the squad that beat Germany in the 1982 World Cup final. As a certain rocker from Reggio Emilia once said, Oriali had “years of effort and hits/ and won the World Cup as well”.

His performance that day complete encapsulated how Oriali played football. It consisted of hits and battles in midfield, complimented by decisive forays forward. Orali was a midfielder who grafted for his team, although he also had good feet and a keen eye for goal. In fact, that specific derby strike was not a one-off, as six of his 43 Inter goals came against the Rossoneri. 30 years on from that Milan derby and the Tassotti episode, Oriali had this to say: “It was the match I always loved the most. The derby never scared me, on the contrary it fired me up in a special way.”

Having received a long ball from defence, Orali initially flicked on his header, before then being met by a flying kung-fu kick from Tassotti. His Milan opponent crashed into him from behind and disfigured his face in brutal fashion. A total of 36 stitches and a lengthy operation were subsequently both needed to save his facial appearance. This incident occurred on 25th October 1981, coming during an intense derby played at San Siro. It was a particularly special match because it was the first to take place following Milan’s promotion from Serie B. Just 20 minutes prior to Tassotti’s violent boot, it was precisely that man Oriali who scored the goal to settle the intercity affair.

Lele Oriali

Gabriele Oriali was born in 1952 and spent his youth career with Inter. He made his Serie A debut with the club at the age of 18 during the 1970-71 season, as Inter went on to win their 11th Scudetto. He spent 13 seasons with the Nerazzurri, securing one more Scudetto in the process and also two Coppa Italia titles. He moved to Fiorentina in 1983, where he enjoyed four seasons before retiring. With the National Team he made 28 appearances and helped the Azzurri win the 1982 World Cup. During his time as a director at Inter, they won five Scudetti, one Champions League, three Coppa Italia trophies and three Supercoppa Italiana titles.