Marco Pellegri ran a hand through his hair and reached for the phone inside his jacket pocket.
The 53-year-old was doing everything possible not to cry. But it ended up being too much for him, and he slumped into his seat in the Genoa dugout and let the emotion pour out.
Pellegri, the team’s administrator, had just seen his son, 16-year-old Pietro, score his and the side’s second goal of the night in a Serie A game against Lazio after coming on for Ricardo Centurion in the first half.
A dream come true for the boy’s father, Marco once said that if he ever got to see Pietro play for Genoa at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris he could die happy. Consider his life fulfilled then. The pictures of Marco’s sobs made headlines around the world and caused Pietro to choke up when shown to him after the game, a 3-2 defeat that condemned Genoa to their worst start in 40 years.
Suddenly it all came back to Pietro. The hours spent in the car as his dad taxied him from one game to the next. The afternoons spent standing in the wind and rain to see his boy. The young striker was overcome with emotion too. After all, this is what they had talked about all along; Pietro scoring in front of the Gradinata Nord, the stand the Genoa fans congregate in. One of their own.
The Pellegris are from Genoa. They live in Pegli, the seaside town to the west of the city where Genoa have their training ground. Marco has worked at the club for years, initially in the academy, now as team manager for the first team. His wife Marzia is from a family of Sampdoria fans. But Pietro “only ever had eyes for Genoa”.
When the club were relegated to the third division in a match-fixing scandal 12 years ago, Marco Rossi, the club’s talismanic captain, used to come around for dinner and play Playstation with Pellegri’s boy. Rossi made 286 appearances for Genoa and remains to this day an idol of the club’s fans. Pietro was only ever going to support one club: Genoa, the Grifone.
What makes his story all the more remarkable though is that, despite being so young, the best clubs in the world have been knocking on his door for years.