An interview with Francesco Cardarelli
We caught up with the Italian stadium operator to discuss football, life and family.
Read the short profile below.
“I am a stadium operator for the Artemio Franchi stadium in Florence. I lost my job at a factory five years ago where I had worked for nearly 20 years – I used to make lamps. The business went bankrupt because of a misunderstanding between the two owners, who were brothers. I was very depressed as I’d also gotten divorced two years earlier. At the time, my sister tried to help but I felt too ashamed. I was in a dark place, just working a few days every month. Then I saw an ad in the newspaper for stadium operators. I didn’t even know what a stadium operator was, but I’ve been a football fan forever so I called and got an interview. I’ve now been in the job for three years. At first, my son was a little hesitant as he looked down on the job, but my sister and mother were really supportive. Now, my son loves coming to the games – I get him in for free, so his attitude has changed. It’s very difficult to find work in this country. Most employers offer short-term contracts which can last only a week. A lot of younger people have left, not because they don’t love Italy, but because they are frustrated by the lack of career opportunities.”
Francesco grew up in Sesto Fiorentino, a small town outside Florence. His father worked in the leather business (he used to make leather bags) and his mother was a stay-at-home mom. His dad passed away 10 years ago, but his mom is still alive and well. She’s 85 but still sharp and can still take care of herself. Francesco has one older sister who is married and living near Florence. She has two boys, and Francesco sees her often. Francesco is Catholic and attends church every Sunday. He has a 30-year-old son who works as a repairman, and Francesco is proud that he’s made it on his own. However, Francesco divorced his wife seven years ago and it’s a loss that remains raw.
“The saddest day was when I got divorced. I realized that a huge part of my life had changed. I had been drinking a lot and things became ugly and violent at the end. I have a lot of regret – I wasn’t a good husband. I drank a lot because I was bored but, after the divorce, I realized I was a fool. It’s taken a lot of work to get through, which I’ve worked on myself and with the help of a priest. Since working at Artemio Franchi, however, things have improved. I know a lot of people through my stadium job – other workers, the die-hard supporters, the players. On a typical game day, I control the admissions tickets for spectators or control the stands and flow of spectators. Fans get very passionate and sometimes do get violent. Last year, at a Fiorentina-Juventus game, for example, things got very ugly and at the end of the game, there was a fight. There are also lots of good sides though. I enjoy most of the work during training sessions. I get to interact with the players. My favorite player is Federico Chiesa, the son of Enrico Chiesa, a former professional footballer who played for Fiorentina. He’s a winger but also an attacking midfielder. He’s scored a total of 25 goals.
“I feel inspired when we win a game. I feel like I’ve won a million euros every time. It gives me great happiness. I know it sounds strange to get such gratification from a football match but, really, it’s all I have now. At the stadium, I feel like I have a family: we laugh together when we win and we cry together when we lose. The plan is to retire in 10 years and live a quiet life, doing things I enjoy like visiting my son, watching football, and playing cards. It’s harder when you’re older to restart your life and to find another job, so I feel grateful that I’ve found this job. If I was 20 again, I would force myself to study law. I would also work on my marriage and hopefully not lose my wife.”