Italian football legend, Gianluigi Buffon has revealed how Cameroon’s goalkeeper Thomas N’Kono inspired his footballing career. Buffon disclosed this at the annual La Gazzetta dello Sport awards on Tuesday.
Other notable names awarded on the night were Francesco Totti and Gian Piero Gasperini. While Totti was honored with the Legend 2017 Award, national team keeper Gianluigi Buffon was named Male Athlete of the Year.
Buffon said, “It was because of Cameroon’s goalkeeper Thomas N’Kono. At the 1990 World Cup opener at the San Siro, Cameroon beat Maradona’s Argentina, and as a young boy playing as a striker at the time, I was enchanted by this goalkeeper with the strange name – N’Kono.” AIPS Media reports.
After N’Kono’s feats, Buffon moved to goal, and years later, gave his eldest son the middle name Thomas. This time it was Buffon’s eyes to fill with tears as Thomas N’Kono appeared on stage to honour his great friend.
Meanwhile, Totti ended his 25-year career with Roma in an emotional goodbye in May 2017 and became a member of Gazzetta’s Hall of Fame, that includes a number of national and international greats. The award was presented to him by Urbano Cairo, president of RCS Media Group, the parent company of Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I didn’t know that I had scored the most goals against Gigi. It’s strange really, since he’s the best goalkeeper Italy has had. Then again, the two of us started out in 1993 in Italy’s U-15 and have gone through the ranks together, so maybe it does make sense. Sorry Gigi” Totti said.
Juventus won team of the year, after winning their sixth Serie A title in 2017, a new record in Italian football.
The Gazzetta Award for the performance of the year went to Torino FC captain Andrea Belotti, who ended the 2016/17 season as the top Italian goal scorer, third overall behind Roma’s Edin Dzeko and Napoli’s Dries Mertens with a personal record of 26 goals in 35 games.
Coach of the year went to Atalanta’s Gian Piero Gasperini, who couldn’t accept the award in person as his team was playing Genoa in Serie A’s Tuesday night fixture.