In advance of the Chicago Fire season opener I decided to read I Think Therefore I Play, Andrea Pirlo's autobiography.
Pirlo, the famed Italian midfielder, is now playing for New York City FC. NYCFC is the Fire's opponent in the season opener.
I thought reading about the man's story in his own words would be interesting before seeing him in person. Maybe I would have a different view of him, I thought. Boy, he did not disappoint.
The first thing I noticed was the undoubtedly Italian flavor to it. The matter of speaking, the way the stories are told, the artistry of all of it.
Cesare Prandelli, who managed Pirlo with the Italian national team from 2010-2014, wrote the introduction and told a story about noticing how good Pirlo was as a youth player. He was going to poach him for his club, but his club president said doing such a thing would be an injustice because Pirlo "must remain a player who belongs to everyone."
That is the beauty of this book. Pirlo is revered by many as if he is the "Most Interesting Man in the Universe" and after reading this book, I see no reason why those tongue in cheek jokes and references should go away.
Pirlo talks about the stories of all his moves, and near moves. The story about how he almost signed for Real Madrid or how Pep Guardiola invited him into his office after a Champions League game in Barcelona and even Pirlo couldn't believe what was happening.
There are stories about how Pirlo and one of his closest friends Alessandro Nesta would play FIFA on a nearly daily basis. He calls the PlayStation one of the greatest inventions ever.
On top of all the juicy behind the scenes stories, Pirlo is actually really funny. The subtle, or not subtle, humor comes through really well in the book. My favorite line comes from his description of what it's like to represent Italy.
"Being part of a team that belongs to everyone makes me feel good and at peace with myself. It relaxes me. A lot of the time, it's better than sex: it lasts longer and if it falls flat, it can't just be your fault."
His coy sense of humor is a great way to humanize him. Any soccer fan has seen what Pirlo can do on the field, but this book is a pathway to getting to know him as a person. He seems like someone I'd love to hang out with, but many people probably already knew that.
The bottom line is this book is phenomenal. It's a short read, goes quickly and has short chapters if you want to read it on the train like I did. I actually want more of it, which coming from me says a lot.
I'd recommend it to any soccer fan, even if you don't follow the Italian game as much. Most of the references are explained or obvious from context. Even if you're not a big soccer fan (why are you reading this blog?), the insight to a famous athlete's life and personality is interesting. He talks less about the game itself and more about the people he met through it.
Up next: Das Reboot