Signing autographs is not unusual for a pro, but doing it during a game is.
Gianluigi Buffon will probably not forget his 166th cap for Italy any time soon. Not because he won an important title in this game or made one outstanding save after the other – but because he not only guarded his goal during the game, but also gave an autograph at the same time.
But one after anonther. On November 12, 2016, the Italian national team was a guest at the Rheinpark Stadium in Vaduz as part of the World Cup qualifier. Liechtenstein was the host. The underdog started badly with three defeats from three games and a goal difference of 1:12 in the qualification and against Italy the chances of another bankruptcy were extremely high.
Ultimately, the outcome of the game was clear. Italy won 4-0, but could have won much more thanks to almost 30 chances to score. Liechtenstein didn’t stand a chance, the 6,000 or so spectators in attendance only saw three shots wide of Buffon’s goal. One of the fans present went by the name of Giuseppe Cortese.
Flitzer thought the game was over
The same Italian made his big appearance in the 88th minute. The game was splashing just before the final whistle when the football fan climbed over a fence in the Rheinpark Stadium and stormed onto the pitch. His goal was clear: get an autograph from Buffon, Cortese’s favorite player and role model.
The day before the game, the racer had tried in vain to get the goalkeeper’s signature. So he made a second attempt. “It may sound strange, but I thought the game was over and then I went to him. When I noticed that the game was still going on, it was too late. I couldn’t go back,” Cortese explained after his Platzsturm opposite Italian TV stations.
The speedster then stood in front of Buffon with a pompom hat, a one-piece suit in the national colors of Italy and a jacket from the Squadra Azzurra. And of course with a pen for the autograph. Not having to save a single shot in the game against Liechtenstein, the Italy international goalkeeper took almost 20 seconds to sign his fan’s shirt. He was enthusiastic: “Gigi was so relaxed. I actually wanted to have him sign a captain’s armband, but there was no time for that.”
Because when Cortese had bagged his idol’s signature, the stadium’s security service was also on hand. With a smile on his face, the fan ran towards the security staff and was then led off the field. He got what he came for.
Autograph collector full of adrenaline
According to his own statements, Cortese was pumped full of adrenaline and happiness after this action: “I’m just overjoyed to have an autograph from the greatest player and person, Gianluigi Buffon.” In addition, the speedster attracted a lot of attention, his clip was viewed millions of times on the Internet.
But not all reactions were positive. In addition to praise for Cortese’s efforts, there was also criticism online – and calls for punishment. The striker replied: “I don’t see myself as a speedster, but as an autograph collector.” But this statement did not protect the Italian from a stadium ban. Cortese did not say how long this was canceled and whether it was subject to further consequences.
And Buffon himself didn’t make a big deal out of the event, fully professional he immediately focused on the remaining minutes of the World Cup qualifier. After the game, the goalkeeper was available for numerous autograph and photo requests from his fans, always with a smile on his face. “For me, all of this has something to do with respect,” he told the media present.
After the game in Liechtenstein, Buffon in the Squadra Azzurra dress received ten international matches. This makes him the record player for the Italian national team – and a fan favorite anyway. It would not even have needed the autograph for the speedster.