Monday 22 January 2018

Why Trapattoni believes composers can help footballers hit Bach of the net

He knew the score: Giovanni Trapattoni
He knew the score: Giovanni Trapattoni

George Hamilton

After just over five years, the curtain falls. Giovanni Trapattoni is now the former coach of the Republic of Ireland. It's sad he was unable to replicate previous success, for he came to the job as the most successful club coach in history.

Trapattoni took over just before the European Championship in 2008. His new team would take no part in it. But such was his stature in the game that the leading German newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, ran an extensive interview with him on the morning of his native Italy's opening game in the tournament.

The headline – 'Listening to Mozart makes you a better player' – was hardly something you'd expect in the sports section, but it did offer a hint of what was to follow over 2,000-odd words, and an insight in this much-garlanded football man.

Trapattoni is one of only two coaches to have won all three European club competitions, one of only four to have won league championships in four different countries. He is also a lover of music. Maybe that's not such a surprise, for he hails from just outside Italy's musical capital and home to its most famous opera house – La Scala, Milan.

At 10 years of age, he was playing the horn, but football intervened, and his own music-making was left by the wayside. But his interest was undiminished.

He began collecting classical LPs when he was a professional footballer, and filled the downtime in training camps listening to the symphonies of Beethoven, before he discovered Mozart and Bach.

"Footballers are Philistines," he told the FAZ interviewer, "they don't bother with classical music."

More's the pity, in Trapattoni's view, for listening to Mozart, for instance, would teach them about tension, tempo and rhythm. How to build, how to structure something.

"They sit in the dressing room with their MP3 players, and get far too worked up. 'Why aren't you listening to Bach?' I would ask them."

Back in 2008, he was comparing the role of the football coach to the part played by the conductor leading an orchestra. The big difference being, in Trapattoni's view, musicians completely understand the concept of team play.

In football now, Trapattoni insisted, it's all about ego. You won't find the Vienna Philharmonic's oboe player standing up in the middle of a performance and going off on a solo. You can't afford to play like that in an orchestra.

It should be stressed that this was Trapattoni as he set out on his Irish adventure, not his retrospective of where it all went wrong. But it's interesting how much store he laid by musical appreciation in achieving the heights he did. How Mozart – "a God" – and Bach, Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Schubert's 7th, Beethoven's 9th all played their part.

In them he found parallels for his sport. "It's not just about emotion," he said. "Football needs tactics and structure. That's the way you score goals."

The original interview is available at

George Hamilton presents The Hamilton Scores on RTÉ lyric fm from 10am each Saturday.

Irish Independent

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