In 1917, in The Great War, whilst fighting for Italy against Austria, a young soldier ostensibly from a small, Tuscan town was wounded at the Battle of Caporetto, now Kobarid in the frontier mountains of Slovenia. It was, it is said, an arm-wound serious enough for him to be sent to Sicily to recuperate, after which and the end of hostilities on Austria's surrender he returned home, or at least to Barga, his Italian home in the western foothills of the Apeninnes north of Lucca and thirty miles from Pisa.
And it was in Barga that his senior football career began, one important enough for the local football stadium still to bear his name and his image half a century after his death. It was a career that was to see him turn out for just a single season at his local club, AS Barga, five for Lucca's then main clubs, Lucca FC and then Lucchese, both probably in association with fellow Scot, James Henderson, and one more for Pisa. He was also courted by Genoa, in 1923 touring with it to South America. And between 1921 and 1925 he would also win nine caps for Italy, netting seven times.
Yet Johnny Moscardini, for that was his name, or Gioni the Fly, as he was known, it a play on his surname, was only partly Italian, not by blood but certainly by upbringing and later life. In both he was a Scot, one of the early Italian-Scots and the first to make a real footballing mark. Born in 1897, to Giocondo and Maria, so just seventeen when the war had begun, twenty at Caporetto, barely twenty-one on return to Barga and twenty-eight, when his football career, an international football career of note, came to an end, his birth-place, the town of his footballing youth, was Falkirk. A forward, there he could only have been a Scottish one, albeit destined by family-ties to take the skills and a matured Scots style learned as a youngster in Stirlingshire to a still maturing, Italian game. He must have been quite the sensation, recalled almost half a century later in 1970, with the presentation of a medal on the Barga pitch. Moreover his place of death in 1985 was to be Monkton in Ayrshire.
The background to the Moscardini story is one of three brothers from Barga perhaps heading for America but in stages, the planned first of which was Scotland, after which it went array. The story itself is typical, one often of Catholic statues, a living, ice-cream, coffee, fish and chips and, in this case, retirement to the homeland. The Moscardini chippy is still to found in the centre of Falkirk, although the family no longer owns it. And they seemed also to have owned and would own similar shops and cafes in other Scottish towns.
Thus it was that by the mid-20s Johnny Moscardini's father, recorded as a confectioner to trade, wanted to retire, and to Barga. Johnny was needed back in the cold north, back in Scotland. Already by late 1925 he and his wife, Tecla, a Pisa-girl, whom he married in 1924, were to be found running what was his uncle's Royal Cafe on the harbour-front at Campbeltown. Their son, Anthony, was born there that same year, as Johnny is said to have been turning out for the town's Grammar School Former Pupils team. A daughter, Jenny, would follow in 1929, but the family had in 1928 moved to Prestwick, where they, whilst living in neighbouring Monkton, would for the best part of forty years run the Lake Cafe at 8, Main St. in the town, now seemingly an estate agent.
1911 - N/A
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