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Gabriel Strefezza: The Interview

In the bustling city of São Paulo, a young Gabriel Strefezza made his way through the prestigious youth ranks of brazilian club Corinthians. In 2016, at 18 years old, his footballing journey took him back to his great-grandparents’ home country, Italy, with a transfer to SPAL.

Where it all started

If today we get to watch Gabriel Strefezza tear through defences on the pitch, it’s largely down to his grandfather whom he has very fond memories of: “From when I was eight years old, my grandfather would take me to all my games and training sessions because both my parents were working. He was always there by my side and supported me throughout my career until the very end. He was always calm and very friendly, I consider myself to be just like him.”

Time to grow up

At the age of 18, Gabriel left the comfort of his family home in Brazil to join the ranks of the youth team at SPAL without understanding Italian, “When I arrived I only spoke Portuguese. I took about a year and half to learn the language. It was hard but my teammates helped me a lot. They taught me the language, the culture and I adapted quickly especially to the food. I have to say, I’m crazy about carbonara (laughs).”

A meal at Casa Strefezza

With the help of his mother on the phone, Gabriel graduated from survival cooking skills to making his favourite brazilian dishes at home, “I started with easy things like pasta, chicken and eggs, I would call my mum so she would explain to me everything. Eventually I also learned to make Brazilian food like rice with beans and picanha. I think I make a very good pizza too. It was nice to learn so young, it’s something I can share at home with my wife as well.”

A family man

At 26 years-old Gabriel considers himself blessed with his family of five: his wife with whom he’s been with for 11 years, Larissa, nine year old Manuela, two year old Madalena and of course his dog Sofi whom he considers his third daughter. “When my wife and eldest daughter arrived in Italy after a couple of years, it was as if I became complete again.”

Making dreams come true

Finally established in the world of football and in his new home country, Gabriel got to make another more personal dream come true, to bring his grandfather to Italy “It was a dream come true for him to visit his parents’ country. I got him to eat Italian pizza, something he’s always wanted to do. It was beautiful. A few months later he passed because of heart problems, I’m glad we got to live our dreams.”

Always be the best

Gabriel’s willpower and discipline are reflected by his personal heroes. On the footballing side, Cristiano Ronaldo holds a special place in the Brazilian’s heart as his favourite player growing up. Outside of football, he really admires the winning mentality of Michael Jordan, “I recently watched ‘The Last Dance’. In one of the episodes he said something that stuck with me along the lines that if you play with him you always have to give your best, everyone has to give their best. He passed on this winning mentality to the people around him.”

A new chapter in Como…first impressions?

“My wife and daughters have walked around the city two or three times and they really enjoyed it. I also called Cassandro when I got the offer since he was my teammate at Lecce and he said some very positive things about Como, that it’s a beautiful place. I’ve been to a Brazilian restaurant called Beija Flor so far, there’s a lot of shops around, and the city centre is very nice. I’m looking forward to exploring more once I get settled in.”

Beyond football? Gaming as a pastime

Aside from spending quality time with his family, Strefezza is also a huge fan of the video game Call Of Duty. In fact, he’s already looking forward to playing with his new teammates, “I love to play Call Of Duty on my PlayStation. I put time aside to play it, my wife knows. I heard that Baselli is really strong at this game, I’m not sure I can beat him (laughs)”

Matchday rituals

“Before games, and everywhere really, I always listen to Brazilian evangelical music. I’m quite superstitious otherwise, for example in the last game (with Ternana) I scored a goal, so I put aside the socks I was wearing, put a mark on them and, after washing them, I asked the kit man to put the same socks back in the dressing room for the next game. Or the shoes I use in the game I don’t use in training.”