The Italian superstar from the corner caff

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By Mark Davey

Every few years the daily papers re-tell the amazing story of an international footballer netted by Campbeltown Pupils.

But the tale, with its many Kintyre connections and surviving bloodline legacy, the subject of a 10-page chapter in Alex McKinven’s authoritative Campbeltown football history: ‘Kit and Caboodle,’ has never been explored by the Courier.

Alex wrote: ‘In 1911 the Grumoli family from the village of Renaio near Barga settled in Campbeltown.’

Fourteen years before, in Falkirk, Leo Grumoli’s nephew, Giovanni ‘aka Johnny’ Moscardini, was born and learned to play his football on the Scottish streets.

Italy sided with the allies, in World War One, and Moscardini, aged 18 in 1915, headed ‘home’ to sign up with the crack mountain Alpini corps which was battling the Austo-Hungarian forces.

He was wounded at the Battle of Caporetto and while recuperating in Sicily returned to the beautiful game.

Postwar he played in Barga where his games were watched by a scout from the Union Sportiva Lucchese.

The following year he was the league’s top scorer and in 1921 was capped for Italy, scoring the nation’s only goal in his debut match, a 1-1 draw with Switzerland.

His odyssey continued with a tour of South America in 1923. In all he was to score seven goals in nine international appearances.

Football though, in the poverty stricken Italy of the 1920s, recovering from the war, was not the mega-rich game of today and often the players survived by being paid in kind rather than cash.

It has never been possible to eat fame and in 1926, aged 29, he arrived in Campbeltown with his wife Tecla, to help out at his uncle’s café.

Unlikely as it may seem Johnny was still fit and pleased to be given the chance to pull on the white jersey of the Campbeltown Pupils for the seasons of 1926/27 and 1927/28.

He was an instant hit with the fans, a deadly dribbler with a powerful shot and he terrorised defences, at the Showfield, where Smith Park now stands, just behind the old jail.

Having paid back his family, for subsidising his footballing life in Italy, two years later he moved to set up his own business in Prestwick.

It must be something in the blood as Shaun, Paul and Gary Grumoli have all pulled on that same white shirt, to occasionally dazzle the Toon, at their club, which will celebrate its numerical centenary in 2019.

Back in Barga ‘Mosca’ was never forgotten and the stadium is named in his honour.

Johnny’s great nephew, former Campbeltown Grammar art teacher, Ronnie Togneri remembers a historic trip, in 1966, to the Tuscan town, when he was 27 and his great uncle was 69.

Ronnie said: ‘We watched the 1966 World Cup final at Onesti’s café in the Barga square.

‘Most people did not have televisions at home and the large café was packed.

‘When we entered everyone stood and clapped Johnny and he gave a running commentary for the whole match.

‘Johnny was a Paolo Rossi or his era.’

Johnny’s son Anthony, who passed away this year aged 92, in Liverpool, was born at 49 Main Street and went on to Glasgow School of Art before  becoming a renowned architect.

Johnny Moscardini in Italian colours. NO-c42moscardini01_Johnny_Moscardini_

To read more on Campbeltown’s Italian connection, Alex Mckinven’s book, Kit and Caboodle, is available from The Old Bookstore or the man himself. NO_c42kit&caboodle01