One of the reasons why the game is so loved is because when football stories become life stories, players aren’t just champions but role models too. This is exactly what Mauro Bellugi was: a fighter, a loyal teammate and an opponent held in high esteem.
For the former defender, Inter represented a call of destiny. An opportunity came along that he couldn’t refuse, one that would change his life and make him an Interista forever.
While coming through the Nerazzurri’s youth ranks, he played in midfield and scored several goals. In 1969, he became a first-team player and discussed his future role with Herrera. His task would be to defend the Nerazzurri goal at all costs. With great champions and friends in Suarez, Corso, Boninsegna and Mazzola leading the Nerazzurri’s attack, he didn’t need to make a contribution in the final third. However, he did find the net on one occasion: it was an unforgettable one too, coming in the first leg of Inter’s first-leg round of 16 showdown against Borussia Mönchengladbach during the 1971/72 season.
“Back then, it wasn’t easy for a defender to go beyond the halfway line. My task was to defend, the strikers were the ones who had to focus on scoring. I don’t even remember why I found myself in that position. The ball arrived at the edge of the box, I struck it instinctively and everyone ran over to hug me. I didn’t even understand what had just happened.”
Among the best moments of his 137 appearances for the Nerazzurri from 1969 to 1974 is the Scudetto victory in 1970/71, a trophy he pursued and won with all of the grit and determination that had always characterised his playing style and his love for both football and life. The warrior spirit always defined him, from his battles to become a great to the ones he fought during the last phase of his life. He'd turned 71 on 7 February and wanted to leave the world a message of strength and hope until the very end. He spoke about the beauty of football and of life, life that is worth fighting for, and he was paid back in kind with recognition from everyone – from his fans, his teammates, his opponents and from people who recognised in him that example of a life well lived, something which now, more than ever, is precious.
Strength, determination, happiness, love and hope can be found in his story.