Sometimes love at first sight is inevitable, it is meant to trigger the spark of a lasting, eternal, total love. For Ernesto Pellegrini it was a crowded Inter vs. Juventus: 4 April 1954. He was 14 years old and the number of spectators at San Siro almost prevented him from seeing what was happening on the pitch. A pity, because on the pitch the Nerazzurri won 6-0, with a brace from the wonderful player that was Nacka Skoglund.
Ernesto Pellegrini, born in Milan in 1940, followed the moves of the Swedish champion with his eyes full of joy, even in the streets of Milan: he watched him in Piazza dei Mercanti, where Skoglund went to have his shoes shined. Enraptured by so much splendid class, the young Ernesto developed an infinite passion and admiration: "I was in love with the Nerazzurri colours, proud. And I dreamed: one day...".
The son of farmers, enterprising workers: he set up his own business in 1965, starting an entrepreneurial adventure that now employs 10,000 people. A story of success and determination, of dedication. The lure of Inter was strong, very strong. In 1984, when he had the opportunity, Pellegrini fulfilled a dream he had cradled since he was a child, from the time of Skoglund: to become the president of Inter.
He took over the club from Fraizzoli, with a handshake, becoming the seventeenth president in Inter history. Eleven years, until 1995, before passing the baton to Massimo Moratti. Eleven years which included the record breaking 1989 Scudetto, the Italian Super Cup, two Uefa Cups, "when it was a truly important trophy. While there are some regrets, good memories dominate”.
Inter of the Germans: first Rummenigge, then Matthäus, Brehme, Klinsmann. Trapattoni’s Inter - with Zenga, Bergomi, Ferri Berti, to cut short the line-up we can still recite from memory, with Serenza-Diaz ending the eleven and the rhyme - always ended up with goals, on top of playing the game well.
Not just football, though. When Ernesto Pellegrini returned to San Siro last September, the thousands of fans present gave him a long and heartfelt standing ovation. A thanks for the extraordinary sporting adventure, of course, but also an homage to a man capable of looking beyond his own interests, of spending his own time on those who suffer: "That day I was moved".
"I have always felt the obligation and the pleasure to thank the Lord for what I have had and have built, giving something back to those who have been less fortunate than me". Ruben was a farmhand who, when Ernesto Pellegrini was a boy, died of starvation. In his memory and as a symbol of the fight against poverty, the Pellegrini Foundation was created, and the Ruben Restaurant was opened: "Even during an emergency there are at least 300 people eating a meal every day. A cost of one euro, for dignity, to remove the idea of begging”. At the heart of Milan while people are in difficulty, a concrete action off the pitch that should not be taken for granted. This is Ernesto Pellegrini, an Interista at heart, and a decent person.
To him goes the Special Award for the third edition of the Nerazzurri Hall of Fame. Before him, the same award went to the Moratti family and to Astutillo Malgioglio. Not just football: sentiments, generosity, dedication. True examples held together and inspired by the Nerazzurri colours.
"I want to thank Inter and the CEO Alessandro Antonello for thinking of me for this award. I am proud and honoured; it brings me back to the emotions of my years as president."