Perhaps the most obvious – but also the most intriguing – question is: How did the greatest Inter fan of all time become an Inter fan?
Only Peppino Prisco could have answered that question effectively. It would have been a witty quip that left you half stunned and half amused.
There is a story about how it came to pass, but we have to go back 100 years, to Corso Buenos Aires 66, in Milan.
It was there, on 10 December 1921 that Giuseppe – known to all as Peppino – Prisco was born. The Bussolas would often drop in to visit his parents and they were like uncle and aunt to him. One Sunday they turned up with some cakes. “What are we celebrating?” It was the 1929/30 season and Inter – Ambrosiana Inter at the time – had just beaten Milan. “We have to celebrate Inter winning the derby.”
That's how the story of the greatest Interista of all time began.
There are so many other anecdotes and emotions since that afternoon with the cakes. The young boy grew up nurturing his Nerazzurri passion, alternating his studies at the Berchet with matches in Via Podgora (between Porta Romana and Porta Vittoria), lapping up every word in La Gazzetta dello Sport and Il Calcio Illustrato. Inter matches at the Arena, post-game chats at the Bar Vittorio Emanuele in Via Orefici, his first away trips.
The Nerazzurri seed planted in Peppino kept growing and the roots became even stronger when, in 1938, a 17-year-old Peppino boarded a train for Puglia to watch Bari v Inter, a match won by Annibale Frossi's goal, handing Inter the Scudetto.
A strong sense of justice ran through the family. His father was a lawyer and his mother dutiful in ensuring he kept up with his school work. He would become a lawyer himself but not before a character-forming trip to Russia as a member of the Alpini (second lieutenant, Julia division, l'Aquila battalion), trudging for miles in the icy cold and fighting for survival. He wrote letters to his parents and took a leather ball with him into the Steppe. Harsh months indeed, a terrible war, and a 380-kilometre retreat.
When it all seemed over, in Brest-Litovsk, the first thing he sought was a copy of La Gazzetta dello Sport.
1,600 Alpine soldiers and 53 officers had set off; 159 soldiers and three officers came back.
He went on to study Law – and Inter, again. In Milan and around Italy. Until one day, the then vice president asked him: “Why don't you join the club?” He joined as a club lawyer on 10 October 1949 and became vice president himself in 1963, under Angelo Moratti. The president, tired of paying fines for Helenio Herrera's post-match rants, had Prisco conduct interviews in his place.
He was always there at the stadium, for every triumph, as well as other moments that changed football history. Like the appeal made after the game against Borussia Moenchengladbach – the infamous “can incident” - when his stubbornness and magnificent mind ensured the match could be replayed.
He worked under five presidents but only one boss: “I only ever served Inter.”
That also explains why he was so cutting and irreverent with Inter's rivals. He was AC Milan's ultimate nemesis.
To this day, San Siro sings “Serie A is in our DNA” - a reference to one of Prisco's many swipes at the Rossoneri. Said with a smile on his lips and without needing to mention the other team. “Inter fans needn't worry: after many years at this club, I can state that Serie B is not part of our genetic code.” His dialectics were never boring and even amused Milan fans, who saw him as a rival who was impossible to hate.
The intrinsic pride felt by a genuine fan was the same in adulthood as it was in childhood. On his desk, among photos of his parents, he placed a photograph of Ronaldo, the player he most adored, along with Meazza.
From Meazza to Ronaldo. So perhaps it was fitting that it was during Ronaldo's time at the club that Prisco took his leave of the Inter world. On 10 December 2001 Prisco celebrated his 80th birthday with Inter fans as Ronaldo scored against Brescia. Vieri and Ronaldo playing together. He received hundreds of birthday calls, all of which made reference to Inter, top of the league at the time. Two days later, on 12 December, he suddenly passed away.
He always joked during his interviews and once declared, “The day before I die I'm going to become a Milan fan – that way there will be one less of them.”
In actual fact, he left this world as one of us. And with us he lives on, at the San Siro, then as now, whenever the crowd chant “Peppino Prisci, give us a goal”.