The tattoo covered arms, the distinctive mohawk hairstyle and the Captain’s armband fastened tightly to his sleeve. No, it’s not Naples adopted son, Marek Hamsik, but rather the man who keeps Crotone’s foes at bay, Alex Cordaz.
In less than a month the guns would fall silent and the war to end all wars would cease, but till then there was still plenty more killing to do.
October 23rd, 1918, the Austro-Hungarian Empire is on its last legs. Having fought a savage war of attrition in the Alps against Italian forces for over three years, their devastating defeat at the battle of Piave River in June of 1918 had signalled the death kneel of their army. All that was left needed was one final offensive from the Italian forces to deliver that death blow. It finally came on the 23rd of October and would be known as the Battle of Vittorio Veneto. Even with it being the last vestiges of the war the slaughter remained horrific, Italy would suffer some 38,000 casualties, whilst Austria-Hungary would lose over 300,000 either dead, wounded or captured.
It was from this battle where the nearby town of Vittorio Veneto got its name and it is in this small northern town where Alex Cordaz was born. Now 35 years of age, it has been a battle to get to the top for the Squali netminder. A battle many may argue he has been fortunate to be allowed make at all.
A product of the Inter youth system, Cordaz would only ever make a solitary appearance for the Nerazzurri, in a Coppa Italia tie against Juventus. Like so many that came before and even more that would come after, Cordaz’s route to the first team was blocked and numerous loan spells away from the San Siro would prove his only chance of playing – his first of which being a short hop into Liguria and the shirt of Spezia. Playing time with the Aquilotti however would also prove to be in short supply and he would soon be farmed out again. This time to the Granata of Acireale, far away from home on the island of Sicily.
Cordaz would find consistent playing time with the club, however it was in Sicily that his world would come falling down. It was the night of the 17 May 2006, Cordaz and his girlfriend Moira Sesto were travelling along the Catania to Ragusa motorway. As they neared the Lentini exit, Cordaz’s BMW hit a truck, Moira Sesto was killed instantly in the collision. Cordaz himself would suffer life threatening injuries but would eventually pull through. However, an investigation into the accident found that at the time of the crash, Cordaz was three times over the drink driving limit.
In 2010, the Corte di Cassazione would find the keeper guilty of manslaughter and sentenced him to four years in prison. By this time Cordaz was on the books of Swiss outfit Fc Lugano, his fifth club since departing the Milanese giants. Given the lengthy process for cases in Italy, Cordaz’s career continued and he spent two years in Switzerland before returning to Italy and Cittadella. He would make 84 appearances for he Veneto club before once again moving on to pastures new in the summer of 2013.
Yet just as he had put his foot inside the door of his new club Parma, he was quickly shipped out on loan to ND Gorica. The Slovenian club were one of Parma’s many feeder sides where they sent basically squad loads of players off to get some game time. It was all part of then presidents Tommaso Ghirardi’s plan to grow the club, a plan as the years that would follow show was a complete and utter fallacy.
It was in the depths of Slovenia that a now 30-year-old Cordaz, with his career seemingly going backwards found out that his four-year prison sentence was confirmed. As La Tribuna di Treviso reported in October 2013, in 2010 there was the first sentence of a single judge in a court in Lentini of four years. The article then goes on to state that “lawyers Maurizio Vilona and Ettore Randazzo yesterday (October 18th2013) made it known that the sentence was confirmed and became definitive.”
Despite this, Cordaz’s career continued and after a year in Slovenia he returned to his parent club. On the pitch his prospects looked bleak. Third choice behind Alessandro Iacobucci and Antonio Mirante, Cordaz watched on for the first half of the 2014/15 season. That January though he was handed a lifeline when Crotone came calling. Handed the starting spot with the Serie B club, he set about making himself a key component of the Calabrian club.
This he duly did, being an anchor of stability as the Calabrian club make an unlikely tilt at promotion out of Serie B. His ascent to the top flight had proven a long and tumultuous journey, but at the grand old age of 33, Cordaz would play in Serie A for the first time. It would prove a season to remember for the Squali, as a campaign that looked like it was hurtling towards an immediate return to Serie B, turned into one of the greatest escapes in football history. And of course, Cordaz proved essential to that escape, with some excellent displays for a Serie A virgin. Now at the grand old age of 35, Cordaz continues to be Crotone’s undisputed number one. It has taken him to his mid-30’s to fulfil the dream of being a top-flight keeper.
Yet, the story of Alex Cordaz leaves us all with a moral conundrum. Should he have been allowed to pursue this dream given the ghosts of his past, or do people who repent deserve that second chance? Of course, an article on an Italian football site is not the place to pass judgement on an individual, it’s just the place to tell the story of a Serie A keeper.