Italian Football Daily is taking a trip down memory lane by introducing a brand news series, revisiting some of the Serie A names of the past whom many of us may have forgotten. We kick-off our first piece of the series with a player once referred to as Peppe Playstation: Giuseppe Mascara.
The date was Sunday, March 1st 2009. Walter Zenga’s Catania were coming off a 2-0 home victory over Reggiana and had to travel to the Renzo Barbera to face a Palermo side they had already defeated on Matchday 7. In the 14th minute, striker Takayuki Morimoto controlled a dipping cross from the left flank with a wonderful touch of the back-heel then chipped in a looping ball to an unmarked Pablo Ledesma, who nodded home the opening goal via a diving header. Up 1-0, Catania would double their lead after Ezequiel Carboni spotted Morimoto on a run past the Rosanero back-line, with a long ball over the top to the then 20-year old Japanese striker, who slotted it past a sprawling Marco Amelia. Closing on the end of the 1st-half, at around the 43rd minute mark, Albano Bizzarri drove a routine goal-kick down towards the middle of the pitch. After Catania won the ball in an aerial duel, Morimoto kept it in their possession with a headed pass to a free-teammate. What the Palermitani in attendance would witness seconds later, was an artist using the Renzo Barbera as his canvas to unveil a masterpiece with one stroke of the brush.
Che gol! Che gol! Non ci credo. Mascara meglio di Maradona e Beckham! Questo e un gol che farà il giro del mondo!
With an audacious strike of the right foot from 50 meters out, Giuseppe Mascara beat Marco Amelia from distance and had the entire calcio universe picking their jaws up from the floor. Part spectacular and part magical, it was the type of strike that would cause a Twitter meltdown among the footballing community had it been scored today. It is no surprise that he was awarded Goal of the Year at the 2009 Golden Goal Ceremony in Sorrento. His penchant for scoring wonder-goals became a trademark of sorts over the course of his career and it would earn him the deserved nickname Mascarinho.
Born and bred in Caltagirone, a comune in the city of Catania, the native Sicilian began his career as a 16-year old for Ragusa in Serie D after leaving the youth ranks of local club Comiso in 1995. Stints at Battipagliese, Avellino and Salernitana would follow before he would complete the first big move of his career to one of Sicily’s most renowned clubs, Palermo, in 2001. However, two injuries in two seasons derailed his chances of permanency at Palermo and suddenly Mascara was out on loan, which would end up being a blessing in disguise for the Italian. Joining Catania following a loan move to Genoa, he accumulated 41 appearances and concluded the season as top scorer with 13 goals. Despite being sold to Perugia from Palermo the following year, Mascara returned to Rossoazzurri in 2005 and it would be the start of a historic relationship between player and club.
Mascara made his debut in Serie A with Catania in 2006/2007, a season removed from guiding them to promotion on the back of his 14 goals in Serie B. In the five seasons he would spend with them in the top-flight, Mascara made it a habit of opening up his bag of tricks and thrilling the tifosi with highlight-reel strikes, courtesy of his devastating right foot.
Six games into his inaugural Serie A season, Giuseppe Mascara would turn the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza into his own personal playground in a league match against Inter. Receiving the ball off a throw in by left-back Juan Vargas, Mascara flicked the ball up with his right foot, turned his body to face the action, allowed the ball to take one bounce on the pitch, lifted it up once more then unleashed a swerving volley with his right foot from an almost impossible angle. When it finally reached its destination, Julio Cesar was left perplexed and unable to deal with the dip and speed of the ball as it thundered down into the net. Un magnifico gol.
Not long after, as the first half of the season was winding down in December, Mascara would strike again in spectacular fashion. A bad clearance attempt by Empoli off a corner suddenly became a gift for Mascara as he stood unmarked in the 6-yard box. As it floated to him at perfect height, Mascarinho lived up to his name and executed a picture-perfect bicycle kick. It would end up being the match-winner for Catania. Rovesciata per la vittoria.
Whenever Mascara had the ball at his feet, there was always a feeling that at any moment, he could turn water into wine and one-up his previous wonder goal. No team was truly safe from his brilliance and the list of stupendous goals continued to grow season by season.
A curling free-kick over a 5-man wall, against Messina the same year, to beat a diving Marco Storari. His tripletta, the first of his career, against Torino in 2008. A spinning volley from around 40 meters out to catch Emanuele Belardi off-guard in a 1-1 draw vs Udinese in 2009. Each one of them was special however, one of his most important came against an old foe and it was one that would etch his name in the history books forever.
On March 12th 2010, with the game tied at one-a-piece between Catania and Inter at the Stadio Angelo Massimino, Sulley Muntari was sent off after receiving his 2nd yellow for a hand-ball in the box and the Etnei were awarded a penalty by Paolo Valeri. Giuseppe Mascara calmly stepped up to prepare for the penalty, staring eye to eye with Julio Cesar, the same goalkeeper whom he incredibly beat three season prior, from a stunning volley. The Catania supporters eagerly awaited to see what Mascara had in store; would he aim for power or slot home with finesse? For Mascara, he chose neither and in typical Mascarinho fashion, got the best of Julio Cesar with a cucchiaio right down the middle. A beautiful scene unfolded as the striker sprinted down the track behind goal, kissing the badge and ran straight for the protective barrier to celebrate with the fans. Giuseppe Mascara was now Catania’s all-time leader in goals in Serie A.
The Catania love story concluded for Mascara when he joined Napoli midway through the 2010/2011 season. Life at the Partenopei for the next season and a half gave the Sicilian his first taste of Champions League and Europa League football. Still he struggled to be the potent threat he was with Catania, failing to reached double digits in goals. Novara would become his next destination in 2012, scoring three goals in 16 appearances but the club’s stay in Serie A was short-lived as they were relegated that year. Mascara and Novara mutually parted ways at season’s end. A short experienced abroad in the UAE Gulf-League with Al-Nasr where he reunited with his former manager, Walter Zenga, was then followed by a return home to Italy, albeit in Serie B with Pescara. This would mark the end of his tenure in the professional ranks.
Despite his successful goal-scoring period at Catania, he never captured a championship in the top flight. However, at the age of 36, he would finally pick up his first piece of silverware. Way down the ladder of Italian football in the Eccellenza Sicilia, Giuseppe Mascara continued to strike fear in opposing goalkeepers and helped Siracusa win promotion up to Serie D. With the fire still burning inside, he switched over to Serie D club Scordia in 2015 and made 13 appearances before deciding on hanging up his cleats at 37-years old to pursue an opportunity in the coaching world. Today, he is back at Catania and working in their youth sector as manager of their Under-15 squad.
From being an author of unforgettable goals in Serie A to capturing the hearts of Sicilians across the region, Giuseppe Mascara always found a way to quench his thirst for goal. Catania may be going through a very rough period down in Lega Pro but they will never forget the magic of Mascarinho, and neither will the nostalgic calcio fans.