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  • Trying to Relate to an Italian Star
    As former soccer player Gianluca Pessotto recovers from a probable suicide attempt, Italians wonder what he was thinking
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    JULY 2, 2006 - Why would someone young, rich and talented want to end it all and jump 15 meters out of a building? That's what everyone in Italy wants to know after Juventus manager and former soccer player Gianluca Pessotto attempted suicide Wednesday by throwing himself out of a small window at Juventus headquarters in Torino.

    Pessotto, who reportedly has been seeing a doctor about depression, was found on the ground clutching Rosary beads after bouncing off of two cars on his way down. He has had four surgeries but remains in critical condition. Doctors say it will take at least a month before they will know if Pessotto can survive this fall and the full extent of the damage he has done to his body. The good news is that he briefly regained consciousness on Saturday and doctors said he was aware of his surroundings, according to Reuters.

    But I imagine his spirit is already dead, and probably has been for some time now. I've put off writing about this because there are no words when someone decides to end his life. There are no words of comfort or even truth. I can't possibly tell you why Pessotto, someone who seemed to have so much to live for, would choose to die. I have no idea what was going on in his head.

    Dear reader, I know that's the information - the why of it all - that you seek from journalists. But in the case of suicide attempts, it is the one bit that remains secret, unless the victim lives to talk about it and is willing to share. We still don't know if that will be the case for Pessotto. We hope so, but we don't know. That is why I wasn't sure what to say or make of this story. I'm still waiting for the real story to emerge from the wreckage.

    In the meantime, Italians are wondering aloud about how someone who made a professional soccer player's salary, who could afford the good life, would be sad enough to attempt to kill himself in such a brutal way. "Give me his money and I won't ever be sad," said Stefano, a friend to my boyfriend Antonio. Stefano wasn't the only one to question Pessotto's depression. I heard similar sentiments from just about everyone with whom I spoke.

    The problem with that line of thinking is life is never that simple. Sure, money can make things easier. You don't have to worry about mortgages or taxes. If you want something material, you can probably have it. But there's a whole lot more to living than paying the bills and making purchases.

    Life is hard. That's no secret, but sometimes people don't realize they are not the only ones with problems. We all have our crosses to bear - even Pessotto. Sometimes, in fact, the rich and the famous - especially athletes - have heavier crosses than the rest of us. Think of cyclist Marco Pantani, who overdosed on drugs, when he realized his career might be over after speculation about his use of performance enhancing drugs.

    Pessotto, too, might have been struggling with the end of his career. He had stepped down from playing on Juventus a year ago and was recently named a manager for the embattled team, which is at the center of a match fixing scandal and might get relegated to Serie C. Pessotto is not among those facing charges, but maybe he was as heartbroken as the rest of us about what is happening to the sport to which he was so devoted. Surely, Pessotto must also have his share of personal problems - raising children, keeping together a marriage, balancing everyone's needs with his own.

    Top off the responsibilities everyone has with the pressure of being famous, and you will have a disaster. No amount of money in the world can take away the stress of living and working under a microscope, having the kind of career that brings you great wealth but keeps you busy only for a short time, and missing the joy that one can find in the everyday if only he looks hard enough.

    Probably, Pessotto felt alone even if he was constantly surrounded by people. He didn't have to. "Pessottino, siamo con te," read the Italian flag that Italian national team captain Fabio Cannavaro waved after the Azzurri qualified for the 2006 World Cup semifinals. If only Pessotto had heard those words before he jumped. If only.

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