Football: Zurich’s Wilfried Gnonto in Italian and Swiss history


The small FC Zurich striker apparently became the first player in the Swiss championship to score for the Squadra Azzurra on Tuesday.

Wilfried Gnonto “a little” saved Italian honor on Tuesday evening.

Wilfried Gnonto “a little” saved Italian honor on Tuesday evening.


Tuesday evening, thunder in the German sky. It was not the big victory of the “Mannschaft” (5-2) that shook Swiss football the most during this part of the League of Nations. But the goal scored in the 78th by Wilfried Gnonto, on the rebound and two meters from the goals, after a first stop by Manuel Neuer. The young Italian from FCZ became, at 18 years and 222 days, the earliest to score for the Squadra, since a certain Bruno Nicolè, in 1958.

But inevitably, behind, came a question. Who was the last Swiss league player to score for the four-time world champions? Has it just happened before? This simple question could ruin a day of work just trying to find the answer. Because if the Italians are (very) numerous to have played in Helvetia – more than 200, including binationals in the elite, nearly 250 at the lower level – very few are those to have been “capped”. So obviously, marked…

The names are linked, the memories come back… We laugh at certain passages like that of Robert Acquafresca at FC Sion. But the striker, who has only played 7 Super League matches and 2 Swiss Cup matches in two years in Valais, only has selections with the transalpine M21s (16 caps / 10 goals anyway). There was also Cristian Ledesma, the Italo-Argentin stealthily from Luganese (1 selection).

Very quickly, only three names stand out: Roberto Di Matteo, Giancarlo Antognoni and Guerino Gottardi. The former, European champion at the helm of Chelsea in 2012, was capped 34 times and scored twice. But the midfielder trained in Schaffhausen and passed through Aarau had his first cape a year and a half after leaving for Lazio. The Bernese Gottardi, who played for nine years under the Laziale colors, was never selected.

Giancarlo Antognoni during the 82 World Cup against Brazil.

Giancarlo Antognoni during the 82 World Cup against Brazil.

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For Antognoni (73 caps / 7 goals), it’s a bit the opposite of Di Matteo. The man was a legend at Fiorentina, where he played for 15 years, before coming to end his gently sloping career at Pontaise. When he walked on Swiss lawns for the first time in 1987, he had not worn the Italian jersey for almost four years. There was also Marco Tardelli (St-Gall in 87, last goal with Italy in the 82 World Cup final), and Gennaro Gattuso (Sion in 2012, 1 « Italian » goal in 2000), but their hour of glory was also long gone.

All this to tell you that it seems that Wilfried Gnonto is the first and only player in the Swiss championship to have scored for Italy…

Otherwise, but that doesn’t have much to do with Basel Sebastiano Esposito’s twin brother, Salvatore (SPAL, Serie B), who played against England recently. Without marking. His brother from the banks of the Rhine, he only has junior selections. There would also be to mention the former Sédunois Federico Dimarco, 4 selections and an assist, Tuesday evening, on the goal of… Gnonto. But that, too, did not answer our basic question.

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