Italian Champion Alfredo Versace speaks to us about his and Lauria’s separation from Angelini Team and the so called Fantunes Affair.Alfredo Versace, it is true that you have terminated your contract with the Angelini Team? It is true.
How did it happen?
It was handled in an amicable fashion. After so many successes we decided to take a break.
You’re saying it was a friendly separation?
The separation of course also concerns your partner?
Of course, Versace – Lauria.
Which team will you be playing for?
We don’t know yet. We have some projects in the pipeline…
I guess you have had many requests …
We have certainly been approached, we will probably play in the team of Roman Zalesky: A Franco-Polish businessman now living in Milan and a big fan of bridge. He has just learned that we had left the Angelini team so he has made contact. But, I repeat, it is still not set in stone. Also this will not not transpire until next year.
Tells us something about the team that will play at Ostend in the European Championships. As you well know the team selection has stirred considerable controsversy… The only pair that was not up for discussion was Versace – Lauria: the inclusion of the other pairs has been open to debate but yours seems untouchable …
Perhaps because Versace – Lauria have been playing together for many years.
And the other pairs?
Bocchi – Madala are a relatively new partnership. Duboin – Sementa have been playing for four years. But the controversy has been aroused by the exclusion of the pair, Fantoni – Nunes. However this team has Duboin and Sementa that are two true champions, Lauria and Versace now playing together for twenty years and that have done their bit in helping to make history for the Italian national team, and Norberto Bocchi who has played a significant role in early all the triumphs of the last 15 years, and the naturalized Italian, Madala, an absolute genius and an exciting talent, with such competition for places a pair has to be excluded. Unfortunately that is Nunes and Fantoni, who if they were playing for any other nation would have been the ancher pair, alas, in Italy there are others competing for their place. I do not see why their is such a monstrous controversy.
At the bottom of the exclusion of Fantunes and your separation from Angelini is the suggestion that there is a degree of enmity between the two leading partnerships, you and Lauria and Fantoni and Nunes?
No, absolutely not: there is no enmity. First, the National Team is selected not by me, nor Lauria, but by the coach: we really have nothing to do with the invitations. And there is absolutely no hostility.
Were there furious quarrels between you and Fantoni – Nunes?
Furious quarrels? Absolutely not, in fact quite recently Fantoni and Nunes went to a tournament in our place … I repeat there is nothing to these allegations.
The Team now selected then is in your opinion the correct choice?
Let’s say that I agree. When you have the chance to have a 24-year-old who is recognized as a great talent, if the coach does not try to experiment with the selection for the European Championships, then when? It seems much better to do this in the Europeans rather than in the World Cup. Madala plays with Bocchi who is indisputably a great player… Certainly the experience is needed and the pair will improve over time. Naturally the pair are having their teething problems: but if one does not play the uncertainties cannot be addressed, this is the nub of the problem. Then we have Duboin and Sementa upon which I do not think I have to commet: suffice to say they are two of the five strongest players in the world. Sementa for me is the best in the world. As is Duboin!
Tell me about Salsomaggiore, what happened after five years of triumphs?
It happens, Rome has lost the title, you can’t always win.
‘It happeneds’? Nothing more?
Nothing more: we played against a strong team and we have lost the title. It can happen.
There are a few malicious claims that your partner Lorenzo Lauria is getting old…
First, in this environment the malicious are ‘many’ and not the ‘few’. It is difficult to answer such allegations, all I can say is that I believe Lauria to be one of the strongest players in the world: and as a player one the world envies, and one I wouldn’t wish to lose to anyone else. On the one hand Lauria is too old, on the other Madala is too young: there are defects in all players! (smiling)
It is said that Lauria and your self are a pair that strikes terror into the opponents at the table …
Being a pair who have vast experience, more titles, perhaps the opponents are under more pressure. Generally, we tend to play against the stronger of the opposing pairs, this is one of our tactics. The attitude at the table is determined by Lauria rather than me. At the more important moments he is the leader on these ocassions, he pushes and encourages the entire team during these pivitol moments.
How will you tackle the Europeans, and can you make a prediction?
We tackle them well on the whole, I don’t think there will be problems despite the overall improvement of the standard of bridge right across Europe, there are no longer those teams that qualified with rounds to spare. We are favorites and rightly so.
Let’s go back to the exclusion of Fantunes: is this exclusion only temporary in your opinion?
From what our captain has said, it is temporary: the National Team will be working on four pairs, though for now only three will go to Europe. I am sure that if a pair do badly or the team plays badly, Fantoni and Nunes will almost certainly be recalled for the World Cup.
Then for Bocchi – Madala it is a test?
Not only a test. Mrs. Lavazza believes that this is the best National Team today. She is trying to ascertain if the pair are up to it.
So there is no intention on the part of Mrs. Lavazza to exclude Fantoni and Nunes on a permanent basis?
I don’t think so!
And about the suggestion that there is some bad blood between Mrs Lavazza and Fantunes, which might be the basis for their exclusion, what can you tell us?
I do not know and frankly it has not occured to me, Fantoni and Nunes have played many times for the National Team under the guidance of Ms. Lavazza … These suggestions in my mind have little credibility.
And about the allegegations of a conflict of interest?
There isn’t any. Consider the fact that Mrs. Lavazza has for many years in running the National Team has practically used four players from the Angelini Team, if not six when Francesco Angelini played.
You do not see any controversy …
I do not see any reason for the controversy. In a country where there are so many champions, some can’t always make the cut. It is the same in other sports.
We have a lot of champions, haven’t we?
Thankfully, we hope to have them for some time to come!
Thank you very much …
Thank you, it has been a pleasure.
by Laura Camponeschi
June 18, 2010
We would like to extend a thank you to John Wilmott for some help in the translation