Agustin Madala you were only 23 when you became European Champion with the Italian team: Tell us how that made you feel? Well, naturally, I felt great. Although I have won two South American Championships with the Argentine Team, I have to say that this victory stands without doubt above all the others. It was not an easy championship. The format did not give us the normal advantage over the other rivals, that we enjoyed in the past. so I consider this victory very important for myself and for Italy, of course.
You were the big news for the Blue Team, so all eyes were focused on you: did you feel under any extra pressure?
I had no doubt that I would be heavily scrutinised. The Europeans are always a very important test, but frankly I’ve been under scrutiny for the last five years, since Madame Lavazza approached me with the idea for me as a member of Blue Team. I’m used to being watched, so I really do not mind. However, this last European Championship was, as you know, surrounded by quite a bit of controversy, so I think it was the most difficult test of my life. I must admit that the encouragement that everyone gave me in Ostend, made the task that much easier with every passing day. I cannot really properly begin to express my thanks to the team for their fortitude and, the Italian fans on BBO who offered such words of encouragement during my rest periods. It is always good to know that you have such support behind you on these occasions.
The controversy that you alluded to, the exclusion of ‘Fantunes’ from the Italian national team, did that disturb you in any way?
I’m not by nature a polemical person, so I tried not to get involved in any of the controversy. I think the national team gave Bocchi and myself the opportunity to play because we merited it, based on our recent performances and results. I focus on the partnership, to make sure that we are good enough for the team: Then if we play with Claudio and Fulvio and two others or as on this occasion the current team members (Versace-Lauria Duboin-Sementa), that we play to our optimal level. If we have to sit out, I’ll be disappointed, it just means we have to work so much harder to raise our performance level, that’s all.
If you were the coach of the Italian National Team, what training methods would you like to see for the next Bermuda Bowl? And why?
Look …. I am a player, and focus on my play. I have little idea what the alternatives would be, frankly, to the decisions of our Technical Coach. Our T.C. has the time and the experience to decide who should be playing, and who should be sitting out. She can consider all the different aspects of the competition.
Tell us about your relationship with Norberto Bocchi, on and off the table.
I have known Norby for about ten years, and for five of those years we have played in the same team, we have been partners since January 2008. We have always been great friends and we’ve never had any differences outside of bridge. With regards to bridge we have discussed many aspects of the game, as I have done with Lorenzo Lauria, Giorgio Duboin, Antonio Sementa, Alfredo Versace, Guido Ferraro, Claudio Nunes, Fulvio Fantoni and … with many of those with whom I have played with and against. Since we are friends, Norby and I have emphasized our good relationship both on and off the table. Outright quarrels are rare, but we are human and every once in awhile it happens but we can always discuss! I would define our relationship as excellent.
My friend Jan van Cleef was able to observe you during the tournament in Copenhagen and told me that you and Norberto speak a lot at the table, but he could not understand what you were saying. In what language do you speak with Norberto: Italian or Spanish? And what were you saying?
100% Italian. If we are amongst Spanish or Spanish speaking friends, then we would be more than happy to converse in their language. In relation to what we say at the table, it is always a discussion about system. From time to time a new sequence will come up and we have to find a patch, so to speak, for the system to work well. Sometimes we might discuss some unusual aspects of carding, and the meaning of a specific card.
And with the other teammates, what is your relationships like with them? You spent a year at Duboin’s home, so I assume that you two get on pretty well?
Well, speaking of my teammates, I played a year with Tony (Sementa), another with Guido (Ferraro) and 3 years with Norby. And as you say, I lived for almost a year at the home of Giorgio. I would say that I have a good relationship with everybody, I have always been more than welcome to their homes from the first moment I arrived in Italy. They helped me with the language, and were more than helpful to adjust to life in Turin, which was quite difficult for me initially… I was only 20 years old and would be two years away from family and friends, but I have to say that all my teammates and friends I have made since I arrived, have always been there for me, and they have been like a real family. With Alfredo Versace and Lorenzo Lauria, I have only played together once beforehand, and they were both very nice. Having said that, I have known both for ten years and have enjoyed a close friendship. Lorenzo gave me his 2004 gold medal he won at the Olympiad in Istanbul and since then we have always been very close friends, he gives me his sage advice on behavior. With regards to Alfredo, every time I go to Rome i try to find an opportunity to meet him and the whole family, and we always have lots of fun and discuss much about bridge.
On the website of your friend Fernando Lema I saw a photo in which you are holding a beautiful baby girl …. tell us something about your family.
My daughter, Juana, never stops growing, now she is a little more than two years old … I wanted to bring her with me to Italy from day one, when she was only a year old and to remain so for life! She speaks a lot and now she can not stop. She says many things in Italian, to tell you the truth in “her” Italian, she learns quickly and is very lively. Her favorite games are with cards! As for my wife, Barbara, we have been together now for four years and we get on fine: as I said earlier about the partnerships in bridge, we are also human and we have overcome the highs and lows of our relationship, especially when one partner is away from home for such an extended period. Barbara has two other children ( Sofia who is ten and Tomas who is eight) who live with us. Although living apart for so many people is not easy, I am very happy and it is a very good period for the whole family.
I think that your father, Adolfo, was a crucial figure in your bridge playing career: Could you tell us what his contribution was?
My father was undoubtedly crucial: since he decided to teach me and my brother (also named Adolfo). He always accompanied me, from the first tournament I attended to the last I played in South America, and now that I play in Italy he continues to watch every match via BBO, no matter what time it is being played or how minor the event is. He has a character that is very quiet, a quality I would do well to emulate, unfortunately I could not learn everything from him, but over time I am starting to improve. However, my mother was also a crucial influence (she died just 15 days after my arrival in Italy in 2006) as was my brother Adolfo: They have both supported me throughout my career. After the death of my mother and during the very difficult days that followed, my brother and my father gave me the strength to go on during some very difficult moments when I thought I just could not manage. And if you want to talk about my family, I will never forget the extraordinary support I received from the whole of the Lavazza family, and from all of my teammates.
You are an Argentine of Italian descent: how much Italian is there in Agustin Madala?
Well, my grandfather was Italian and all his brothers were, they were born in Cuneo: I would say Argentine is one part and Italian the other, fifty-fifty if we talk about percentages! (Smiles editor’s note)
Agustin, Thank you very much for the spontaneity and openness to the answers to the questions posed by us. I hope to see you again soon, and hopefully to give you some more questions, next time, more closely related to bridge.
I thank you for being so pleasant and affectionate towards me. I also hope to see you again very soon.
The second part will be published into few days.
(Thanks to Fernando Lema for the photographs)
by Laura Camponeschi
November 27, 2010