From the 1970s until the 1990s Switzerland was the destination of choice for old players. Many stars liked to spend the final years of their glittering careers in the Alpine country. Amongst others, Jose Altafini (joint-third highest scorer in Serie A history – Chiasso), Giancarlo Antognoni (1982 World Cup winner with Italy – Lausanne), Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (Bayern Munich and Inter star – Servette), Marco Tardelli (1982 World Cup winner with Italy – St. Gallen), Mauro Galvao (Brazil international – Lugano) and Lajos Detari (Hungarian great – Neuchatel Xamax) enjoyed their twilight in Swiss football. Good wages and a distinct lack of pressure were amongst the main reasons why these international stars headed for Switzerland once their best days were behind them.
As the new millennium dawned however, Swiss clubs changed their philosophy, choosing to work hard on developing their youth systems, trying to fill their teams with new talents instead of ageing stars. Third Division outfit FC Rapperswil-Jona though may well represent an exception to the rule at first sight, as the Swiss side recently snapped up 36-year-old former Napoli striker Roberto Sosa, widely known as “El Pampa”.
Sosa found the back of the net more than 100 times in a notable career which took in the likes of Gimnasia de La Plata, Udinese and Napoli. The striker looks to be perfectly placed to help Rapperswil-Jona’s ambitious chairman Rocco Delli Colli, a businessman with Italian roots whose aim is to help the side reach Switzerland’s second tier – the Challenge League – as quickly as possible. Behind Sosa’s transfer to the canton of Saint Gallen however, lies the hand of organised crime, that forced the Argentine to leave Liguria – the region in Italy where he had played with fourth division side Sanremese.
“A man pointed a gun at my knee and told me the next time he would pull the trigger if I didn’t leave the team”, said Sosa. “I lived in Italy for twelve years. The first eleven and a half were a dream, but the last six months were a nightmare.”
Sosa claims he was forced to leave by organised criminals although he explains his family still reside in Liguria: “My family still lives in Liguria, because my children need to finish the school year."
The striker had an impressive start to life in Italy. In the summer of 1998, Udinese brought Sosa over from Gimnasia de La Plata, where he had impressed, scoring 28 goals in 38 games. Along with Marcio Amoroso and Paolo Poggi, Sosa’s partners up front, the Argentine was crucial in helping Udinese to grab a spot in the UEFA Cup for the third year in a row in his very first season. His best however was the 2000/01 campaign, where he found the back of the net 15 times – Sosa’s finest season in European football.
Sosa returned to Argentina in 2002, landing at Boca Juniors before moving on to Estudiantes – both spells were disappointing and the striker was once again on the move back across the Atlantic, joining Ascoli and later Messina, two Serie B sides. The Argentine’s most memorable experience in his second spell in Italian football however came in Naples. In 2004, Sosa became Napoli’s first ever signing after being declared bankrupt and forced to play in Serie C1 (Italy’s third level) by the Italian FA. Under the club’s new chairman, film producer Aurelio De Laurentiis, it took Napoli only three seasons to return to Serie A. Between 2004 and 2008 Sosa played a vital role in the club’s double promotion, scoring 28 goals overall.
After mounting another comeback in his homeland, on 21st August, 2010, “El Pampa” inked a contract with Sanremese. “After 18 years of professional football I am not looking for money any more”, admitted the Argentine. “I still play because I like it, and I feel fit. I enjoy the game, even in the lower divisions. Rapperswil is a very nice place and I hope to pay the people and the club back for the faith they have in me.”
Curiously, two of Sosa’s former clubs, Napoli and Udinese, are the great revelations of the current Serie A season, and the striker cannot choose which out of the duo he would root for.
“It’s hard to tell which of the two teams I would like to see crowned as the Italian champions”, said Sosa. “My first two sons were born in Udine, the third in Naples. However, Napoli’s supporters have a passion that’s difficult to find elsewhere. They really are the twelfth man on the pitch. When I hang up my boots I think I will go back there.”
For fans of Swiss outfit Rapperswil-Jona, the hope is that that day will still be a while in coming.
Fonte: Inside Futbol