FITLIFE visits with daughter Samantha and friends Lucio DeFazi and Sergio Bonino in Rome Italy!

John and Sami in Rome
Sami & John Neel in Piazza Navonna.

Ciao tutti da Italia! Hi everyone from Italy! Today is a special post with a trip to Rome to see my daughter Sami and my very good friends Lucio and Sergio. Sami is a Junior and business major at the Eller School of Business at the University of Arizona and is in Rome for a semester in their study abroad program. My two friends, Lucio and Sergio are both Fisioterpia, (Physical Therapists) that I worked with 28 years ago with Il Messaggero Basketball in the First Division of the Italian Basketball League. 

It was the spring of 1998, I had just finished the season with the Phoenix Roadrunners Hockey team as their Athletic Trainer when I was contacted by my former boss PT, AT Gary Derscheid who asked me if I was interested in working abroad with a professional basketball team in Rome, Italy.  Of course I was interested as it was one of those lifetime opportunities that you couldn’t pass up.

Gary had left our clinic to become the Director of Sports Medicine at the Center for Sports Medicine and Team physician Paul Steingard.  The Center provided the Phoenix Suns Basketball team their medical needs and had a European Scout by the name of Dick Percudani. Dick had coached in Italy and was a friend of Il Messaggero’s head coach Valerio Bianchini who indicated that they wanted to bring an American Athletic Trainer over to work with the team.  Dick asked Paul Steingard if he could recommend someone who in turn deferred to Gary.  Gary gave them my name and in June of 1989 I was offered a one year contract by Il Messaggero Basketball to be their Team Athletic Trainer!

I arrived in Rome in early August to begin an unforgetable year of working and traveling with exceptionally friendly coaches, players, physicians and of course my two friends Lucio and Sergio. Lucio took me in from day one and helped me integrate in living and working in Rome. He and I worked with the First team while Sergio was with the Junior team. The sports system in Europe is very different from ours.  The team or Association will sign players as young as 15 years old to have them under contract and develop them as players. Sergio was responsible for taking care of these young players and helped Lucio and myself when he could. We made a great team and formed a life time friendship that continues to be very special.

Today Lucio continues to work for the team in Rome, which has gone through numerous ownership changes. He and his family were gracious hosts this week having Sami and I over for dinner and picking me up at the airport. Sergio has left the team and opened his own Physical Therapy/Osteopathic practice, in his wife’s home town of Anguillara, a small community about an hour outside of Rome near Lake Bracciano. The picture above is from a dinner at a restaurant in Anguillara one evening that he and his wife hosted.

It was great to see Sami and reconnect with my old friends. I hope you have enjoyed hearing about Sami and meeting some of old friends from Italy!

Have a safe and healthy weekend.


John Neel AT Signature

Leave a Reply