My father was into health. He ate ‘plain’ pasta – that is, with olive oil and parmisan. He was against us drinking not only wine but also too much water with meals, so that we wouldn’t dilute our gastric juices. He went so far as to remove bottled water from the table, placing it on the floor and guarding it with his feet. He was against drugs of any kind.
Papa only believed in psychological doping.
However, he had complete faith in the properties of acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) taken with caffeine: it is harmless, relieves minor pain and stimulates the brain.
He would buy Aspirin in England or America that came in large blue 30 mg bottles – 50 mg being too strong a dose. As aspirin is not good for the stomach, he made us grind up the little pills with granular sugar to give to the football players. We then had to enclose the powder between wafers – communion hosts that stuck to the roof of your mouth! This was the drug obsession that he administered to everyone.
I am surprised by the accounts of poor Ferruccio Mazzola, who died at a tragically young age. The brother of legendary footballer Sandro Mazzola confirmed that the drug would be dissolved in coffee, put into a vacuum flask and poured into the masseur’s little cups. The drugs that were fashionable in the sixties, which were sold openly and very popular with university students at exam time, taste salty.
Everyone knows that if someone drinks too much and wants to throw up, you give them coffee with a teaspoon full of salt: an immediate emetic. It’s hard to imagine that ALL the Inter players – Italian to the core apart from two foreigners – would gulp down coffee that disgusting.
A cult of coffee reigns in Italy. You only have to hear what people order in a bar: long, short, very short, macchiato, flat white, Morrocan, served in a cold cup, a glass...
Even at home, an Italian can detect the slightest deviation at the first sip: whether the beans are stale or the coffee maker has been washed with detergent or a different brand of coffee has been used.