Eusebio Di Francesco and Fabio Maresca were the victors at the eighth edition of the Premio Nazionale Enzo Bearzot awards for coaching and refereeing respectively. The prize is the result of a collaboration between Unione Sportiva ACLI and the FIGC and was awarded by a panel chaired by the Extraordinary Commissioner of the FIGC Roberto Fabbricini and coordinated by journalist Enrico Varriale. Other members included US ACLI president Damiano Lembo, former FIGC chief Giancarlo Abete and ex-US ACLI Head Marco Galdiolo who acted as honorary presidents. The verdict was announced at a press conference at the organisation's headquarters in Rome which was attended by Italian Referees' Association (AIA) president Marcello Nicchi and US ACLI president Damiano Lembo.
The Roma coach came out on top in a head-to-head battle with Lazio manager Simone Inzaghi and won out in a category that also featured Roberto Mancini, Luciano Spalletti, Marco Giampaolo and Gian Piero Gasperini.
"A big thank you to the US ACLI for supporting this initiative that has now become a tradition", said Fabbricini, "It was a very intense discussion. We could have done with two Bearzot prizes this year, but we took a few factors into consideration. Di Francesco did very well at European level and has gone on an extraordinary run but Simone Inzaghi has also had an excellent run. You are always entertained when watching Lazio's matches; the defeat yesterday didn't affect the decision. A second reason to be satisfied is the prize that will be awarded from now on for refereeing. I believe it's a big step forward; without a referee you don't play. The prize has been awarded to a young referee, Fabio Maresca, who has earned a lot of appreciation thanks to his ability to manage a game. It's recognition for the refereeing community which, in addition to being essential, is also a strong component of our internationally prestigious football."
Maresca, a 37-year-old from Naples, has been a top-level referee for two years and has already won the Berardi award for best new referee. He has been recognised nearly a year on from the untimely passing of Stefano Farina. "To see a young referee receive a prize", said AIA president Nicchi, "in memory of a great official like Farina will be a source of happiness for our 35,000 members."
Di Francesco joins a prestigious list of recipients that includes Cesare Prandelli, Walter Mazzari, Vincenzo Montella, Carlo Ancelotti, Massimiliano Allegri, Claudio Ranieri and last year's winner Maurizio Sarri. The presentation ceremony will take place in the Salone d'Onore at the Italian Olympic Committee's headquarters in Rome on 21st May at 12:00 CEST and will be broadcast live on Rai Sport HD with a repeat at 23:00 CEST.