By Luigi Garlando, La Gazzetta dello Sport journalist
At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Pino Maddaloni – coached by his father Gianni – won the gold medal for judo in the 73 kg category. Gianna, known as O Maè (the Maestro), could have capitalised on the triumph by opening a fancy gym in a wealthy suburb of Naples. But he turned all such offers down and instead opened the Star Judo Club – Maddaloni Sport and Social Centre in Scampia, among his people, in the shadow of the infamous Vele estate.
The area might have been made famous by cinema and television, which introduced the world to a place run by the Camorra and the drug dealers and glamourised criminals, but O Maè spent years working to show the good side of Scampia, to guide young people away from the temptation of easy money and the short-cut offered by crime, to educate them about the values of sport and legality.
Maddaloni will tell us stories such as that of Antonio, the son of a mafia boss from Scampia who is now in prison in Sardinia. Antonio has become a successful judoka and is studying music, while his father Giuseppe is set to work at the gym once he is released from prison. It’s just one of the many success stories achieved by the Maddaloni clan, composed of O Maè Gianni and his children: Pino, Marco, a European champion and a winner of the Isola dei Famosi television show, Laura, a multiple Italian champion, Bright, an Italian champion, and Yelnia, a dance teacher.
The Maddalonis will also talk about their daily struggle to pay the electricity bills and keep the doors to the gym open, so that it can continue to offer free activities to families, the disabled, migrants and prisoners, as part of a social reintegration programme.