Maria Rinetti held up the soccer ball covered with the signatures of the Juventus players, including 1982 World Cup star Paolo Rossi. "This," she said, "is something I will always treasure. A team like this happens just once in a lifetime."
Juventus, an Italian club team that is perhaps the most famous in the world, arrived in Washington yesterday to prepare for Saturday night's exhibition game against Team America at RFK Stadium. The team, which features seven World Cup stars, including five members of Italy's championship team, has been the hottest commodity in soccer since Pele led Santos of Brazil to fame two decades ago.
"It's an incredible roster," General Manager Beau Rogers of Team America said. "I doubt seriously whether any team has ever had seven World Cup players on its roster."
The Juventus entourage, which included 19 players and approximately 20 more coaches and team officials, arrived yesterday afternoon at National Airport and was met by a crowd of Team America officials and soccer fans. The team spent most of the afternoon sightseeing and later met with Vice President George Bush in the Executive Office Building.
"It's an honor to have a great team like Juventus visit this country," said Bush, who joked with the team and handed out autographed pens to anyone who would take them, including several reporters. "This is just another extension of the fine cooperation and communication we have had with Italy over the past few years."
The Juventus officals presented Bush with a variety of gifts, including an engraved silver platter and an autographed soccer ball; the latter he deftly dribbled off his foot, knee, desk, forehead, chair and a nearby photographer.
Most of the Juventus players came dressed in the team's conservative blue blazers and khaki pants. But Michel Platini, the star of France's 1982 World Cup team, was outfitted in a green baggy suit and moccasins, and laden with jewelry.
"Those French," said a Juventus official, shaking his head. "Always being different."
The team was unaware of the tight itinerary laid out for it by Team America, and wanted to find somewhere to practice immediately after getting off the plane. But Team America officals persuaded Juventus Coach Giovanni Trapattoni to stick to the schedule, and the team agreed to train today instead.
Most of the players were impressed with the cleanliness of Washington and the abundance of greenery. On the bus ride, players could be heard sounding out the names of stores and streets they passed, although all chimed in excitedly when they passed Napoleon's Restaurant on Connecticut Avenue.