In the same way that every comedy actor is secretly rumoured to want to play Hamlet, and every rock star seems secretly to want to be an actor, plenty of footballers seem to be want to be golfers.
Now, it seems that top golfers want to be footballers. Just ask the 2018 Open champion and one of the most important member of Europe’s triumphant Ryder Cup team of the same year, West Ham fan Francesco Molinari.
‘It’s true,’ he told Blowing Bubbles. ‘We’d all love to. We don’t get to play too much together – the risk of injury is too big.
‘But football is one of the biggest topics of conversation on the tour, and there are plenty of West Ham fans about. Some of the English caddies are, and Paul McGinley, who was captain of the 2014 Ryder Cup-winning side, is a big West Ham fan, so we’re always talking football.’
Molinari was born in Turin in 1982, the year Italy won the World Cup for the first time since 1938, when, inspired by Michel Platini, the Molinari family team were dominant in the Italian league on a run of four Serie A titles in six years.
But just to be awkward, Francisco bucked the family trend and supported Inter Milan instead. ‘I think I wanted to be a little bit different,’ he said. ‘in 1989, when I was seven years old, Inter were coached by Giovanni Trapattoni and had a great side with Andreas Brehme and Lothar Mattheus. They won the title by 11 points that season so that was my mind made up.
‘Growing up in Italy, especially in the years just after we won the World Cup, it’s inevitable that you’re going to become a big football fan, and then the season after Inter won the league, in 1990, we hosted the tournament. I really got into watching then, so it was around then that my love of football really took off.’
But for all the football dreams of top golfers, there was never any chance of the young Molinari ever trying to make a living using his feet rather than his hands. ‘Sadly I wasn’t a great footballer – I loved playing it with my friends, but it certainly wasn’t my strong point.’
For the past decade, Molinari has called England home, and whilst to most West Ham fans, the word Italy can only mean one player, for Molinari, it was not you know who that drew him over to West Ham.
‘I remember Paolo di Canio being one of the first Italian players to come over and play here, but Gianfranco Zola was at West Ham when I moved here, so that’s why I decided they were the team for me,’ he explained.
‘I did watch Paolo when I was back home, though – he was obviously very talented, but he was so fiery!
‘It was quite rare for ltalian players to go overseas in those days, so he got a lot of attention, and West Ham were well known in Italy because of him.’
The golf tour that brought Molinari to England and West Ham, unfortunately, is now the thing that prevents him from getting to many matches.
‘All the travelling around means getting to watch games live is very difficult,’ he said, ‘so I have to make do with watching them on television, but the good thing is that the Premier League is absolutely everywhere around the world, especially in the States. If I’m not playing, then I’ll always try and watch, and if I am playing, then as soon as I get off the course the first thing I do is check the scores.’
For many golf fans, their number one player is Woods. But as far as West Ham fans are concerned, the most important man on the tour is an Iron. BBM