How many famous football statisticians have a passion for blue sharks?
There’s probably only one answer to that question, and that answer is GIANLUCA CUGINI.
This Italian-born football statistician (today based in Pescara, Abruzzo) works for the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS). His duties include analyzing teams’ strengths and weaknesses, projecting their likelihood of winning championships, and contributing toward the development of new strategies.
A charismatic man with an impressive resumé, there’s no one quite like Gianluca.
He started his career with football stats very young; he was only 22 when he worked at the FIFA World Cup, in which Azzurri, Italy’s national team, was playing.
Initially, he worked for DATASPORT—a company that provides services for sporting events around the world—as a football statistician, starting in 1987.
At this job, he calculated stats during the Champions League and also for other World Cups ( not only with the BLUE team )
In time, he left Datasport and began working the same job at the IFFHS.
In 2002, he was assigned to be the head of Italy’s IFFHS division, a position which he held from 2002 until 2012.
From 2012 to 2013, he served as World Executive Board of the IFFHS.
Nowadays, Gianluca also works as a Marketing consultant (in the football category, of course).
He also has skills in finances, public relations, sports management, football science.
Although Gianluca adores his job, he says it’s much more enjoyable because he’s familiar with the sport. In his youth, he competed in young football tournaments. Because he played the sport, he says, he feels that it enhanced his statistician skills.
Throughout his career, he has calculated stats for hundreds upon hundreds of games. In addition to working at the FIFA World Cup, he has also worked at the UEFA Euro Championship, the Confederations Cup, the Champions League, Italy – Serie A and Italy Cup, the FIFA World Cup Clubs, Supercup …..
In particular, he really enjoyed working for Azzurri at the FIFA World Cup.
To some people, statistics not seem like an interesting job. After all, even if they’ve done well in school, most people would not choose math or statistics as a career choice. For Gianluca, however, football statistics is his life’s work. In one interview, he said being a football statistician gives him “great satisfaction … because it combines my two great passions: football and statistics.”
Thanks to his illustrious career, he has been to 110-plus countries on all seven continents. (He hasn’t counted how many he’s been to, even though fans have asked him to more than once.) He hasn’t stopped touring the world, either: he intends to keep on travelling so that he can learn new things.
Through his travelling, Gianluca has discovered new hobbies. One of these hobbies was statistics on blue sharks. That’s right: Gianluca doesn’t just calculate statistics for football games, but he also researches statistics on these blue sharks. These fascianting creatures (Prionace glauca)—which are located in temperate and tropical climates—are greatly threatened by human fishing. Their skin is used for leather, and their fins for shark-fin soup. In fact, people fish them so much that the International Union for Conservation of Nature has deemed them as having a Near Threatened status.
Gianluca has been passionate about sharks for a long time. The reason for this is that, as a child, he and a friend who owned a boat would often see blue sharks when they went out to sea. When Gianluca saw them for the first time, he says, it was love at first sight. The sharks actually used to be quite common in the Adriatic Sea (which borders his home country of Italy), but unfortunately this is no longer the case, due to fishing. Moreover, his interest in them further solidified when he saw Sharks and men (Uomini e squali), a documentary by Bruno Vailati.
Gianluca further developed his interest in blue sharks when he met Dr. Alessandro De Maddalena, one of the world’s most well-known shark experts. Dr. De Maddalena agreed to publish a work by Gianluca, for which he is thankful. “I think he is really amazing,” Gianluca says of his favorite marine biologist. He adds that, as a child, he was saddened by the fact that he could never find many books about sharks. He did find one such book, however—-The Shark: Splendid Savage of the Sea, by Jacques-Yves Cousteau—which he still holds fondly in his heart today.
Gianluca is grateful that, through his career as a football statistician, he was able to develop his interest in this magnificent animal. And as to why he especially loves blue sharks in particular, he explains that he is a great fan of Azzurri, who wear bright blue outfits.
At the end of the day, Gianluca is not only great at his job, but he’s also a world traveler with a lot of stories to tell. His passion for blue sharks encourages his fans everywhere to learn more about animal conservation and the environment—and, by extension, about the steps they can take to improve our natural world.