Commenta per primo recently had the privilege of speaking with Chantal Borgonovo, Stefano Borgonovo's late wife. Stefano played for Como, Fiorentina and Milan, a powerful striker who was never afraid of contact, and never lost his smile... even when he was struck down by ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease. After a long battle with this affliction, Stefano left us in 2013. Along with his wife, he gounded the Stefano Borgonovo Onlus Foundation to battle this horrible illness. 

How do you feel, two-and-a-half years after Stefano left us? 

I'm ok, though Christmas is always a particular moment for me...

I remember something Stefano used to say: "I like to laugh, even with a disease that shouldn't let me. I've learned to appreciate what I have left: from my friends, positive feelings, the very occasional ability to move my limbs. I take what good life throws my way, and I still feel lucky, I even realise there are those who have been given less than me. So I laugh".  Do you still live by these words?

Yes, it completely sums Stefano up, I try to live by them, even if it's hard. 

Are you still able to laugh, and what makes you smile?

Of course I can, I'd be in trouble if I couldn't. Life needs to be lived to the full, despite the obstacles we need to be able to overcome them. One always needs to adopt a glass half full approach, and enjoy all the good things that the future can bring. 

Your husband's life story is now being told in cinemas, an autobiographical film "Attaccante Nato" [Born striker] has been show in both Como and Florence. Did it have an impact on you?

"Attaccante Nato" is very good, an emotional rollercoaster, it really left its mark on me. It was very moving because it also told our story, from beginning to end. I hope it does the rounds a few more times, and it can bring people to the theatre, because it frankly deserves the attention. 

You've become a fighter since your husband fell ill, the kind of soldier who never surrenders. What kind of research have you funded recently?

I'm viscerally attached to the Foundation, a recent project involves financing research carried out by the Mario Negri Institute in Milan, by the Istituto Superiore di Sanita and the San Giovanni Rotondo Hospiral, which studies football and the risk of contracting neurodegenerative and osteoarticular diseases. 

How important is it to work together on an international scale? How do the various foundations help each other and share information?

We're trying to involve other foundations, bringing everyone together is key so that our message can be heard by a larger audience, and carries more weight. 

You went to meet Carlos Matallanas two weeks ago, a former Atletico Madrid who is also dealing with Lou Gehrig's. He's also written a book, "Mi battle with ALS, my fight with the S**t [the disease]". How did it go, and what ideas came out of it to raise awareness?

 It was very emotional, meeting both him and his wife and two children, who will have to fight a long and hard battle, it really hit me as it reminded me of my own struggle. We're in touch, I'd like to come up with some initiatives that can raise people''s awareness". 

Have you spoken with Fernando Ricksen, the former Dutch international who isn't willing to give up the fight. He's written a book, too. How is he?

Yes, I met him 18 months ago, he's also written a book on his horrific experience with ALS, he's a fighter and he'll keep fighting. I know his condition has worsened recently, and that he isn't in the best shape at the moment... 

There's talk of another player who has fallen victim to ALS, Marian Cisovsky. Are you in contact with him too?

Unfortunately Marian Cisovsky has been affected too, and I'll contact him soon to find out more about his case. 

Baggio, Ancelotti, Beckham, Ronaldo... everyone wants to help. What can be done?

The most important thing people can do is support foundations like ours. Research into a cure is extremely expensive. 

What role can football in the fight against Lou Gehrig's disease?

Football could play a fundamental part in the fight. Many players have falled victim to it, and this has automatically involved the sport. It's followed by two billion fans worldwide, it's clear that any message the sport sends would be heard by everyone. And greater knowledge of this disease and how terrible it can be would be necessary in supporting those who are researching it and trying to find a cure. 

You even set up a Cruyff court in Como, right? He was Stefano's favourite player. Have you heard from him since he fell ill?

Yes, we launched the Cruyff Court Stefano Borgonovo in Como in 2014, it has been a lot of work but it was very rewarding. Johan was there at the inauguration, and I got to meet him, he was Stefano's hero. I've read about his health problems, and can only wish him the best. 

Jorge Mendes revealed in his book that you're setting up an initiative together, and that you dined together in Madrid...

Yes, I'm trying to involve him in a project, he's made himself fully available, now we have to talk further about it so we can get something done. 

What needs to be done to increase people's awareness? A tournament with Milan, Real Madrid, PSG, Chelsea, and Bayern: in other words, Carlo Ancelotti's teams? Or another Ice Bucket challenge? 

It all helps. The Ice Bucket Challenge I thought was genius, it really propelled the issue in 2014, but it's had the same impact this year. A tournament with major European teams would certainly help...

Let's talk about Ancelotti. Have you already congratulated him about his new job? He and Stefano were friends, Stefano used to call him "my breath of fresh air, the kind soul who has never abandoned me. I like him a great deal". Ancelotti still backs the Foundation, how useful was he for to the twio of you?

He has always been involved in the Foundation. I'll have to congratulate when the times comes to wish him a Happy Christmas. Our friendship during Stefano's illness was fundamental, Carlo even dedicated his book to him, and when Stefano found out he was very moved. I'll always love Carlo for what he did for us during such a difficult time. 

 In his book "Preferisco la Coppa" Carlo dedicated an entire chapter to Stefano. In the last chapter he wrote that 'Stefano needs a team to help him defeat Lou Gehrig's. We'll put Stefano up front, I'll coach, and that s**t will be the opposing goalie.' Who else should be on this team?

Everyone and anyone! This team would play to win, not just to compete...

Do you have a message for those who follow you, and for those who are also affected by Lou Gehrig's?

I wish that anyone who is ill at the moment to have a wonderful, peaceful Christmas, and to have the strength to withstand whatever destiny throws their way, whether good or bad.