Italy enthralled by tale of two captains
19 January 2012, 10:53
Rome - The Coast Guard officer who ordered the captain of the
capsized Italian cruise ship to go back aboard unwittingly became an
instant hero on Wednesday, credited with saving the national honour on
one of its darkest nights.
Italy has become enthralled with the tale of two captains.
One is Coast Guard Captain Gregorio De Falco, who furiously ordered
the skipper of the Costa Concordia to return to his ship and oversee the
The other is Captain Francesco Schettino -
whom newspapers have branded a coward for fleeing in the face of
adversity and who is now under house arrest, accused of multiple
manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship.
Schettino, perhaps you have saved yourself from the sea but I will make
you look very bad. I will make you pay for this. Go on board
[Expletive!]" De Falco yelled at Schettino during a 4-minute radio
exchange made public on Tuesday.
The Italian word De Falco used,
"cazzo" in Italian, is slang for the male sexual organ but it is
commonly used to emphasise something, equivalent to "Go on board, damn
The imperative phrase in Italian - "Vada a bordo, cazzo!" - was already on T-shirts by Wednesday morning.
"Thank You, Captain" was the more sedate headline the country's largest
national newspaper, Corriere della Sera, chose on Wednesday, reflecting
the gratitude of Italians who see Schettino's behaviour as a national
Thank you Captain
... two stories, one who humiliates us, the other who redeems. Thank you
Captain De Falco, our country badly needs people like you," the
Corriere della Sera said.
An editorial in La Stampa said
Schettino "filled the void in the disgrace and lies department left by
Berlusconi," a reference to Italy's scandal-plagued former prime
Another memorable exchange between the two captains,
listened to by millions of Italians since it was made public, is when De
Falco tells Schettino:
"You get back on board! That is an
order! There is nothing else for you to consider. You have sounded the
"Abandon Ship". I am giving the orders now. Get back on board. Is that
The new "Italian idol" is an unlikely one.
Falco is 48. He is balding and, in uniform, looks more like the maitre
d' of an exclusive restaurant on the Amalfi Coast than a swashbuckling
"I'm no hero," De Falco told reporters on Wednesday
as he entered a magistrate's office in the Tuscan city of Grosseto to
give testimony for the investigation.
A man like De Falco
Judging by the comments on Twitter, Facebook and other social media,
Italians, living in a country many feel is mired in corruption and
economic woe, would beg to disagree.
A tweet from Sofia Rosada said: "It is men like De Falco who should be governing. Instead we are full of men like Schettino".
Some have even played on the Jesus Christ-Judas Iscariot comparison, one a saviour, the other a traitor.
Judging from reports that De Falco is usually soft-spoken, unassuming,
and even shy - when he is not faced with a shipwreck - he would likely
reject the acclamation of instant sainthood.
But he may be moved
by a tweet from an Italian boy named Salvatore Garzillo: "The next time
someone asks me what I want to be when I grow up I am going to say: 'a
man like De Falco.'"