In 50 years he will undoubtedly tell his grandchildren about that one crazy day. Leonardo Cascio (22) is a garbage collector in daily life, but also a goalkeeper at Belisia Bilzen. And so he suddenly stood more than 16 hours after his alarm went off in one of the most beautiful football stadiums in Belgium: the Ghelamco Arena. We hooked up our wagon for a full day.
Until what time would the players of AA Gent usually sleep? Well, no doubt longer than Leonardo Cascio. The alarm clock sounds at the goalkeeper of Belisia Bilzen at 4.30 am.
In his daily life he works for the collection service of the municipality. Also on Wednesday, at perhaps the biggest game of his career. At 8 pm Bilzen played against AA Gent.
“But that’s no problem”, Cascio laughs, when we confront him with the fact that his race preparation is not ideal. I’m sure there will be time on the bus for a nap.”
Cascio admits during his garbage round that the stress is starting to rise. It was also a bit of a shock when Bilzen was drawn against AA Gent.
Early bird in Bilzen: watch part 1 of Leonardo’s day
“I already had to treat when we drew Ghent”
“We didn’t really hope for Ghent,” says the goalkeeper. “We had all gambled beforehand. Whoever could guess the opponent had to treat. That was me (laughs).”
A new world would open up for the goalkeeper and his teammates in the evening. “It’s the first time in such a big stadium. The result doesn’t matter, as long as I don’t get too many.”
With Luc Nilis, Belisia Bilzen has a trainer who knows the tricks of the trade. “The collaboration with him is very good,” said Cascio. “I’m really pleasantly surprised. He gives advice to the strikers, but also to me. He tells me, for example, what a striker looks at before he starts scoring.”
The cooperation with coach Luc Nilis is very good. I am really pleasantly surprised.
Great evening despite 4 goals against
After a bus ride of 150 kilometers – including the necessary traffic jam – Bilzen’s players were allowed to enter the sacred turf of the Ghelamco Arena. From the card game on the bus, the focus now shifted all the way to the match. The group sat down at the table for dinner and for the tactical discussion.
At 8 p.m. the big moment had arrived. Then Cascio and co entered the field accompanied by the shouts of no fewer than 800 fans who had traveled with them.
The encouragement was to no avail. After barely six minutes, the goalkeeper had no chance on a cannon shot from Vadis. Three more goals would follow.
“But it was still great,” Cascio concluded. “It’s the most beautiful experience you can have for someone of our level. Despite the goals against, I thought it was a good match for myself. I don’t care about the loss, the fun is what counted for me.”
It is the most beautiful experience you can have for someone of our level. I don’t care about the loss, the fun is what counted for me.
Enjoying in Ghent: watch part 2 from Leonardo’s day