Former Fiorentina and Sampdoria striker Francesco Flachi hasn’t played competitive football since receiving a 12-year ban by the Italian FA for alleged cocaine use
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A former Serie A footballer has made his return to football after serving a 12-year ban for cocaine use.
Francesco Flachi, 46, appeared for fifth-tier outfit Signa 1914 in their 2-2 draw against Prato 2000 on Sunday afternoon.
Signa are based near Florence – the place of Flachi’s birth – and are an amateur club.
The ex-striker was prolific during his heyday, scoring 14 goals in 35 Serie A appearances for Sampdoria during the 2004-05 campaign.
Flachi spent all of his professional career playing in Serie A and Serie B, finding the back of the net 135 times for Fiorentina, Bari, Ancona, Sampdoria, Empoli and Brescia.
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He won the Coppa Italia and Serie B twice – and represented Italy at youth level.
Flachi received a number of punishments during his professional career, picking up a €20,000 fine – around £13,500 based on historical exchange figures – for breaking betting rules in September 2006.
He received a 16-month ban after traces of cocaine were found in his system following a random drug test in January 2007, a ban that was later extended to two years.
Just 12 months after his first comeback, Flachi was banned again after traces of cocaine were again found in a random drug test.
He received a 12-year ban by the Italian FA, effectively ending his playing career aged 34.
“This day cancels 12 years of disqualification. It is my rebirth,” Flachi told Italian outlet Gazzetta dello Sport after making his second comeback at the weekend.
“This is the proof that I have also rebuilt. What have I felt? At first I felt dizzy, I haven’t slept for a week due to tension.
“Now I’m so happy, I want to thank everyone who made me feel like I was before: a football player.”
Recalling his suspension with BBC Sport in September: “I lost it all in that exact moment. I was an idol in Genoa.
“I had started the year with two goals and I had recently been called up by the national team too.”
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On his impending comeback, he added: “I am very excited because the date is approaching. It all started as a joke, but then we got more serious about it.
“I was already helping out at Signa 1914, lending a hand in the youth sector.
“I hadn’t entered a proper 11-a-side football pitch for 12 years, but I am a man of football and I live for the emotions, which I had missed so much.
“I am training now and the sensations are similar to those I felt as a real player. Exposure and pressure are different, but some football dynamics, like life in the dressing room, are the same at all levels.
“I know I made a mistake and I got punished for it. I also know I am not as fast as I used to be, but I can do my part and help these guys believe in themselves.
“I also want them to understand how beautiful football is. They can’t afford to lose what I threw away.”
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