The reputation of Nicola Caricola
April 23, 2013
On April 20, 1996, the MetroStars played New England in their first game ever at Giants Stadium. What happened is now stuff of legends (horrible, horrible legends): with mere seconds left in the match, Tony Meola made a save. The ball rebounded to Nicola Caricola, who was facing his own net. The defender flicked the ball over Meola and into the goal. Metro lost 1:0; it was an ominous start to a franchise that has never truly gotten off the ground. And it has been 17 years.
Caricola would only play one season for Metro, retiring during the 1997 preseason. He ended his career with two own goals, which is still tied for the team record (he actually deflected a goal in Metro's season opener in Los Angeles, so the record should truly be all his). And even though Caricola was only here for a year, he built up quite a reputation.
"Obviously, this is a very emotional day for all of us," GM Charlie Stillitano said when Caricola retired. "Nico is a very special part of our family. From Day One, [he] became a leader and a great example to our young players." The Metros, in Italy for preseason training, would play Caricola's old team, Genoa, in a tribute match. "I must say that it was a great pleasure to be playing next to him one final time," Metro defender Rhett Harty wrote. "The last ten days have made me realize how much he really was to this team. His vast experience and professionalism helped make myself and all the other defenders better players."
You note that Harty mentioned professionalism. Hold that thought.
So who was Nicola Caricola? Once a promising defender, he played for Italian youth national teams and was part of two-time Scudetto winners Juventus in the 1980s. In 1987, Caricola switched to Genoa, and was still with the club when MLS rolled around. This is when the approached the MetroStars, and they executed a number of moves to take him with the first overall pick in the Supplemental Draft.
So why did Caricola want to come to MLS? Well, his wife, Tanya Fourie, was an aspiring model and wanted to come in New York! (Somewhere, Lothar Matthaus is silently nodding.) So, yes, he came to the MetroStars because of the wife. Hooray for love! Hold that thought.
While with the MetroStars, his supposed professionalism didn't stop him from smoking and talking on the cell phone during practice. But such transgressions pale to what happened in retirement.
Gianluca Vialli is truly considered one of the greatest Italian players of all time. His time at Juventus didn't intercept with Caricola's, but apparently, the two knew each other, for in 2006, the Italian police charged Caricola for supplying Vialli with cocaine. Another ex-Juve player, Michele Padovano, was arrested, losing his job with a lower division club in the process. The names of the three came up in a probe that followed drug trafficking through Spain and Morocco.
By then, Caricola was living in South Africa. He was now separated from the woman who brought him to MLS. In 2008, Fourie sued Caricola for stealing over 220,000 euros from her Swiss bank account. Apparently, he was slowly siphoning her money into his own pockets. So much for love.
It is not clear if Caricola ever got penalized for his alleged crimes. He is now the managing director for Nicaf Traders, a company that distributes Lavazza Espresso Coffee in South Africa. ("Nicaf" stands for "NICola" and "CAFe".) According to Caricola's website, "through his passion for coffee, patience, experience and success, this vision has grown and developed further after discovering a need in the market and creating a reputation to make it possible."
Well, he definitely created a reputation...