All Heart ❤️: ISN’s Sports Director finds ways to give a hand to fellow Italians in need, helping elderly Italians who can’t go out.

What do you do if you are a healthy Italian, unable to go about your normal job, and see people around you in need because of the horrible crisis which has hit the world and your homeland? No question, you help those people.

Claudio Cozzi
Claudio Cozzi

And why? Because it is “just what my heart and head ask me to do.”

Claudio Cozzi is an Israel Start-Up Nation Sport Director who can usually be found sitting in a team car advising his riders on the race. But now he is sitting in a car running errands for those who can’t do it themselves.

“Right now I’m helping older people by shopping or picking things up from the pharmacy.” Together with several friends, they gave money to donate masks to the hospitals and take turns going shopping for others.

“We call some elderly people who have asked for help to buy food and we bring it to their home.  Here in my city we have good supermarkets and therefore we can satisfy all requests, but they have no particular requests –  pasta, rice, bread, milk, fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, eggs, and tomato to flavor the pasta.”

Claudio Cozzi
Claudio Cozzi advising Israeli rider Omer Goldstein before a stage

Their gratitude is his only reward. “I like to see the elderly people who cannot leave the house right now, they are happy when they see us. They are living this moment with serenity, some have no family members or grandchildren who can take care of them and so it is a pleasure for me when I can help.”

It has been a difficult time all along, but it can be especially difficult for the faithful at these Holy Days on the Christian calendar, and a traditional time for family celebrations. “I am sad that some of these elderly people will spend Easter in solitude and far from their families. But they are really strong and always smiling, they ask me if they will be able to go to church for Easter and I answer that it is not possible, but that they can watch the Easter ceremony on tv.”

Claudio Cozzi
Claudio Cozzi

Cozzi feels for those he serves, and realizes who the real heroes are. “The saddest situation is for those who have family members hospitalized and cannot visit them. Unfortunately these patients are alone, but they are assisted in an exemplary way by doctors and nurses who take massive shifts to save human lives.

“I am very grateful to them and I pray for them, that God will give them health and strength to face this big emergency.”

Italy was one of the first European countries to be hit by the virus, and was hit quickly and exceptionally hard. But he says proudly, “We are living this situation with serenity. We follow the rules imposed by the state and the results are being seen, the infections are going down.

Claudio Cozzi
Claudio Cozzi

“Unfortunately at the moment there are still people dying, but we are in the process of a gradual return to normal. I think that in the first days of May we could slowly start living a normal life again.”

Cozzi was “exposed” to the Corona virus early, as he was Sport Director at the UAE Tour when the virus broke out there. “At first we did not realize what was happening, then we made the swabs and we realized that the situation was serious. The moment we realized that our lives are going to change”.

While this serious situation dominates his life, he also has cycling on his mind. “I miss it a lot. It is my job, my life, so I can’t help thinking about it. I am in contact with the team almost every day and also with the riders. We are managing the training for this phase of non-racing in order to be ready when the races start.”

Cycling is in his blood, as both his grandfather and father were cyclists. He himself never turned pro, having  stopped his amateur career after a serious crash when he was 23. “I tried to continue after that but unfortunately I realized that I was no longer competitive. I stopped racing and started immediately working as a sports director.” In his free time, the 55-year-old bachelor, who lives near Milan, is still very active athletically– riding his bike, playing football and skiing.

Cozzi is also proud of the Israel Start-Up Nation team and its efforts to help the world fight against the Corona virus. “We are running some interactive charity competitions to make donations of masks, this is very nice.” To date the team has helped supply more than 7000 masks to hospitals around the world.

How will all of this change things – for him personally, for cycling, for Italy, for the world?  “I think when we get out of this bad situation we will all have changed in our thoughts, feelings and way of life. We must take this lesson to improve ourselves.”

And in the meantime, “I don’t do anything special, just what my heart and head ask me to do.”