A TEAM of Scottish writers suffered a 5-0 defeat in Italy last weekend as they took to the pitch to celebrate the only Scot to play for the Italian national side.

Giovanni “Johnny” Moscardini became a star in Italy after netting seven goals in nine international games in the 1920s.

The Falkirk-born player, who turned out for some of the country’s biggest clubs, walked away from a football career to run a shop in Campbeltown. However, he remains a famous name in his family’s Tuscan home town of Barga, where the local stadium bears his name.

A team of Scots writers and their Italian counterparts staged a match in his honour last weekend, with the hosts thumping their northern guests 5-0. The Scotland team included Edinburgh novelist Doug Johnstone, Selkirk FC poet-in-residence Thomas Clark and The National columnist Matthew Fitt.

Following the defeat, Clark said: “It was an absolute once in a lifetime – a great way to celebrate a player often overlooked in Scottish history.”

Barga, the self-proclaimed “most Scottish town in Italy”, has long celebrated strong cultural links with Scotland, with the ties created by Italian migrants during the 19th century.

The medieval site, which recently made headlines by pledging support for Scotland’s bid to remain within the EU, boasts connections to the ancestry of many Scots-Italian families, including Moscardini’s.

Born in 1897, he was one of the first foreign-born footballers to represent Italy, also lining up for clubs such as Genoa, Lucchese and Pisa. Known for a robust “Scottish style”, he made his national team debut in 1921, having left Scotland as a teenager to fight for Italy in the First World War.

An elbow injury sustained while acting as a machine gunner at Caporetto on the Austrian front saw him sent to Sicily to regain his health, and while there he put a team together. On his return to Barga he was spotted by a scout from then-Serie A side Lucchese, winning a bottle of olive oil for every win.

Despite the fame it brought, football did not pay and he returned to Scotland, where he managed his uncle’s shop in Campbeltown, Argyll and Bute, before later opening the Lake Café in Prestwick, South Ayrshire.

Moscardini, who died in 1985, remained at the helm of the café until retiring in the 1960s.

Clark said: “He was a modest guy, and not many people around him knew just what a fantastic career he’d had. In fact, he even turned out for an amateur team in Campbeltown for a couple of seasons after he came back from Italy, the only competitive football he ever played in Scotland.”

Despite their defeat, the Scottish team contributed to a series of events across the town, cementing its unique connections with Scotland, including a ceilidh and a pre-match performance of a dedicatory poem by Clark titled O Johnny Moscardini!

The verse, which celebrates Moscardini’s spell at Campbeltown FC, was “surprisingly well-received” by the Italian supporters – despite being written in Scots.

Clark said he thought the language “might be a problem”, adding:

“I didn’t realise just how deep the connection with Scotland runs. Even born-and-bred Italians have Scottish accents in Barga, and they understood the poem even better than I could have hoped. It was a fantastic experience to read it out in his home stadium, with his family there.”