Translated from Norwegian newspapers
Ten thousands of friends and fans like Alberto Tomba said goodbye to Italian cyclist Marco â€œThe Pirateâ€ Pantani on Wednesday, when he was buried in San Giacomo, Italy.
Pantani was found dead in a hotel room in Rimini on Saturday last week. A number of sources are reporting that Pantani might have died of an overdose of cocaine.
– May he win his most important stage, the one with a finish line in Paradise, said the Bishop Antonio Lanfranchi during the funeral. He used his speech to also criticize the development of today’s society.
Thousands of supporters were gathered outside the church, and followed the speech through speakers. Many were wearing yellow armbands, the color of the leaders jersey in Tour de France, in memory of Pantani. Others waved with photos or flags.
-Marco invites us to research our own conscience. It’s about what is sport and what is destroyed in sport, said Lanfranchi.
– Man is bigger than his victory and losses, man is more important than the cyclist.Â There is also a boy’s heart beating in a champion, a heart that needs normal surroundings and shouldn’t be sacrificed or exposed.
Inside the church was Olympic Alpine Champion Alberto Tomba, former National Team soccer coach Azeglio Vicini, cycling heroes like Gianni Bugno, Francesco Moser and Stefano Garzelli, and team-mates of the hill climb and mountain expert.
There have not been this many people in Cesenatico since Pantani was celebrated for his Tour victory in 1998. The towns stores closed early and there were put up yellow Pantani-posters in the windows with messages like: â€œWe are always with the championâ€.
Pantani was for a period treated at a psychiatric hospital for deep depression following years of doping accusations.
He was kicked out of the 1999 Giro d’Italia following too high blood values. Many are of the opinion that Pantani was made scapegoat and harassed by media the last years.
A bitter man
Thoughts that Pantani had scribbled down in his passport were read at the funeral. He expressed his anger, frustration and disappointment over the way he was treated.
– The World is seeing that all my colleagues are humiliated through hidden cameras in our hotel rooms. They are seeking to destroy families. How can you then avoid hurting yourself? I don’t know how I stopped myself in these moments of anger — was among others written by Pantani.
-I went from courtroom to courtroom for four years. I lost my desire to be as other athletes. The cycling sport had to pay, and many youth have lost faith in fairness, wrote Pantani.