Former Napoli defender Massimo Tarantino does not believe he is a hero, despite stepping in to halt the man responsible for multiple stabbings at a supermarket near Milan.
One person died and Monza’s on-loan Arsenal defender Pablo Mari was among five who were injured during a terrifying incident on Thursday.
A suspect was arrested after he was disarmed by Tarantino, who has explained what prompted him to step in.
He told Stats Perform: “I was with my wife and daughter, we were at the till. We were putting the stuff on the checkout belt, and we realised [that something was going on], because there were very loud screams. We all kind of stopped at the tills, trying to figure out what was going on.”
“But then there were more screams, one after the other in the space of a few seconds. At that point, the whole supermarket was kind of frozen, trying to figure out what was going on.”
“After a few seconds, from one of the aisles right next to our till, someone came out who was probably one of those who had been stabbed; he was shouting for help and had blood all over his shirt. At that point there was a bit of panic, because people were clearly running away as they couldn’t understand what had happened.”
“After a few more seconds, another man came out. It was the person with the knife who was unfortunately aiming at the tills where I was with my wife and child. There wasn’t much distance from that lane to the tills, about fifteen metres. So the instinctive reaction was to push my wife and daughter away and run.”
“He was already almost there [close to me]. But in front of me there was this other employee who was between me and him, and he got stabbed. In the stabbing, they probably both lost their balance and fell into the checkout shelves where all the sweets are. Then I had the instinct not to run away.”
“I had taken a step back, but I didn’t run away and took advantage of the fact he was on the ground. I kicked him in the hand where he held the knife, and at that point he lost it, but it wasn’t too far away, so I quickly ducked down and threw it far away and immobilised him. At that point he had no reaction.”
“All of this happening in an atmosphere of terror, with blood on the ground. A bit of a strange atmosphere.”
In spite of his actions, Tarantino – who played for Napoli between 1989 and 1996 and coincidentally also had a loan spell with Monza during his career – refused to be labelled a hero.
“No, I don’t feel it belongs to me [this role] and I’m also a bit uncomfortable [with it],” he said. “I think heroes are other people. There are definitely people who do things that are impossible to do. They deserve, perhaps, that recognition.”
“I, again, just found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and maybe instinctively decided to make the right choice, but nothing more than that.”
The 51-year-old said his instinct was to “protect my family” and insisted it was not something he thought a great deal about at the time, adding: “I think these are irrational moments. I didn’t think, I didn’t reason. I just saw this person heading towards us.”
“I think the first instinct is to protect my family, so I just had the instinct to move them away, to get them away, to run away. Immediately after he stabbed the employee, so a metre and a half away from me, my first reaction was to move one step back; but afterwards my instinct probably didn’t make me run away, but told me that maybe that was the ideal moment to help.”
“So I didn’t go back, and I kicked this person in the hand holding the knife. But again, these things are irrational. When I think about it, it wasn’t a calculated, intentional thing, it was just an instinctive reaction.”
Tarantino confirmed he and his family are fine after the ordeal, though reiterated sympathy for those who were harmed.
“Yes, luckily for us it went well, unlike others; but we all came back home uninjured,” he said. “On the one hand we’re happy; on the other, I repeat, we’re still sorry for everyone who unfortunately got caught up in this.”
“The only message I have is that I want to wish the best of luck to all the people who suffered this physical assault and who have to deal with this problem right now.”
“Then I think that all the other people, probably like me, like my wife and daughter, have had a bad night, a huge scare, and I hope that they, all of us, will get over it as quickly as possible.”
“But the biggest wish goes out to all the people who suffered this physical attack; and I feel a huge sorrow for the family of the person who didn’t make it.”
Mari stated that he and his family are “fine” after the Spanish defender underwent back surgery following the attack.