His father Pietro always wanted his son to become a policeman, which was the family tradition and would ensure Luigi a regular income at the end of each month. But Luigi Mastrangelo, or better Gigi (now everyone simply calls him Mastro), had other plans.
He liked playing football near his house in Mottola, a little town of 20,000 citizens South of Italy. Being a very good defender and an enthusiastic supporter of Juventus Turin, everybody called him Brio, who is a strong and tall football player. But Gigi Mastrangelo, who chose shirt number 3 following his idol Antonio Cabrini, was growing day by day and found it increasingly hard to move as agile on the football pitch as his close friend Nicola Legrottaglie, who was born in Gioia del Colle. While Nicola continued dribbling the ball, Gigi made a decision and changed to volleyball.
This decision started off his new life: He left Mottola to go to Matera, a city near home before being sent to Milan to play for a big team! A former national player, Stefano Recine, wanted Gigi to become the captain of Berlusconi’s team and paved the way to a new career. He also went to Mottola with the aim to convince Gigi’s father to let his son go.
Luigi transferred from Milan to Cuneo, then to Sant’Antioco and back again to Cuneo, before the national team called him in. At the 1999 European Championships in Vienna, Andrea Anastasi lined him up during the final match against Russia, leaving the captain Andrea Gardini, three times World Champion, on the bench. This tactical move changed Mastro’s career within less than two hours: he became a star. Everyone wanted him and nobody ever thought about putting him on another position than middle blocker (he used to be a wing spiker for the junior national team). Today he is one of the best middle blockers in the world.
Maybe Mastrangelo’s mind was flying higher than his blocks and much faster than his services at that stage. He fell into a low but fortunately came back again, winning a medal in the Olympic Games in Sidney 2000. “I was very happy even though it was ‘only’ bronze. For me it was the first Olympic medal”, he said later. After his marriage he moved to Macerata and during the World Championships in 2002 his son Samuele was born. Nobody knows whether he will also become a volleyball player yet but he will definitely watch a lot of his dad’s matches in the future, like in the final of the European Championships in Berlin last September where Mastro blocked 11 attacks.