Vidal's special Pandita:a love story

It was the summer of 1976 when Giorgetto Giugiaro was commissioned by Fiat to design a car capable of repeating the success of the 500, and to do so in just one month, that of August, during which the designer was on holiday in Sardinia.
The Panda thus came into the world in an unusual way, with the weight of great responsibility - to revolutionize the concept of the small car - and ambitions - to give Italians mobility, to be 'everyone's car'. For Fiat, it's a gamble, you have to make it. The Panda succeeded, and with its gruff bodywork even won the Compasso d'oro in 1981, and was awarded for its design.
The Panda is still a timeless cult car that we could easily include among the Myths of our time, something Roland Barthes would call 'a way of meaning' that speaks to everyone. Its fan base is vast, and fan clubs, both local and international, are flourishing: June saw the third edition of Italy's biggest Panda rally, where almost 700 cars met in 2019; at the same time, the Panda Furious version of the Mongol Rally is taking place, under the claim 'In Panda towards Mongolia and beyond'. And there is also an 'on the road' weekend format reserved for Panda owners. The Panda, today as yesterday, is loved by everyone.Unexpectedly, Arturo Vidal is also part of this fanbase. He had made so much noise (the news, not the car) that you will surely remember when the former Inter midfielder came out on his Instagram profile with a photo showing him hugging his new car, sanctioning the beginning of his relationship with the much coveted Pandino. 'Why would I want a jeep or a big car if I have my Panda?' he wrote. For him, being able to finally drive it is 'a dream come true'.In the photo, Vidal proudly showed off his olive-green model, and in a later post he posed next to the car wearing an outfit that matched the shades of the bodywork. Was it a form of identification?
With a mixture of tenderness and amazement, we greeted the arrival of the Pandita (as he calls it) wondering what it was doing amidst the owner's Ferraris and SUVs, and why Vidal preferred to accompany his mamacita, or face winter snowfalls, in this car.
In its proletarian rise to success, the Panda represents something of a meeting point for the most diverse public. Functional, practical, versatile, economical. At the same time: glittering icon.
The virtuous coexistence of these two poles traces a personality in which perhaps Arturo Vidal can mirror himself. For him, making his way in football was really a matter of survival. Born in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Santiago de Chile, Vidal grew up in an environment of violence and extreme poverty, from which only football - he thought - could redeem him and his family. He had to make it, and he did. He faced obstacles and difficulties, and was able to withstand harsh conditions and come out unscathed, even stronger. Thus was born the Warrior, the Lion, and in short all those warlike epithets he earned on the field.
Arturo's difficult years were the fuel for his career, they fed his energy, keeping his machine of determination and talent going: with nine championships in ten years, Vidal was the 'Warrior' of Juve's midfield for four years, and the 'best player in the history of Chile'. Pep Guardiola once said of him that if he went to war he would want him by his side.
Off the field however, the world of the 'Warrior' is also full of borderline episodes, such as when in 2015 he was arrested for drunk driving after crashing his Ferrari, but he asked - and got - to play the Copa América representing his Chile anyway, because 'Handcuff me, but you're screwing the whole of Chile'.
Despite his bad boy look, today Vidal seems redeemed to the status of a 'simple guy', as the Gazzetta dello Sport called him in an article: he has a fox named Pasquale, a large family with whom he barbecues in the garden, loves reggaeton (who doesn't?), goes to the hairdresser in Nichelino (TO), and drives a Panda.
In its role as 'everyday car', the Panda participates perfectly in this picture of quiet normality. The Panda, after all, represented one of the most significant achievements of the Italian hatchback which, free of the styling of those years, had the maximum - of comfort, of space, of possibilities - in the minimum (3.38 m).
I was told of Vidal, when I was seeking opinions for this article, that he was an incredible fighter on the field, a player of substance, just like the...Panda. No bullshit, just reliability and performance."
Vidal is not the only one, nor the first footballer to fall in love with the Pandino, which had already conquered Roberto Baggio, and even Spalletti (third league his own), whose car was even stolen, right in the centre of Naples. Also appearing on board the Grande Utilitaria was Atlético Madrid midfielder Yannick Carrasco, as, in a picturesque scene, he accompanied his teammates Vrsaljko and Lemar to training. For those who may have seen them arrive, the image of the three of them getting out of a 1990 Panda 4x4 must have been surreal.
In the commercials - which are a genre in themselves, all to be explored - the Pandino looks so cool that 'if it didn't exist it would have to be invented', so spacious that it can hold hundreds of thousands of ping pong balls, five passengers, and pretty much anything else you want, taking us everywhere (even to the moon) thanks to its four-wheel drive.
The Panda, with over 7.5 million produced to date, is the best-selling car in Italy and the third best-selling city car in the world (6.5 million cars to date). The first series lasted over 20 years, while the second (from 2003) was only replaced by the one with the new lines in 2012. On the market for over 40 years, the Panda is a rare phenomenon, to which Garage Italia has dedicated an edition of the Icon-e project, celebrating it with a production of reinterpreted and electrified 4×4s.
Pandino’s universe is made of iconic authenticity, combining the splendor of myth with the palpable awareness that hundreds of thousands of people have shared pieces of their lives with this car. If you ask around, you will have no trouble getting anecdotes related to the famous car. The Panda belongs to everyone, for everyone, in every place and on every occasion. The truest things in life are not always the most luxurious or elaborate, quite the opposite is often true. And it is in this place of Real Life that Panda and Vidal met.
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