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Rino Della Negra, footballer and Resistance fighter

Rino Della Negra’s face does not appear on L’Affiche Rouge, which shows ten members of the Manouchian Group FTP-MOI (Francs-tireurs et partisans – Main d’oeuvre immigrée), made up of foreign Resistance fighters or those of foreign origin. However, he was one of the 22 men shot at Mont Valérien on 21 February 1944 because he had been an active member of this network.

 

Rino Della Negra was born in 1923 in Vimy in northern France, to an Italian family from Udine in Friuli. His father, a worker in a brickworks, moved with his family to Argenteuil near Paris, a  town with a strong communist bent, in a district inhabited mainly by Italian immigrants: Mazagran was renamed “Mazzagrande” to symbolise that it was a “little Italy”.

 

Rino was just 14 when he started working as an apprentice fitter at the Chausson factory (car parts) in Asnières-sur-Seine. He liked sports and played football. He soon showed his talent as a striker, both for his club FC Argenteuillais and for the Chausson factory’s corporate team, with which he won the Coupe de la Seine in 1938.

 

The war complicated his youth: in 1942, he refused to go to work in Germany and instead, as a communist activist, joined the FTP (Francs-Tireurs Partisans) resistance movement without giving up his sporting activities or his family. In fact, Red Star, the leading French club based in Saint-Ouen on the suburbs of Paris, decided to recruit this young talent for the 1943-44 season, against the backdrop of a championship disrupted by the war. It was a kind of consecration for the 19-year-old who, while playing football, risked his life by being part of an armed underground group fighting against the occupying forces. He took part in the execution of General Von Apt in Paris on 7 June 1943 and launched attacks on the headquarters of the Italian Fascist Party, Guynemer barracks and German money couriers, before being arrested, tried and executed like his other companions in misfortune.

His promising career with Red Star had only just begun… However, immediately after the Liberation, he became a symbol of the Communist resistance, particularly in Argenteuil, where a street bears his name and a monument has been erected. The Italian-born “Died for France” also became a hero to Red Star fans, and one of the stands in the Stade Bauer in Saint-Ouen is named after him. The footballer-resistance fighter has never been forgotten.

 

Yvan Gastaut

Sources / further readings
  • Dimitri Manessis et Jean Vigreux, Rino Della Negra, Footballeur et partisan, Paris, Libertalia, 2022.
  • “L’histoire de RINO DELLA NEGRA, le footballeur résistant”, short video (5’30), 28.2.2024: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSfD91LwmIY

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