ROME (Reuters) - A coast guard officer’s “Get back on board damn it!” order to the fleeing captain of the capsized Costa Concordia liner is being printed on T-shirts by a company hoping to inspire Italians to rescue their country from economic crisis.
Italians have made a hero of coast guard officer Gregorio De Falco for his angry exchange with skipper Francesco Schettino — who has been blamed for the accident and is now under house arrest accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship.
Stefano Ramponi, owner of the Lipsiasoft web agency that is producing the T-shirts and selling them on the Internet for 12.9 euros ($16.63), said they had become an instant hit both in Italy and abroad.
“We have had a lot of requests from all over the world, from Brazil, Hong Kong, also from Germany and France, the UK. Everyone is asking us for it,” he said.
He said he had been criticised by some people for making money out of the January 13 disaster, in which 11 people died and 21 are still missing.
But he hoped the slogan would become a rallying cry for all Italians to shoulder their responsibilities and work together to navigate through recession and get the euro zone’s third largest economy back on course.
“We liked this phrase a lot because it was said by Captain De Falco in an extremely difficult situation, it really impressed us,” Ramponi said.
“We wanted to... distribute it en-masse...particularly to all the people in Italy who don’t concentrate on their jobs, who don’t give their all and do harm to Italy in this time of crisis, difficulty and economic hardship.”
The furious telephone exchange between De Falco and Schettino, in which Costa Concordia captain was ordered in vain to return to his ship and oversee the rescue operations, has been played over the media to millions.
The Italian word De Falco used, “cazzo” in Italian, literally is slang for penis but it is also commonly used to emphasize something.
De Falco has since been called a national hero while newspapers have branded Schettino a coward for fleeing in the face of adversity.
Reporting By Hanna Rantala, editing by Paul Casciato