Our Italian correspondent Steve Mitchell looks at how the different Serie A team will be spending their summers

It’s only just over six weeks since Milan were crowned champions of Italy but thoughts are already turning to the new campaign as the peninsula’s premier clubs prepare for pre-season training. Over the past month or so, the Italian sports dailies have been dominated by transfer speculation and pictures of Serie A’s superstar players relaxing on exotic beaches with their gorgeous wives and girlfriends.

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Next up in Lee Garrity‘s excellent journey around the European lower leagues is Italy.

The Serie B season ended in Managerial movements and controversy as match fixing allegations rocked Italy’s 2nd tier as both teams in automatic promotion spots were put under the spotlight.

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This week Andrew is joined by Adam Digby, Adam Bate and Paolo Bandini for a Serie A podcast special.

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Resident Italian football writer Steve Mitchell has delightfully written about his weekend watching football in lovely Calcio…enjoy!

“I will pick you up on my scooter around 10am” explained my friend in Rome, Nando.  Nando is the owner of the Ultra Bar and was to be my tour guide prior to the Roma v Milan game on Saturday night.

I have been to the Eternal City to watch football on numerous occasions but this weekend was to be a celebration of my visit to one of the world’s most beautiful locations. Nando arrived dead on 10 and a few minutes later we were zipping around the tourists outside of the Coliseum on route to meet another one of my good friends Roberto, who also runs a bar in via Tuscolana, a district outside of the tourist trap where the true inhabitants of the city live.

Roberto grew up standing on the Curva Sud at the Stadio Olimpico and within half an hour of my arrival, some of his old acquaintances joined us for beer and pizza on a beautiful sunny day. We were then invited to lunch at a restaurant nearby where one of the guys was the head chef and after demolishing around six courses of traditional Roman cooking, I hopped back on Nando’s scooter to spend the afternoon at the Ultra Bar.

As the match approached, the effects of my long lunch were easing and after Roberto and friends arrived we headed to the Olimpico for the evening’s main event. The Curva Sud was full and with Milan bringing over 10 thousand fans to the capital the atmosphere was incredible. The game will not live long in the memory, a 0-0 draw enough to give the visitors their 18th scudetto but I had to prepare myself for another festival of culinary delights at a renowned pizzeria, in the San Lorenzo district of the city.

More friends arrived and as the clock hit 12.30am, we embarked on another mammoth eating session. Franco, one of the “Vecchia Guardia” or (old guard) a name given to the Roma ultras that are now too old to cause mayhem, presented me with a sweatshirt from the group and a fabulous book containing pictures of the days when the CUCS (Commando Ultra Curva Sud) were the most feared supporter group in Italy. After we said our goodbye’s with a couple of shots of Grappa, I finally returned to my hotel around 3 in anticipation of part two of my calcio weekend.

Sunday morning saw me heading out to Latina, around 60 kilometres outside of Rome to see a promotion party after the club were crowned champions of Lega Pro C2 section C the previous week. Latina fans have a reputation in the peninsula for being predominantly right wing in their outlook, this is no surprise seeing as the city was founded by Benito Mussolini in 1932. More surprising is that it is twinned with Birkenhead here in the UK. As I arrived in the city on a blisteringly hot day, the early signs were not good as I waited an hour at the train station for a bus to take me to the stadium.

Finally a bus arrived and as I explained to the driver where I wanted to go he gave me a look as if to say “this guy is crazy, all the way from the UK to see this lot!” As we hit the city centre, he very kindly pointed out were I should leave his bus and after around a five minute walk I could see the match-day traders setting up their stalls amongst a sea of blue and black, the clubs colours. Immediately my arrival caused a stir and two supporters carrying a huge flag asked me why I was there. After I explained to them they were ecstatic and demanded I take a photograph of them for my article of which I obliged.

My Italian was being severely tested by now and my next mission was to acquire a ticket for the game. Luckily the biglietteria or ticket office was right outside the main entrance and after handing over my passport I was presented with a ticket for the Curva Nord for the grand sum of 5 euros by a young girl who was severely impressed by my visit. Unfortunately I was not as impressed by her spelling as my name on the ticket looked like something you had to unravel on the Countdown Conundrum.

With kick-off still 90 minutes away, I clocked a bar over the street from the ground and proceeded to sink a couple of beers at lightening pace to get in the mood for what was to be a huge celebration. As bombs and firecrackers were let off in the street the carnival atmosphere continued all the way to the stadium and once I took my place amongst the hardcore supporters on the Curva, I was invited to join in the party by waving a flag and bouncing up and down at regular intervals.

In unforgiving heat, the hosts were two up in quarter of an hour to keep the atmosphere at fever pitch. Latina’s main rivals are Frosinone, and next season it may just be that the two will go head to head in the third tier of Italian football as the Gialloblu (Yellow Blues) look set to be relegated from Serie B. During the second-half, a micro light hovered over the stadium and then incredibly unleashed a plume of yellow and blue smoke as it circled the arena. The home fans were livid but nothing could spoil this day.

The game ended in a 3-0 win for the champions and the Latina players did what all Italian players do after the last game of the season, throw all their kit into the crowd and bounce around in just their underpants. A fire hose was then taken by one member of the playing staff and the Curva was sprayed with water but nobody really cared as the cool water was most welcome. As I headed back to the bar for post match refreshments, I still had one thing to do and that was to swap my Oxford United pennant that I had in my bag for a souvenir of my visit. Within 10 minutes the exchange had been made and I am now a proud owner of a Latina Calcio scarf.

It was a weary Englishman who returned to the capital on Sunday evening but the memories of the weekend will remain for a long time. The contrast between the two games could not have been greater but as ever when you visit this wonderful country, the welcome and hospitality are the same wherever you go.

 

 

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Back with another superb look at football in Italy is Steve Mitchell and the story of Nocerina

Whilst most football observers in Italy over the Easter holiday were focused on AC Milan’s seemingly inevitable stroll to the Serie A championship, down in the Campania region of the Bel Paese, another club nicknamed the Rossoneri, were celebrating their return to Serie B after 32 years.

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Steve Mitchell asks the question – Whatever happened to Benito Carbone?

15 years ago, a little Italian striker called Benito Carbone landed in South Yorkshire after Sheffield Wednesday took a three million pound gamble on a player who had a reputation for being a journeyman footballer.

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Resident Italian football writer Steve Mitchell takes a look at a former champions journey back to where they belong.

May 1985, and as Live Aid prepares to “Rock the World”, Hellas Verona break the stranglehold of Italian football’s traditional superpowers to clinch an unexpected scudetto and send its supporters into dreamland.

Inspired by the brilliant Danish striker Preben Elkjær, German defender Hans-Peter Briegel and Italian international winger PietroFanna, the Gialloblu took the title by four points from their nearest challengers Torino. Against all expectation, Coach Osvaldo Bagnoli had masterminded the most unlikely of achievements to cement his place in Veronese folklore in what was thought at the time, to be the start of a halcyon period in the clubs history.

Just six years on from their coronation as Kings of Italian football, Hellas Verona’s future lay in tatters as a series of financial problems finally caught up with the club to such an extent that the team in its then current guise folded but was immediately reborn as Verona FC. In 1995, the name of the club returned to its original form as the team continued to fluctuate between Serie A and Serie B.

In 2007, after 64 years in the top two divisions of Italian football, the unthinkable happened as Hellas were relegated to Serie C1, Italy’s third tier. The club was in financial meltdown and had to also come to terms with the tragic death of club President Pietro Arvedi D’Emilei who, after a car accident in December of 2008, fell into a coma and finally lost his fight for life in March of 2009.

New President Giovanni Martinelli promised to get the team back into Serie B as quickly as possible and at the end of last season the squad, bolstered by a host of new signings almost delivered, eventually falling in an end of season play-off against Pescara. It seemed as though the team’s fortunes were finally on an up-turn and at the start of the current campaign, Martinelli brought in former Roma legend Giuseppe Giannini to try to continue the good work of the previous year.

But once again, as soon as the club looked to be turning a corner, the wheels fell off and after a disastrous start to the current campaign Giannini was sacked in November and replaced by veteran tactician Andrea Mandorlini. However, since the winter break, the club’s fortunes have once again been turned around with the team currently sitting in fifth position in the table and looking good to reach the promotion play-offs for a second consecutive season.

Mandorlini seems to have finally got the team functioning as a unit and with strikers Giuseppe Le Noci and Thomas Pichlmann finding the net at regular intervals, the tifosi once again have cause for optimism as the season enters the final straight. Only this week on the clubs official website, Brazilian goalkeeper Rafael gave an interview in which he explained how much better the team has become under the tutelage of their 50-year-old coach.

So 26 years on from the clubs finest hour, the omens look good for a team that has suffered more heartache and tragedy than any Shakespearean play could ever contain. As the city’s other club, the Flying Donkeys of Chievo Verona, continue to play in Italy’s premier division, their big brother has once again got to dust himself down and prepare for another gigantic battle to regain his place where most of Italian football believes he should be, fighting on the fields of Milan, Turin and Rome.

Find Steve on twitter where you will find him waxing lyrical about Italian football.

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It is a pleasure for gibfootballshow to welcome Steve Mitchell to the site. A huge fan of Italian football. Steve will regularly bring us news from the land of calcio.

The beautiful Italian region of Tuscany has just played host to the 63rd edition of the Viareggio Cup. From its inception in 1949, the “Coppa Carnevale” as it is more commonly known, due to the fact that it is played during carnival season, is open to players between the ages of 17-21 and has become the most important youth football tournament in the world with the city of Viareggio welcoming talent scouts from all over the globe trying to spot the next big thing.

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A repeat of last year’s final. Both teams not where they want to be in the league. Chance to put domestic chors to one side and relive the final from May. Secret Interista Gav Stone famed editor of the Les Rosbifs website looks at how the Nerazzurri will fare.

It is a different Inter side who will be up against Bayern Munich this time around in the Champions League, compared to the one who beat The German side in the final last May. In between the Mourinho/Milito masterclass in Madrid and the first leg of this last 16 fixture, the nerazzurri have also been through a soul-sapping stint in the hands of Rafa Benitez, which did the club nor the coach any favours.

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Claudio Ranieri’s Roma haven’t exactly set Serie A on fire this year, escaping from a tough group can they escape their league inconsistency and find success in Europe. Stuart Harper from trequartista.net is the man to answer that question.

Wednesday sees Roma host Shakhtar Donetsk in round sixteen of the Champions League. Despite the Ukrainian outfit making their first ever appearance in the knockout stages, it is pure folly to assume that the Italians will inevitably progress against Mircea Lucescu’s ‘pitmen’.

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