Bologna Football Club 1909 were founded on October 3rd, 1909, in a move orchestrated by Austrian Emilio Arnstein. Arnstein, who’d become interested in football while studying in Prague and Vienna, had already formed Black Star F.C. in his homeland.
Arnstein, the story goes, immigrated to Bologna in 1909. One of the first sights he came across was a group of young men playing rugby (students, mainly) who the locals referred to as “those fools who run behind a ball.” Arnstein met with the rugby players and converted them to football, thus beginning the legacy of Bologna F.C.
Interestingly, one of these men was Antonio Bernabeu, brother of future Real Madrid legend (and stadium namesake) Santiago. One of Bologna’s original board members, Antonio split his time between football and his legal career, but his staunch dedication to his original profession prevented his career from reaching the heights of his brother’s.
The only club I know of to be founded in a brewery (!), Bologna formed with a continental board. Louis Rauch, a Swiss dentist, was elected the club’s first president and played for Bologna as a striker until 1911. He also coached Bologna from 1910-14, but that’s where his involvement in football ended. All I’ve really been able to find out about Rauch’s life post-1914 is that he died in a car accident in 1952, aged 72.
Guido Della Valle, an Italian nobleman, was the club’s first vice president and his son, Giuseppe, was a prolific striker during Bologna’s formative years. The younger Della Valle notched 104 goals in 208 games for the club between 1916 and 1931, and even represented his country on 17 occasions (scoring six goals). Arrigo Gradi (“Henry Degrees” in literal English) was the club’s first captain, but injuries restricted him to just 15 career appearances.
Bologna, like Genoa, are known as the Rossoblu (“Red-Blues”) because of their colours. These are the colours of Rauch’s Swiss colours, and Gradi, knowing this, turned-up to training one day wearing them. They were adopted as Bologna’s colours from that day forward, and the team still play in a variation of their original strip.
The Rossoblu played their first match on March 20th, 1910 and ran-out 9-1 winners against Virtus, a local side who played in white. They played another game that afternoon, thrashing Sempre Avanti 10-0. Gradi, Rauch, Bernabeu and Guido Della Valle were in the line-up for both games.
Competing in regional divisions for their first year of existence, Bologna’s first notable win came later in 1910, when they defeated reigning Italian champions Internazionale Milan 1-0. They were subsequently admitted into the Prima Categoria competition (Italian football’s highest tier) for the 1910-11 season, but failed to progress from a group with Verona, Venezia and Vicenza.
Bologna continued to fail to make the competition’s final stages until footballing activities were suspended for World War I in 1916. Football resumed in 1919, and the Rossoblu’s fortunes improved immediately. They reached the Italian Football Championship’s semi-finals in 1919-20 and went one better the following season, falling 2-1 to Pro Vercelli in the 1920-21 final.
They hadn’t yet won the championship, but Bologna’s star was very much on the rise. It was 1924-25 before they’d reach another final. They boasted an exciting attacking line-up of Giuseppe Della Valle, Angelo Schiavio and Bernardo Perin, but still went-in as underdogs to nine-time winners Genoa in the Northern region final.
This stage was not a single game but a five-game series. Genoa won the first tie 2-1, with Bologna reversing the scoreline a week later. The following two fixtures ended in draws, before Bologna notched a pivotal 2-0 victory in the deciding victory.
The Grand Final’s first leg took place in Bologna on August 16th, 1925. Bologna welcomed Alba Roma (now defunct) with a 4-0 thrashing in the opening leg, but fell 2-0 a week later in Rome. Regardless, a 4-2 aggregate victory had secured Bologna’s first-ever championship, with star forward Schiavio scoring 16 goals throughout the campaign.
Bologna reached the following season’s final stages but finished second to Juventus. 1927-28 wasn’t quite as fruitful and the Rossoblu finished fifth in the final division, but they reached the grand final again in 1928-29. Bologna had their revenge on Juventus, beating the Turin side over three games to secure their second championship. Schiavio was the star of the show once again, scoring 30 goals in just 26 games.
Serie A was founded for the start of the following season, and Bologna were of course admitted into Italy’s new top tier. Surprisingly, Bologna struggled and finished seventh out of 18, with injuries restricting star-man Schiavio to 15 appearances. Thus began the 1930’s, and Bologna’s best years.
Tomorrow: a rundown of the thirties and a golden era of football in Bologna.
- Bologna Football Club 1909 – Wikipedia.it.
- Bologna FC: Official website.
- Bologna FC 1909 Un-Official (sic) Site.