Posts Tagged ‘Juventus’

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.

Louis Rauch: founding father.

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.


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Last week I wrote about the Calciopoli scandal and Inter’s apparent involvement. I noted that I wanted to do some more research on the subject, so that’s exactly what I’ve done. I can’t say that I dislike the Nerazzurri without knowing all the facts so further reading was definitely needed.

It’s safe to say Inter benefited from Calciopoli in a big way. Their biggest rivals were neutralised, all but ensuring their domestic dominance. The lack of competition meant they became Italy’s premiere football club by default and it’s only recently that Milan and Juventus have showed signs of recovering.

This alone isn’t enough of a reason to dislike Inter. The threads linking them to Calciopoli and the arrogance they’ve shown in its aftermath, however, most certainly are. Christian Vieri’s allegations and Massimo Morrati’s involvement with Telecom Italia (documented in my previous entry) are too strong to ignore, and I’m inclined to believe that this whole thing isn’t just a coincidence.

I’m no conspiracy theorist, but it doesn’t look good for Inter. The Nerazzurri’s involvement in the scandal was revealed last year with the not-so-shocking revelation that Inter had also contacted the referee designators, but they cannot be prosecuted as this took place more than two years ago. Italian law, eh? Gotta love it.

Had Inter’s involvement been revealed at the same time as their rivals then they would certainly have been punished. They might have not been dealt with as severely as Juventus, but the would’ve (and should’ve) felt the implications of their underhand actions.

Why didn’t this happen? Guido Rossi. A close friend or Moratti, Rossi headed TIM (a branch of Telecom Italia), the company that revealed the wiretappings and leaked the implication conversations, in 2006. Rossi was there when it all went down. There’s no way he wouldn’t have known about Moratti and Giacinto Facchetti’s conversations with the designators.

Paolo Bergamo, the chief referee designator, has openly revealed that nobody contacted him more than Facchetti during this period but his words were swept under the rug. Rossi knowingly ignored the Nerazzurri wiretaps that we now know existed, and it’s a sham that he hasn’t yet been prosecuted.

Where did these wiretaps come from? Two police officers with pending charges for interfering with wiretaps where, at the time, in-charge of handling all wiretap recordings and handing them to the prosecution. These officers were handed the intercepts by another officer, Adamo Bove, who was heading the wiretap operation and had set-up shop in a Telecom Italia building. Who was the work comissioned by? Massimo Moratti.

Bove’s secretary later revealed that instructions to disregard certain intercepts were passed onto everyone on the team, which explains why the Inter wiretaps weren’t revealed at the time. These confessions where heard in court on July 10th, 1996. Adamo Bove committed suicide 11 days later.

Moratti, when asked if he’d commissioned the wiretap operation, responded with uncertainty. “Yes I did. No, wait… maybe. I’m not sure.” This was in an interview with Corriere della Sera dated 31st August, 2006. The wiretaps were then, allegedly, illegally sold to the Gazzetta della Sport by the newspaper’s president, who also happened to be Inter’s vice president.

You do the maths.

It’s time to draw a line under this. I don’t know enough about Italian law to know if further implications could lead to Inter’s prosecution, but their comeuppance his to come. Calciopoli was Italian football’s darkest hour, and it’ll be years (maybe decades) before the league returns to its former glory. Inter must be punished for their role in what happened.

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This week-and-a-half’s feature club is Inter Milan: the most successful Italian club of the last decade and one of the most storied clubs in world football. Inter are probably one of the first clubs you think of when Serie A is mentioned, and for good reason. They have been tremendously successful over the past few years and, despite their recent troubles, are one of the biggest clubs in the world.

Some of the world’s greatest players have strutted their stuff for the Nerazzurri over the years, and their list of honours is very enviable. Only Juventus (27) have won more than Inter’s 18 Serie A titles (although they’re tied with city rivals AC Milan) and their Barcelona-toppling, Champions League-winning 2009-10 campaign was remarkable. They are a hugely popular side with a big global fan base, and I really, really don’t like them.

It’s not because their popular or successful or because I have a big distaste for any of their personnel (I’m a big José Mourinho supporter and an admirer of Javier Zanetti). I dislike the Nerazzurri for the way they benefited from Calciopoli and the penalties handed to their biggest rivals, even though their hands were just as dirty as anybody else’s (except Juventus, perhaps).

I assume that if you’re reading this blog then you probably know a thing or two about Calciopoli already, but if not I’d recommend using good old Wikipedia (shhh, you at the back) to read up on it. If you don’t know it as “Calciopoli” then you’ll probably know it as the 2006 Italian Football Betting Scandal. Teams were accused of rigging games by selecting “favourable referees” for certain matches.

The case had huge ramifications for Italian football. Four of the implicated clubs (Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio and Juventus) were all initially relegated, but most punishments were overturned on appeal. Some of them were still pretty severe nonetheless:-

  • Milan were deducted 30 points for the 2005-06 season, meaning they finished third instead of second. They were also forced to play one game behind closed doors in 06-07, and started that season on -8 points.
  • Fourth-place Fiorentina were kicked out of the 06-07 Champions League, deducted 30 points for 05-06, had to play two games behind closed doors and started 06-07 on -15.
  • Lazio, who finished sixth, were also deducted 30 points and booted from European competition (the UEFA Cup this time). This deduction left them just three points from relegation. For 06-07 they started on -3 points and had to play behind closed doors twice.
  • Reggina’s president, Pasquale Foti, was fined approximately £20,000 banned from all football activity for 2½ years. The club were fined £68k and started 06-07 on -11 points.
  • Juventus were handed the sternest punishment. Their Serie C1 relegation was changed to a Serie B relegation on appeal, and they were stripped of the Serie A titles they’d won in 2005 and 2006. They were kicked out of the Champions League, fined £31million, started 06-07 on -9 points and played three games in an empty stadium.

I’d say that some of the punishments handed-out on appeal were a tad lenient given the enormity of the situation, but I’m no expert on the situation. Lazio, Milan and Fiorentina only started showing signs of recovery in recent seasons, Reggina are stuck in Serie B and Juventus haven’t been the same since. Considering Calciopoli’s impact on these clubs, maybe the punishments were fair after all.

It doesn’t take a genius to see how Inter benefited from all this. Aside from being awarded the 2005-06 Scudetto despite finishing third, Inter had effectively seen their biggest rivals (Milan and Juventus) neutered. The lack of competition helped them two four legitimate straight titles until last season’s post-Mourinho demolition job. They dominated, and even won the league by 22 points in 2007.

It speaks volumes of the impact Calciopoli had on Inter’s fortunes that they collapsed as soon as Milan were strong enough to mount another challenge. There is nothing exceptional about Allegri’s Rossoneri, but they were functional, consistent team and the strongest opposition Inter had had since the scandal. A lot of blame for Inter’s fall can be placed on Rafa Benitez’s dire man management and their ageing squad, but it’s no coincidence that they started to slide as their rivals recovered.

The Nerazzurri weren’t exactly flying before Calciopoli either. They won just three titles in 40 years between 1966 and 2006, and their awarded 2005-06 Scudetto was the first they’d “won” since 1989. Inter often finished seasons without qualifying for Europe. Inter were also-rans to Juventus and Milan, and even the two Rome clubs (Roma and Lazio) won Serie A during Inter’s barren decade-and-a-half.

Calciopoli turned them into a dominant force. They ruled the roost because there was nobody to challenge them, even if Roma did push them all the way in 2008. Mourinho’s influence shouldn’t be completely discounted but, on a domestic level, Inter were “better” by default.

I wouldn’t have had a problem with this if Inter hadn’t actively taken part in Calciopoli. They weren’t punished, right? That must mean they were innocent? I wouldn’t be writing this if I thought they were. Inter were just as guilty of tarnishing Italian football’s reputation by participating in the scandal as everyone else, and the way they’ve trumpeted themselves as an honourable club in the aftermath is arrogant and hypocritical.

Inter aren’t innocent. It was found last year that the Nerazzurri’s then-president Giacinto Facchetti (RIP) had contacted Italian football’s referee selection committee to “discuss” which referees should officiate their games, just as Fiorentina had done. I’m not conspiracy theorist, but it’s very suspicious that we’ve only just heard of these discussions and the telephone transcripts weren’t leaked to the press at the time (as Juve’s were).

Juve have always protested their punishment and it’s hard to feel sympathetic for them, but they do have a point. Why weren’t Inter implicated? The Bianconeri were crippled by Calciopoli, and, if what I’ve read is to be believed, Inter should’ve been reprimanded as well.

FIGC president Franco Carraro resigned in 2006 after the first wave of phone calls had been revealed. Guido Rossi, Inter’s vice president, came in to head the investigation and soon, not long after the verdict was announced, left his position to head TIM (a branch of Telecom Italia). Telecom Italia are Italy’s biggest telecommunications company, and the ones who wiretapped the phone conversations between convicted Juventus president Luciano Moggi and the referee selectors.

Last year’s Inter-implicating calls were leaked by Moggi’s lawyers, not Telecom Italia. Rossi was good friends with Inter president Massimo Moratti, who was also on the TIM board. Putting two-and-two together, it’s not hard to see what was going on. Rossi must’ve known what was going-on with Inter, and given his involvement with Moratti (and Moratti’s involvement with Telecom Italia) it would’ve been in everyone’s best interests to keep Inter’s Calciopoli involvement under wraps.

Again, I don’t want to fall for what could be a load of cloak and dagger nonsense, but it’s hard not to see this as a murky plot to cripple Juventus and establish Inter’s dominance (this is Italy, after all). Christian Vieri made allegations last year that his phone had been tapped by Inter (who wanted to spy on him) and that the Nerazzurri squad were forced to sign contracts promising not to mention the club’s plans to “bring Juventus and Milan down.”

“I am ready to show everyone the document, everyone knew what was happening. I was spied upon because I cannot keep these things locked up. 70% of the contract was to be paid by inter and the other 30% by Telecom (Italia)” – Vieri speaking to firenzeviola.it

The Calciopoli scandal continues to rage-on and attempts to prove Inter’s guilt continue. I’m willing to accept the possibility that these theories on the Nerazzurri’s involvement are nonsense, but it certainly doesn’t look like that’s the case. I’m going to use this week to do some more research on Calciopoli and hopefully get a better idea of what really happened during the 2005-06 season. The timing couldn’t be any better (with fresh Calciopoli-related sentences being handed-out last night), and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in.

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It’s difficult for me to write an article about Fabio Cannavaro without filling the opening paragraph with superlatives. This is one of the all-time greats we’re talking about here: a great captain for club and country, my favourite defender and, more importantly, a Parma legend.

Joining from Napoli in 1995, Cannavaro made 289 appearances in 7 seasons with the Gialloblu, scoring 6 goals in the process. Cannavaro built his reputation as one of the world’s best central defenders during his time with Parma and the steps taken at the Stadio Tardini helped him accrue an enviable list of honours.

Fabio won two Serie A titles, two La Liga titles, the 2006 World Cup, the Ballon d’Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year award after leaving Parma in 2002, but I’m more concerned with his achievements at Parma (what with the title of this series being “Gialloblu Giants”). Cannavaro made 40+ appearances in 5 out of his 7 Parma seasons and never made less than thirty. He was an ever-present, an icon of consistency, a colossus

Cannavaro slotted straight into Parma’s XI and was immediately at home in Nevio Scala’s 5-3-2 formation. Leaving his hometown club Napoli was a huge wrench for Fabio, but the move paid-off big-time. The Gialloblu were already renowned for their sturdy defence and Cannavaro’s arrival further solidified their backline. This coupled with Scala’s sound defensive philosophies created the perfect environment for Fabio to grow into one of the all-time great centre-halves.

1995-96 wasn’t a great season for Parma. Cannavaro made 36 appearances in all competitions as the Gialloblu laboured to a 6th-place finish after finishing 3rd the season before. Things improved in 96-97 for both Parma and Cannavaro. Disappointing runs in the UEFA Cup and Coppa Italia saw Parma exit in the 3rd and 2nd rounds of those competitions, but they managed a 2nd-place Serie A position after drawing with Juventus on the closing day.

More significantly, January 1997 marked the start of a long and hugely successful international career. Cannavaro made his Azzurri bow in a friendly with Northern Ireland, and would go on to earn another 11 caps before the year’s end. A particularly notable performance came in a World Cup ’98 qualifier against England at Wembley. Cannavaro dominated Alan Shearer, then considered one of the best strikers in the world, for 90 minutes as Italy eeked-out a 1-0 win.

The next season was mostly fruitless for Parma as new coach Carlo Ancelotti could only guide them to another 6th-place finished. 98-99, however, was huge. The Gialloblu finished 4th in Serie A but won both the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Cup, beating Marseille 3-0 in the final. Parma’s record was hugely impressive in 98-99, but I’m going to hold the details for now as I plan on taking a look at their UEFA Cup winning sides later this week.

Doping allegations would sadly may Cannavaro’s 98-99 triumphs when Shady footage of the Parma captain receiving injections before the UEFA Cup final surfaced on the internet a few years later. The substance was later found to be Neoton (Phosphocreatine), a chemical commonly used to produce muscular energy. Neoton was not on the banned substance list and no action was taken, but the taint remains. Personally I see nothing wrong with an athlete using perfectly legal substances to enhance their performance before a big game, but c’est la vie.

Parma struggled to mount a serious title challenge after the highs of 98-99 and finished 5th the following season. They captured the Supercoppa in 99-00 and finished 4th in 2000-01 (reaching the Coppa Italia final along the way), before winning the Coppa Italia the following seasons despite a dismal finish of 10th in Serie A.

Sadly 2001-02 would be Cannavaro’s last at the Stadio Tardini as Fabio, now recognised as one of the world’s best defenders, left for Inter in a €23-million deal. Fabio pulled the curtain down on an illustrious career this summer after spells with Juventus (twice), Real Madrid and Al-Ahli Dubai. His international career continued until 2010, with his crowning glory being Italy’s 2006 World Cup win. Cannavaro put in a series of legacy-defining performances for the triumphant Azzurri, earning himself the nickname of “Wall of Berlin” after a particularly impressive showing in the final (held in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, hence the nickname).

Not only did the 2006 World Cup secure Cannavaro’s place in Azzurri history but his world-class performances helped him capture the 2006 FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or (European Footballer of the Year) awards. Impressively, Cannavaro was the first defender to win the latter since Lothar Matthaus in 1990, while he and the German sweeper remain the only to defensive players to ever be named World Player of the Year.

Writing a laundry list of Fabio Cannavaro’s accomplishments is all very well but it only tells half the story. I’ve spent plenty of time going over Fabio Cannavaro’s legacy, but what about Fabio Cannavaro the player? Everybody he was a great defender, but what made him one of the most celebrated centre-backs in history?

Some believe that crunching tackles, determination and desperate lunges are the prerequisite components of a great defender. I disagree completely. Of course defenders need to be determined and strong in the tackle, but there’s more to defending than that. I believe that composure, intelligence and elegance are just as important in defence as in attack, and Cannavaro was the perfect personification of all three.

I’ve never seen another defender who can read the game like Cannavaro. Just as Barcelona’s tiki-taka wizards can see passes that are just invisible to other players, Cannavaro could telegraph attacking moves before they’d even happened. He was a master of nipping attacks in the bud by cutting them off at the supply with blocks, interceptions and straightforward tackles.

Cannavaro’s career isn’t littered with frantic, last-gap challenges because he simply didn’t need to make them. His vision was so good that he was able to kill attacks before they became serious threats by exercising one of the sharpest defensive minds in the game. Cannavaro was strong, but he didn’t use his brawn to carry him through games: he, like most other great defenders of the modern era, used his brain.

Watching Fabio Cannavaro in his prime was always a pleasure, especially at the 2006 World Cup. Rarely eye-catching but always effective, Cannavaro was always in the right place and not by chance. He turned defending, football’s most destructive element, into a genuine thing of beauty, and for that he should be commended.

That is why I’ve always loved Cannavaro. Studying his style completely changed my perception of how a defender should play, and his success shows that you don’t have to be the biggest (Fabio was only 5’9”) or the toughest to be a top centre-back. I salute you, Il Capitano, and hope we soon see your like again.

… and hey, how many other defenders have had such a “charming” song written about them?

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