The Juventus Arena is quite simply the future of Italian football stadia. This is not only due to the fact that it is the first ultra modern stadium in Serie A but also because Juventus own the entire structure. This is a first in Italy as the grounds are normally owned by local authorities.
The name of the stadium may soon be changed as the rights for this were sold back in 2008 to Sportfive. The stadium is built on the site of the old Stadio Delle Alpi which was Juventus’s previous home and has cost £90 million. The ground was officially opened on the 8th September 2011 and boasts many amenities not available in Italy’s other aging stadiums. It has a shopping complex outside it and 3,600 premium seats with an additional 120 executive boxes.
No one can argue that the atmosphere is just as intimidating as some of the other major grounds as the fans are close to the pitch. It is also important that the Juventus’s Ultra groups have a place in the Stadium and are allowed to support the team in the manner that they are accustomed to. All eyes are on Turin as they are now the pathfinders in Italian football.
Key Ultra Groups: Gruppo Storico Fighters 1977 (Fighters Historic Group 1977), Black and White Fighters Gruppo Storico 1977, Drughi (The Droogs), Viking
Other Ultra Groups: Fossa dei Campioni (Champions Den), Panthers, Gioventu Bianconera (Black and White Youth), Area Bianconera (Black and White Area), Indians, Nucleo Amato Bianconero (Nuclear Black and White Love) later renamed Nucleo 1985, Arancia Meccanica (Clockwork Orange) l Fighters, Irriducibili Vallette (Unbreakable Vallette), Arditi (Daring ones), 06 clan, Noi Soli (Only Us), Gruppo Marche 1993 (Marche Group), Bruxelles Bianconera (White and Black Brussels), Gruppo Homer (Homer Group), Assiduo Sostegno (Loyal Support), Bravi Ragazzi (Top boys), Tradizione Bianconera (Black and White Tradition), Vecchia Guardia (Old Guard)
“Real Madrid dumped you, Napoli repudiated you, only your greed brought you back here.”
This was the message that greeted Fabio Cannavaro on his return to Juventus in 2009. His two league titles with the Bianconeri did not spare him. He was regarded a traitor by the clubs Ultras, a player who had abandoned his team during their hour of need.
Back in 2006 Juventus were relegated to Serie B in the wake of the Calciopoli scandal. While players like Gianluigi Buffon and Alessandro Del Piero remained, Cannavaro moved to Real Madrid. It is hard to begrudge such a career move but this treachery was neither forgotten nor forgiven. In the Ultras eyes it was his avarice which brought him back. A group known as Viking started circulating a t-shirt saying “Cannavaro mercenary” on the front and “No forgiveness for traitors” on the back.
This treatment of a former club hero did not sit well with some of Juve’s supporters, but it exposes the visceral culture of the Ultras; one that borders on the extreme, but which has at its heart, is an unswerving passion for one club.
Darwin Pastorin, one of Italy’s famed football writers said:
“Juventus is a team which unites everyone: from intellectuals to workers…it is a universal team, a footballing Esperanto…and then there are the fans, the real fans, from Sicily to the Aosta Valley. There are eleven million of us!”
Juventus are the most successful club in Italian history with 29 league titles (31 if you’re a Juventino). They are the Manchester United of Italy. You either love them or hate them and perhaps this is where the nickname La Fidanzata d’Italia (Italy’s girlfriend) originates. The club is the third oldest in Italy. It was founded in 1897 by a group of students from Turin and since 1923 they have been managed by the Agnelli family (founders and owners of FIAT).
Juventus also have nationwide support. This is in part due to the influx of workers from the South who migrated to Turin to work at Mirafiori – the huge FIAT factory constructed on the edge of the city in 1939. FIAT provided thousands of jobs and Umberto Agnelli (former CEO at FIAT and chairman at Juventus) once claimed that ‘one of the reasons which led migrants to choose Turin during the great migrations of the 1950’s and 60’s was the possibility of going to see Juventus play’. This combined with the clubs huge success has seen their fan base become the largest in Italy with a surfeit of Ultra groups.
The story of the Juventus Ultras is like no other written in this series. It reads like a script of the Borgias with its bewildering catalogue of schisms, reformations and civil war.
The origins of the Bianconeri’s organised support can be traced back to two groups, Venceremos and Autonomia Bianconera. Formed in the mid-1970s both were positioned to the extreme left of the political spectrum, a stance which has changed considerably.
In 1977, one of Juve’s most renowned Ultra groups, Gruppo Storico Fighters (Historic Fighters Group), was founded by Beppe Rossi, a man who remains a heroic figure among the Ultras today. Residing in the Curva Sud Scirea (or Curva Filadelfia as it was known in the old Stadio Olimpico) the vestiges of the group survive today. For ten years they enjoyed prominence among the landscape of the Italian Ultras yet the era would be marred by the darkest day in the history of Juventus.
In 1985 on the 29th of May, 39 Juventus fans died at Heysel stadium during their European Cup final against Liverpool. Trouble had already flared when Liverpool fans breached a fence separating them from the Italians. In the maelstrom that followed, Juventus fans were crushed against a concrete wall which collapsed killing and injuring many people. The culpability lay with the Liverpool fans and Belgian authorities but in truth the stadium was too decrepit for a game of such magnitude.
However for Juventini the blame was apportioned solely to Liverpool. An attempt was made to remove any ‘Englishness’ from the Curva and a virulent hatred was born. When the sides were drawn together in the Champions League in 2005; many Juve Ultras made their feelings clear by turning their backs on the choreography prepared by Liverpool at Anfield reading ‘Amicizia’ (friendship). In the return leg, banners were displayed reading ‘Easy to speak, difficult to pardon murders’ and ‘15-4-89. Sheffield. God exists’, the latter a reference to the Hillsborough disaster.
The 1980’s also saw the inception of other influential Ultra groups including Viking (whose members hailed from Milan) and Nucleo Amato Bianconero. The latter changed their name to Nucleo 1985 in memory of the Heysel victims. In 1987, following the dissolution of Fighters due to brutal skirmishes with bitter rivals Fiorentina, Arancia Meccanica (Clockwork Orange) was formed. Inspired by the Stanley Kubrick film, the group was an amalgam of various splinters in the Curva Sud, and under the authorities behest their name was later changed to I Drughi (the Droogs). During their infancy their membership allegedly grew in excess of 10,000. However with the formation of Irriducibili Vallette (Vallette Unbreakables) who migrated to the Curva Nord and the re-emergence of the Fighters, the Ultras battled and squabbled among themselves.
Following the Bianconeri’sChampions League triumph against Ajax in 1996 the jubilant fans rallied under the same banner, calling themselves the Black and White Fighters Gruppo Storico 1977. However this unification faded with the outbreak of internecine fighting.
In 2005, yet again, the Fighters disbanded leaving the control of the Curva Sud up for grabs. This was compounded after the Turin giants were found guilty for their involvement in the Calciopoli scandal. A power struggle ensued and before a pre-season friendly against Alessandria in 2006 this reached an ugly peak. Allegedly, multifarious groups including Tradizione Bianconera (Black and White Tradition), Arditi (Daring ones - both comprised of former Fighters), Drughi, Irriducibili and Viking clashed in what can only be described as civil war. Two fans were stabbed and 50 were arrested. Allegedly this is not the only occasion Juventus Ultras have attacked each other.
Today it would appear relative peace has been restored. The Fighters have returned to the Curva Sud Scirea and they are accompanied by Viking, the Drughi and a bourgeoning number of others. While it is hard to get one’s head round this clannish mentality, the internal divisions reflect elements of wider Italian society.
Nonetheless the superfluity of Juventus Ultras can create one of the more colourful and eclectic atmospheres on the peninsula. Each group boasts their own banners creating a vibrant and multi-faceted choreography. This makes the chic Juventus stadium a cauldron on match days and there is rarely an empty seat.
Set to the backdrop of the Alps, straddling the River Po, Turin is often referred to as the Industrial centre of Italy. The city’s armoury includes FIAT, ancient Egyptian artefacts, a myriad of contemporary art and the best chocolate in Italy. However to the Juventini, Turin is most importantly home to a juggernaut of Italian football and the Ultras thrive in the knowledge that their beloved Vecchia Signora is the envied queen of Italy.
Classic Player: David Trezeguet
Alessandro Del Piero, Gianluigi Buffon and of course Michel Platini, embody what in recent times it means to be Juventus. The Turin giants are awash with great names throughout their illustrious history but David Trezeguet’s importance and meaning to the Bianconeri, is often overlooked.
Trezeguet signed from Monaco ready for the 2000/01 season. He started well, scoring 15 times in his first season in Italy. Juventus were all conquering at this time and it was no easy job establishing yourself amongst this plethora of talent. The Frenchman did just this and in the next season he finished Serie A’s top scorer with 24 goals (32 in total).
With this came back to back league titles, Serie A player of the year and Serie A foreign player of the year. Add to this, two Super Coppa Italiana’s and a Champions League Final and it was clear to see that Juventus and the pacey forward were a match made in heaven.
It looked like the glory years were here to stay as Juventus went on to collect the 2004/05 and 2005/06 titles. It was then that the French Internationals footballing world collapsed, as the Turin giants were embroiled in Calciopoli and had the previous two titles stripped. This was a turning point in Trezeguet’s future and an endorsement of his character.
Many star names jumped ship as Juventus’s punishment saw them relegated to Serie B. Lilian Thuram, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Fabio Cannavaro, Patrick Vieira and Adrian Mutu were but a few that fled for their lives as the Bianconeri faced decimation. Trezeguet stayed and vowed along with the likes of Gigi Buffon and Alessandro Del Piero to return the club to the heights they believed they deserved.
It was during this time up until his release in 2010, that the goal poacher put in some of his most underrated work for the club. When he left, he did so having returned his club not only to Serie A but to the Champions League. He had surpassed Omar Sivori’s 167 goals making him Juventus’s all-time top foreign goal scorer and with 171 goals in total he was the fourth best goal scorer of all time in the Black and White of the iconic club.
Trezeguet had everything in his game, at 6ft 3 he was tall and powerful. He had extremely good acceleration and could maintain the pace. He had two good feet and was good in the air. Set pieces were part of his package and he had a natural instinct for goal. As if this was not enough he had the ability to be clinical. Most of his goals were reactionary to balls into the box. It is true he scored the odd scissor kick or spectacular volley but this was out of necessity rather than showman ship. He was simply focused on scoring, a dying breed in today’s game.
David Trezeguet was also a master of reading the oppositions back line. Many of his goals saw the entire defence looking horrified, as they realised the assistant referee had kept his flag down. He was a master at this and used it time and time again, often having time to round the keeper before slotting home.
Had he not been embroiled in the Italian match fixing scandal who knows how much he would have won? After all he did it at national level. His choice to stay at the club until he was released and his tireless effort and belief in his cause enabled fans of the Bianconeri to enjoy his goal scoring talents for a decade.
Underrated perhaps outside Juventus fans it is worth noting lesser players have been given higher accolades. When Calcio ruled the World David Trezeguet was just getting started.