Classic Calcio Match; Roma v Fiorentina 26th November 2000

Gabriel Batistuta at Fiorentina, was hero and a legend, playing 269 games and scoring 168 goals in nine seasons. However, as Batistuta sat in the Stadio Olimpico dressing room on the afternoon of 26th of November 2000 it was going to be an emotional affair. This was because he was in the Roma dressing room, about face his old employers for the first time. When he walked out he was going to be wearing the Giallorossi shirt of Roma and not the iconic Viola of his beloved Fiorentina.

Roma had hit the ground running at the start of the 2000/2001 season winning six out of their opening seven games. Batistuta was forming a frightening partnership with Francesco Totti and Vincenzo Montella.
As for Fiorentina they were clearly missing their Argentine hit man, only winning two out their opening seven games before their trip to the Eternal City.

The Stadio Olimpico was packed, fans full of expectation and excitement. The impressive start left them expecting another three points here in their title charge.

All eyes on were Batistuta as the game kicked off and as expected Roma started strongly. Full of confidence they dominated possession creating a few half chances.
Francesco Totti started brightly and was causing all sorts of problems, it was he who nearly set up the opening goal as he picked out Batistuta who’s spectacular volley from 18 yards was stopped by a flying Toldo in the Fiorentina goal.
Batistuta was at it again as he was sent clean through on the Fiorentina goal but as he tried to cut back the Fiorentina defence managed to smother him and clear the ball.
It was Totti’s turn to spurn a glorious opportunity as Marco Delvecchio picked him out, however, he couldn’t get enough on the ball to turn it home. A half dominated by the home team meant Fiorentina were lucky to get in 0-0 at the break.

Fatih Terim given his team some strong words at half time as they flew out traps in the second half. Angelo Di Livio was upended as he broke down the left flank, Rui Costa whipped in a dangerous ball only for Cristiano Lupatelli to fist the ball clear.

Capello was becoming frustrated figure as his Roma side failed to start the second half convincingly. This forced him into a change as he took off under performing Marco Delvecchio and put on prolific Vincenzo Montella.

This change seemed to work as the Romans settled and started creating chances again however still failed to really test Toldo. Terim was looking increasingly concerned as L’Aeroplanino (Montella) was causing havoc in his back line.
However Fiorentina could have and probably should have taken the lead, as Nuno Gomes ballooned over from 12 yards.

As the game appeared to be heading for a draw Fiorentina’s worst nightmare was about to come true as the ball fell to Batistuta some 20 yards out. He unleashed a ferocious right foot volley, this time Toldo was getting nowhere near it and it flew into the right top corner of the net.
The Olimpico erupted as did Capello and the whole Roma bench, all the Roma players were on the pitch all going wild apart from one man, Batistuta. After scoring one of the goals of his life he simply turned round, head down and tried walking away. Despite his team mates jumping on him there was not a hint of a smile or emotion if anything he looked embarrassed, even ashamed of what he’d just done, a great mark of respect for his former club.

Terim responded and threw on Enrico Chiesa to try and salvage something from the game but Roma held on and deservedly won 1-0. At the end of the game Batistuta was almost apologising to his former team mates and fans.
Roma however, had a new hero and would go into win the 2000/2001 Scudetto with Batistuta scoring 20 goals. As for Fiorentina they finished a respectable 7th, not bad after losing such a talent the summer before.

This Easter weekend it’s Fiorentina who welcome Roma to the Artemio Franchi lead by the man who terrorised them that afternoon in 2000, Vincenzo Montella.


http://youtu.be/C6ODVQDOcxk

By Giovanni Dougall

@giovannid86

A guide to the Ultra groups in Serie A: Juventus

City: Turin

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. 

By Luca Hodges-Ramon - @LH_Ramon25

The Gentleman Ultras alternative guide to the teams of Serie A: Fiorentina

THE STADIUM

Teams: Fiorentina

Capacity: 47,290

Built: 1931

City: Florence

Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and is renowned for art and culture. It is therefore quite apt that it has a stadium that is one of the best examples of 20th century architecture in the whole of the city.

Designed by architect Pier Luigi Nervi the stadium includes a huge tower called the “Tower of Marathon” which is 230ft tall. The concrete stadium has superb Roman style pillars at the entrance and once inside there is a perfect view from whatever seat you are given.

The stadium was renovated for the 1990 World Cup and the changes were most notable when they removed the running track and adding extra seating. This now makes the stadium a purpose built football arena and the large capacity creates an electric atmosphere.

One fantastic attribute this stadium has is that from the stands you can look out onto the rolling Tuscan hills, a view which is truly breath taking.

The Ultras on the Curva Fiesole are known as La Vecchia Guardia Firenze and are loud well organised and fiercely anti Juventus. If you are going to watch football in Italy this is a venue that should be near the top of the list.

The Derby against Bologna is also potent (I had fireworks thrown at me at this match in the stadium)

THE ULTRAS

Key Ultra Groups: Ultras Viola & CAV - Colletivo Autonomo Viola

 Other Ultra/Fan Groups: Legione Viola (Purple Legion), Guelfi (Guelphs), Granducato (Grand Duchy), L’Alcool Campi (Alcohol Campi – signifying fields or a province called Campi in Florence), Vieussex, Settebello (Beautiful seven), Fiorenza 93, Firenze Ultras, Gruppo Storico Ultras V.’73, Aficionados, Urban Crew, Alterati (Altered state – drug related), Fedelissimi (Stalwart faith), Bomber Group, Pazzi di lei (Crazy for Fiorentina), Sindrome Viola (Purple Syndrome), Vecchio Stampo (Old Fashioned), Stati Liberi del Tifo (Supporters Free State), Viola Korps, Gruppo Signa (Signa Group) and MANY others!!!

In 1289, a schism between the Pro-Papal Guelph forces of Florence and the imperial Ghibelline forces of Arezzo culminated in a brutal conflict at the Battle of Campaldino. This battlewas part of the long struggle between the popes and Holy Roman Emperors for power in Italy. It also reflected the fervent civic rivalries of the era, rivalries which remain to this day. On the blood strewn plains of Campaldino the Florentines and their allies triumphed. It was a victory that secured the Guelphs in Florence. The Tuscan Republic would go onto to become the birthplace of the Renaissance, a civic colossus on the Italian peninsula. Florence remains a city of unquestionable prestige and though the days of civic war are over, the city’s team – Fiorentina provide an outlet for campanilismo – or local patriotism. Expressions of Guelphism are often seen at the Stadio Artemio Franchi and under the aegis of the Ultras the city’s medieval splendour lives on. The rich heritage of Florence has seen the metropolis and its football club viewed by the supporters as one entity, a victory for La Viola being a victory for Florence. The team is the city’s symbolic army and it is these cultural nuances that set Fiorentina supporters apart in the world of the Italian ultras.   

Fiorentina are said to have the 6th largest following in Italy and this is exemplified in their numerous Ultra groups (I lost count around 100). This perhaps reveals a trait particular to Florence, the need for individuality and ingenuity are entwined with the city’s glorious past. The first origins of Viola fan groups can be traced back to 1965 with the formation of Vieussex (the name of a historic library in Florence) and Settebello (Beautiful 7). These two groups are present on the Curva today, with Vieussex residing in the Curva Ferrovia and Settebello in the Curva Fiesole, the heartbeat of the Artemio Franchi.  

One of the more renowned groups to have resided in the Curva Fiesole is the Ultras Viola (Purple Ultras). Formed in 1973, a vicious fight with the Genovese led some supporters to create a group of “super supporters” who could compete with any adversary. Founded and led by a man called Stefano Biagini aka ‘Pump’ this period is described by a Viola Ultra as the ‘glorious 70’s’ characterised by violent clashes, stolen banners, stadiums without police beatings, dangerous away days and above all the years of ‘Calcio vero’ (uncorrupted football). Despite the group’s prominence the Ultras Viola disbanded just 10 years after their inception following violent exchanges with Romanisti which saw their twinning with the Romans come to an abrupt end. Stolen banners (which both fans blamed on each other) sparked a irreconcilable quarrel and this combined with a rise in eminence of Colletivo Autonomo Viola or CAV (Autonomous Purple Collective) led to a changing of the guard. Created in 1978, CAV took a central position on the Curva and despite their dissolution in 2011 the group’s vestiges have ensured that the Fiesole remains one of the most vivacious Curvas on the peninsula.

It is also worth highlighting Alcool Campi (Alcohol Campi) a clan who lived a brief but fiery existence. Tempestuous in nature this group were said to be the culprits in an infamous incident already alluded to in this series where Fiorentina Ultras launched petrol bombs onto a train full of Bologna fans. A 14 year old tragically died and Alcool Campi quickly ceased to exist.

“Neither left nor right” has always been the motto of Fiorentina’s Ultras who have predominately refused political affiliation. This however does not have any bearing on their twinning’s and rivalries, epitomised in their longstanding friendship with Hellas Verona fans (traditionally right-wing) after ex-Fiorentina players joined the Gialloblu and helped them to their one and only Scudetto in 1985.

It is impossible to talk about Fiorentina without mentioning their virulent hatred for Juventus. When the Bianconeri come to the Artemio Franchi a furore rages across the city. The origins of this rivalry date back to the 1981/82 Serie A season in which the Viola had the Scudetto snatched from their grasp by Juventus on account of some dubious refereeing. This rivalry was accentuated when Fiorentina’s cult hero Roberto Baggio was sold to Juventus in 1990, triggering riots across the city.

In parts of the Tuscan capital you can buy stickers which read; zona anti-gobbizzata – hunchback-free zone. Hunchbacks are seen as lucky in Italy thus the nickname was patented for Juventus, a team seen as notoriously lucky. In what must be a sight to behold, albeit a strange one, Fiorentina fans have also been known to perform a ritual on players signed from Juventus in which they are ‘de-hunchbacked’. However this rivalry can take on a more sinister nature, with some Viola fans taunting their rivals about the Heysel tragedy which claimed the lives of 39 Juventini. Fiorentina fans have been known to wear Liverpool merchandise when facing their Turin adversaries, and following the tragedy in 1985 a banner was revealed by Fiorentina Ultras reading 39 less hunchbacks”. Juventus fans claim this is the reason for CAV’s attempt to befriend Liverpool fans back in 2009 after the two met in the Champions League.

Despite this the Fiorentina Ultras are renowned for their loyalty, sarcasm and irony. They are no strangers to decrying the club’s hierarchy or the team itself if they feel things aren’t being done to their lofty Florentine standards. Former owner Vittorio Cecchi Gori, whose disastrous tenure at the club culminated in bankruptcy and demotion to Serie C2 in 2002 can certainly vouch for this. Viola fans had to endure the humiliation of losing the club name for a year, which became Florentia Viola, and 30,000 of them descended on the city centre to make their feelings known to Cecchi Gori.

The hub of the Italian Renaissance, Florence is synonymous with famous names including Michelangelo, Dante, Machiavelli and the Medici. The Fiorentina Ultras take untrammelled pride in the city’s cultural history and the Artemio Franchi has become something of a holy ground for the Viola fanatics. Awash with purple and white the stadium can produce electrifying atmospheres and decorative choreographies that even the greatest Florentine artists would be proud to call their own.

CLASSIC PLAYER: GABRIEL BATISTUTA (BATIGOL)

When Diego Maradona claimed that Gabriel Batistuta was the best striker that has ever graced the face of the earth, nobody lifted an eyebrow. No greater praise can be heaped on the man known as ‘Batigol’ as his powerful play and deadly ability in the box made his feared throughout his career.

Fiorentina have often had (and still do have) fantastic offensive players but none have compared to Batistuta. In 1991 when he signed from Boca Juniors nobody would have expected the impact that he would have on Italian Football.

In a nine year period in Florence, the Argentine phenomenon received almost religious adulation from the Curva Fiesole. This fervent worship of their new hero was created through his god given ability to score goals. Serie A was in its pomp and known throughout the world for boasting some of the toughest defenses of all time.  All of them however, without exception feared Batigol like he was the devil himself.

To put his goal scoring record into context, he is in the top ten all-time leading goals scorers in Serie A history. He scored 168 goals in 269 games for Fiorentina and 184 goals in 318 matches in his time in Italy. This equals a goal approximately every 1.7 matches which is simply breathe taking.

Batistuta did not seek the lime light and was also a loyal servant to the ‘Viola’. He stayed with them in during relegation to Serie B in 1992/93 and helped them return to the top flight. He turned down moves from bigger clubs although his loyalty unfortunately did not see him rewarded with a Serie A title with Fiorentina.  When he eventually left he walked away with a Serie B medal, a Coppa Italia winner’s medal ad a Super Coppa Italiana trinket to his name. The nearest he got to the title was in 1998/99 when  Firenze looked odds on to win the title, however, in week 20 he pulled up with a hamstring injury and the ‘Viola’ missed out to Milan.

Roma eventually turned his head in 2000 and he left the Renaissance city and transferred his predatory instincts to the Eternal City. There he would also become a legend helping Roma to win only their third title in a season that will go down in Giallorossi history. He scored 30 times in 63 games for Roma before being loaned to Inter in his later years for a less successful spell.

For a striker he had everything, power pace skill, ariel ability strength, confidence and seemingly never ending form. It is infact hard to think of another striker from this era who was more complete or a deadly. When Calcio ruled the world Maradona was watching and thinking ‘Nobody is better than Batigol’

Fiorentina Supporters to stage protest against Lazio.

Fiorentina Ultras may be partially absent for their game against Lazio after claims that they are ready to stage a protest during the game.

The Viola faithful are said to be unhappy with poor performances by officials against their side and have reportedly released a statement inviting the fans who will be present at the stadium on Sunday to leave the stands for the first part of their clash against the Biancocelesti.

According to lazionews24 the statement reads:
“Now is enough, Fiorentina are tired of passively accepting the continual wrongs of referees. A vase was filled that is now overflowing. A person who considers Fiorentina an integral part of their life must express their anger and support this initiative. We invite the fans who will be present at the stadium on Sunday to leave the stands for the first 10 minutes. We want everyone to realise our dissatisfaction and distrust that has occurred because of the mismanagement of the system in Italy. After these 10 minutes we will return to our rightful place in the stands supporting the team.”

After Fiorentina’s 2-2 draw with Parma last Monday, head-coach Vincenzo Montella claimed in his press conference that his players feel victimised by refereeing decisions over the last year and a half.

This sense of injustice is clearly shared by the Viola’s stalwart support.
The Tuscan Ultras are no strangers to voicing their displeasure and incidents in the past have even seen them lock their own players in their dressing room against Lecce back in 2012.

Their most notorious protests were directed at former owner Vittorio Cecchi Gori, whose disastrous tenure at the club culminated in bankruptcy and demotion to Serie C2 (Lega Pro 2) in 2002. Viola fans had to endure the humiliation of losing the club name for a year, which became Florentia Viola, and 30,000 of them descended on the city centre to make their feelings known to Cecchi Gori.

Read more about Fiorentina’s Ultras here - http://thegentlemanultra.tumblr.com/post/72436561262/a-guide-to-the-ultra-groups-in-serie-a
By Luca Hodges-Ramon - @LH_Ramon25

Giuseppe Rossi’s injury is a worry for Fiorentina and Italy

Tuscan derbies are full of passion and fighting spirit which result in games being played out in a vigorous manner. This harks back to the days when the states and principalities which now combine to make up Italy would take to the field in a much more sinister type of combat.

There are always causalities in war, just like there are always injuries in football matches. But when Livorno’s Leandro Rinaudo flew into Giuseppe Rossi on Sunday, it did not sit well with millions of onlookers.

This was primarily because the foul seemed intentional and unnecessary, and secondly because Rossi has been one of the stars of Serie A this year and was tipped to be a main player in the World Cup in Brazil. Last but not least, many simply felt for the young man after he seemed to suffer another major setback in his injury-ridden career.

Rossi has had successive anterior cruciate ligament injuries causing him to miss over two years of his playing career, but this season, all seemed to have changed. Fiorentina have benefited from his prolific form this term and will be anxious to find out the extent of the injury.

Coach Vincenzo Montella told Sky Sport Italia (h/t Football Italia):

We are all worried about Rossi…We are above all sad for his state of mind. It’s a real shame, as the foul seemed to be intentional and the player behind it didn’t even apologise. Usually when someone commits a foul like that you say sorry, as there was no way Rinaudo was going to get that ball.

It is now unclear how long the American-born forward will be out. Football Italia reports that Rossi will be flying out to the U.S. to be treated by Dr. Richard Steadman, who will conduct more tests before releasing his verdict.

Whatever the outcome, this is still a major blow to Fiorentina, who are chasing a Champions League spot, and to the national team, who will miss him if he’s not in peak form for the World Cup in Brazil.

Rossi has scored 15 goals in 19 games for Fiorentina in all competitions with four assists to go with it. He has become one of the most feared strikers in the division and has been going through a renaissance befitting of his Florentine surroundings. With Mario Gomez still sidelined through injury, this leaves the Viola with some big gaps to plug with fixtures now coming thick and fast.

Cesare Prandelli will also be nervously awaiting the results, as he had previously praised Rossi's performance for the Azzurri in November, per ESPN FC: ”I was delighted with them [Rossi and Balotelli], they harmonised immediately…they combined very well numerous times.” The fact that arguably the more consistent and professional of his front two could be missing for Brazil will fill him with dread.

Much more will be known in the coming weeks regarding the extent of this injury, but the trepidation likely to be felt by Montella and Prandelli combined with the heartache for fans (not just Florentine) shows what an admired professional and exciting player the little American-born striker is.

By Richard Hall

@Gentleman_Ultra

A guide to the Ultra groups in Serie A: Fiorentina

 City: Florence

 Key Ultra Groups: Ultras Viola & CAV - Colletivo Autonomo Viola

 Other Ultra/Fan Groups: Legione Viola (Purple Legion), Guelfi (Guelphs), Granducato (Grand Duchy), L’Alcool Campi (Alcohol Campi – signifying fields or a province called Campi in Florence), Vieussex, Settebello (Beautiful seven), Fiorenza 93, Firenze Ultras, Gruppo Storico Ultras V.’73, Aficionados, Urban Crew, Alterati (Altered state – drug related), Fedelissimi (Stalwart faith), Bomber Group, Pazzi di lei (Crazy for Fiorentina), Sindrome Viola (Purple Syndrome), Vecchio Stampo (Old Fashioned), Stati Liberi del Tifo (Supporters Free State), Viola Korps, Gruppo Signa (Signa Group) and MANY others!!!

In 1289, a schism between the Pro-Papal Guelph forces of Florence and the imperial Ghibelline forces of Arezzo culminated in a brutal conflict at the Battle of Campaldino. This battlewas part of the long struggle between the popes and Holy Roman Emperors for power in Italy. It also reflected the fervent civic rivalries of the era, rivalries which remain to this day. On the blood strewn plains of Campaldino the Florentines and their allies triumphed. It was a victory that secured the Guelphs in Florence. The Tuscan Republic would go onto to become the birthplace of the Renaissance, a civic colossus on the Italian peninsula. Florence remains a city of unquestionable prestige and though the days of civic war are over, the city’s team – Fiorentina provide an outlet for campanilismo – or local patriotism. Expressions of Guelphism are often seen at the Stadio Artemio Franchi and under the aegis of the Ultras the city’s medieval splendour lives on. The rich heritage of Florence has seen the metropolis and its football club viewed by the supporters as one entity, a victory for La Viola being a victory for Florence. The team is the city’s symbolic army and it is these cultural nuances that set Fiorentina supporters apart in the world of the Italian ultras.   

Fiorentina are said to have the 6th largest following in Italy and this is exemplified in their numerous Ultra groups (I lost count around 100). This perhaps reveals a trait particular to Florence, the need for individuality and ingenuity are entwined with the city’s glorious past. The first origins of Viola fan groups can be traced back to 1965 with the formation of Vieussex (the name of a historic library in Florence) and Settebello (Beautiful 7). These two groups are present on the Curva today, with Vieussex residing in the Curva Ferrovia and Settebello in the Curva Fiesole, the heartbeat of the Artemio Franchi.  

One of the more renowned groups to have resided in the Curva Fiesole is the Ultras Viola (Purple Ultras). Formed in 1973, a vicious fight with the Genovese led some supporters to create a group of “super supporters” who could compete with any adversary. Founded and led by a man called Stefano Biagini aka ‘Pump’ this period is described by a Viola Ultra as the ‘glorious 70’s’ characterised by violent clashes, stolen banners, stadiums without police beatings, dangerous away days and above all the years of ‘Calcio vero’ (uncorrupted football). Despite the group’s prominence the Ultras Viola disbanded just 10 years after their inception following violent exchanges with Romanisti which saw their twinning with the Romans come to an abrupt end. Stolen banners (which both fans blamed on each other) sparked a irreconcilable quarrel and this combined with a rise in eminence of Colletivo Autonomo Viola or CAV (Autonomous Purple Collective) led to a changing of the guard. Created in 1978, CAV took a central position on the Curva and despite their dissolution in 2011 the group’s vestiges have ensured that the Fiesole remains one of the most vivacious Curvas on the peninsula.

It is also worth highlighting Alcool Campi (Alcohol Campi) a clan who lived a brief but fiery existence. Tempestuous in nature this group were said to be the culprits in an infamous incident already alluded to in this series where Fiorentina Ultras launched petrol bombs onto a train full of Bologna fans. A 14 year old tragically died and Alcool Campi quickly ceased to exist.

“Neither left nor right” has always been the motto of Fiorentina’s Ultras who have predominately refused political affiliation. This however does not have any bearing on their twinning’s and rivalries, epitomised in their longstanding friendship with Hellas Verona fans (traditionally right-wing) after ex-Fiorentina players joined the Gialloblu and helped them to their one and only Scudetto in 1985.

It is impossible to talk about Fiorentina without mentioning their virulent hatred for Juventus. When the Bianconeri come to the Artemio Franchi a furore rages across the city. The origins of this rivalry date back to the 1981/82 Serie A season in which the Viola had the Scudetto snatched from their grasp by Juventus on account of some dubious refereeing. This rivalry was accentuated when Fiorentina’s cult hero Roberto Baggio was sold to Juventus in 1990, triggering riots across the city.

In parts of the Tuscan capital you can buy stickers which read; zona anti-gobbizzata – hunchback-free zone. Hunchbacks are seen as lucky in Italy thus the nickname was patented for Juventus, a team seen as notoriously lucky. In what must be a sight to behold, albeit a strange one, Fiorentina fans have also been known to perform a ritual on players signed from Juventus in which they are ‘de-hunchbacked’. However this rivalry can take on a more sinister nature, with some Viola fans taunting their rivals about the Heysel tragedy which claimed the lives of 39 Juventini. Fiorentina fans have been known to wear Liverpool merchandise when facing their Turin adversaries, and following the tragedy in 1985 a banner was revealed by Fiorentina Ultras reading 39 less hunchbacks”. Juventus fans claim this is the reason for CAV’s attempt to befriend Liverpool fans back in 2009 after the two met in the Champions League.

Despite this the Fiorentina Ultras are renowned for their loyalty, sarcasm and irony. They are no strangers to decrying the club’s hierarchy or the team itself if they feel things aren’t being done to their lofty Florentine standards. Former owner Vittorio Cecchi Gori, whose disastrous tenure at the club culminated in bankruptcy and demotion to Serie C2 in 2002 can certainly vouch for this. Viola fans had to endure the humiliation of losing the club name for a year, which became Florentia Viola, and 30,000 of them descended on the city centre to make their feelings known to Cecchi Gori.

The hub of the Italian Renaissance, Florence is synonymous with famous names including Michelangelo, Dante, Machiavelli and the Medici. The Fiorentina Ultras take untrammelled pride in the city’s cultural history and the Artemio Franchi has become something of a holy ground for the Viola fanatics. Awash with purple and white the stadium can produce electrifying atmospheres and decorative choreographies that even the greatest Florentine artists would be proud to call their own.

By Lucca Hodges-Ramon

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Roma’s end of year fixtures could make or break their season

“Maybe I was just too involved in the game,” Rudi Garcia told Sky Sport Italia, after his team failed to beat Cagliari on Monday night, “This was an unexpected result. People often say if you can’t win, the next best thing is not to lose.”

The aggravated Roma Coach had been sent to the stands during the game for getting a little too involved in proceedings but even in his frustration he made a crystal clear point.  The Giallorossi had started the campaign at a record breaking pace winning 10 out of 10 and looked like they may take Serie A by storm. After a win against Chievo they looked at the fixture list with a wolf like hunger at the prospect of playing Torino, Sassuolo and Cagliari in succession.

Life has a tendency of tripping you up when you least expect it and fans of the Roman outfit would not have expected to pick up three draws and more crucially only three points out of these three games that promised so much. Now Juventus have risen to the summit and a dark sense of foreboding is gathering in Garcia’s camp.

Roma are now one point behind ‘The Old Lady’ and although they are still undefeated and have only conceded three goals ,the fixture list ahead still looks daunting. With recent injuries to Miralem Pjanic and Mehdi Benatia adding to an already substantial list, the build up to the winter break now has become a different beast.

Roma’s next game is a tricky away trip to the Stadio Azzurri d’Italia to take on Atalanta. The side from Bergamo are coming off the back of an away defeat to Sassuolo but don’t be deceived. Atalanta have won three out of their last four home games including victories over Udinese, Lazio and Bologna, they also drew with Inter.

Roma then host Fiorentina which on paper promises to be one of the games of the season. Fiorentina have also been a little bit sporadic of late with defeats in Udine and Naples but Giuseppe Rossi’s goal scoring form could frighten any team right now.

Rudi Garcia then takes his men to Milan for a trip to the San Siro. Despite the daunting sound of this trip Milan are perhaps the team least in form, although the big games are always go against the grain. Roma will be hoping to have some key players back by this point.

Finally they host Catania at the Stadio Olimpico, just before the winter break. This match will no doubt have taken a different shape due to the results previous but it is still fair to say that with Catania languishing at the foot of the Serie A table, this will be the one game they will be convinced of getting three points in.

The fixture list may look daunting as the Giallorossi scratch their heads after drawing with the Sardinians but there is much to smile about. As mentioned previously they are undefeated and have players due back soon, plus they are not conceding goals.

Rudi Garcia already had the answer however, for when the furious coach marched away from the game on Monday he blurted a message that rang true like a bell at St Peters. “People often say if you can’t win, the next best thing is not to lose.”  They haven’t and as long as they maintain this, they will still feel and look like title contenders.

THE GENTLEMAN ULTRAS GUIDE TO THE GROUNDS OF SERIE A

Stadio Renato Dall’Ara

Teams: Bologna

Capacity: 38,297

Built: 1927

City: Bologna

The Stadio Renato Dall’Ara is a multi-purpose stadium that will be mostly remembered by English fans of Italian football due to an incident in the Italia 90 World Cup. England faced Belgium in the second round and were only minutes away from going into a penalty shoot out before Paul Gascoigne floated in a free kick for David Platt to volley home in spectacular fashion. The ground itself has been renamed three times and used to be called both the Stadio Littoriale and the Stadio Comunale before settling on its current name. As well as a huge tower on one side it has a roof over the other, these were all features added when modified for the 1990 World Cup. The atmosphere in the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara is always hostile even though it is generally only half full. The Ultras on the The Curva Bulgarelli are passionate and very vocal. Flares, firecrackers and flags are often brought out by members of the Turist Group 1996, SGP 1999 and the more notorious Vecchia Guardia (Old Guard). These groups are some of the nosiest away fans and make even more effort when at home. These guys are crazy and I ran into them at the derby v Fiorentina, armed with sticks and wearing Police helmets were fairly menacing to the point where they threw fireworks at us during the game.

Serie A mid week review for Think Football

Napoli slip up as Roma maintain 100% start to the season

A scintillating weekend of Serie A action saw tears at the Rome derby and tears for Milito but do not fear as there was still much to smile about. Goals galore for Inter, Roma avenged the Coppa Final and Napoli won in Milan without a Maradona in sight. There was hardly time to breath before it was all happening again as Serie A showcased some more exciting action.

It kicked off in Udine on Tuesday as the Zebrette welcomed Genoa at the Stadio Friuli. Antonio Di Natale once again dragged Udinese to their only their second of the season. The home side dominated possession but failed to put their chances away. It was Di Natale’s free kick that was, unfortunately for Emanuele Calaiò, turned into his own net. Udinese’s season seems back on track whilst for Genoa the derby win seems a long time ago.

Napoli have had a perfect start to the season and were coming off the back of beating Milan whilst visiting Sassuolo had just been thumped 0-7 by Inter at home. The San Paolo smelt blood and when Blerim Dzemaili scored early on it only looked like getting worse. When Simone Zaza equalised almost straight away it seemed like it was just a blip. The game then slowed done and Napoli looked tired, the game ended 1-1 much to the dismay of the Neapolitans.

Roma were another team with a 100% start and this continued on Wednesday after Medhi Benatia and Gervinho netted to dispatch a beleaguered Sampdoria. The Roman side are looking an attractive proposition under Rudi Garcia whilst Sampdoria look lost already.  The other team from the capital thanked Ederson, Senad Lulic and Hernanes as Lazio pushed aside Catania 3-1, a goal from Pablo Barrientos was merely a consolation.

A close eye should be kept on Livorno as they continue to look like outside contenders to stay in the division. A 1-1 draw with Cagliari saw Andrea Luci give the home side the lead before Victor Ibarbo equalised for the Sardinians. The draw did neither any harm as Livorno move up to seventh whilst Cagliari are eleventh.  Another draw between two teams who are arguably overachieving saw four goals shared. Hellas Verona had to reply to Torino twice in an extremely entertaining game that saw Alessio Cerci claim man of the match by scoring twice. Hellas now sit in 10th whilst Toro move to eighth.

The shock of the season was on the cards as Milan trailed Bologna 3-1 in the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara with very little time on the clock. Robinho then scored to give the Rossoneri hope before Ignazio Abate netted to break Bolognas hearts. Milans poor week continues but it could have been much, much worse.

Juventus won in controversial circumstances as an own-goal from Alessandro Bernardini saw the away side beat Chievo 2-1 at the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi. The offside decision in this match is certainly the new hot topic of debate.

Game of the day was played out in the Stadio Ennio Tardini where Parma hosted Atalanta. Seven goals and a red card saw the home side edge out the side from Bergamo despite going down to ten men. The game unbelievably stood at 4-2 at half time and when Amauri was sent off Atalanta saw their opportunity; however, despite pulling one back the end of the game saw Parma finish the stronger nearly netted the third.

Inter and Fiorentina played last night in a game that Inter came from behind to win 2-1. Inter leap-frogged Napoli into second (albeit on goal difference) after their impressive away victory.

Article by Richard Hall, Follow me on Twitter at @Gentleman_Ultra

Or on Tumblr at http://thegentlemanultra.tumblr.com/

When Calcio ruled the world: Christian Vieri

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Christian Vieri is still one of the most iconic strikers ever to have graced the world game. Over 18 years he played for 12 clubs making 374 appearances and scoring 194 goals. Add to this his national record of 29 goals in 43 games and it is clear to see why he is in the FIFA 100 best players of all time list.

At 6ft 1inch Vieri was the complete predator, strong and instinctive when it came to finishing he had rapid reactions. This was at its most apparent when he was plying his trade with Inter where injuries prevented him fulfilling what could have been one of the most dangerous partnerships of all time with Ronaldo.

Vieri’s career is littered with silverware won at his clubs and personally as well. When Calcio ruled the world, nobody could stop Vieri scoring.

When Calcio ruled the world: Diego Fuser

Diego Fuser was the complete winger in the early 1990’s. These were the glory years for Serie A and the flanks were dominated by Fuser whether playing for Torino, Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio, Parma or Roma.

It is testament to his abilities that he managed to play for such a distinguished list of clubs in a career that spreads from 1986 at Torino to the unbelievably the present day where he still plys his trade for Colline Alfieri Don Bosco (an amateur side in Piedmont.)

Strong, athletic, quick and incredibly skillfull Fuser shone as one of the most dangerous wingers in the divison. Most noted for his time at Lazio where he played from 1992-1998 featuring 188 times and scoring 35 goals.

When Calcio ruled the world, Fuser was just getting started!

Book recommendation: 20 Great Italian Games by Giancarlo Rinaldi

The drama, passion and controversy of Italian football is world renowned. Over the years it has thrown up countless classic encounters between its top teams. Giancarlo Rinaldi has picked out 20 of the best featuring the likes of Juventus, Milan, Inter, Napoli, Roma, Lazio, Fiorentina and more. They span more than 50 years of Calcio and star great names from yesteryear like Michel Platini, Marco Van Basten, Sandro Mazzola, Diego Maradona and Giancarlo Antognoni.
 
Make sure you purchase this, it is a must read
 
Giancarlo is a friend of this site and has also written for The Gentleman Ultra.

Viola Memories by Giancarlo Rinaldi

Even now, the memory still hurts. We were winning 6-0 and it did not matter a jot. Results elsewhere were sending us to Serie B and there was nothing we could do. Radios around the Stadio Artemio Franchi confirmed the dreadful news.

The first cut was definitely the deepest. I have seen Fiorentina relegated twice but that demotion in 1993 was certainly the more painful experience. We had been in second place at Christmas with a side which included the likes of Brian Laudrup, Stefan Effenberg and Gabriel Batistuta. It made no difference to our final fate.

Things had started excitingly under Gigi Radice with a 7-1 win over Ancona and a 7-3 home hammering by Milan in the opening weeks of the campaign. He masterminded a triumph over Juventus in December but it was not enough to keep him in a job for long. A home reverse at the hands of Atalanta in January had volatile film-producer president Vittorio Cecchi Gori sending him packing. And then our world caved in.

The opinionated TV pundit Aldo Agroppi was brought in and produced a series of results which should serve as a warning to so-called experts everywhere. His first game was a 4-0 defeat by Udinese. It would be more than two months before the boys in purple would record a win. By that point, panic had set in.

Agroppi was shown the door too, with a last-gasp effort to avoid the drop coming from Luciano Chiarugi. It failed to provide sufficient points and when Foggia came to Florence on the final day of the season the writing was on the wall. We needed other sides to do us a favour and, in Italy, that just does not happen.

And yet, for a while, we had hope. Four goals up by half-time, our relegation rivals Brescia were only managing a draw with Sampdoria. And things got better early in the second period when news filtered through that Roma had taken the lead against Udinese - the other side involved in the three-way fight to avoid the last two relegation spots.

The Curva Fiesole crackled with the sound of match updates coming from around the country. Every cry of “Attenzione! Attenzione!” by the Tutto Il Calcio commentators brought a frisson of fear. The match being played out on the pitch seemed like a sideshow.

Fiorentina went 6-0 up but the news from elsewhere took a turn for the worse. Brescia pulled 2-1 ahead and then, with 10 minutes remaining, came the double hammer-blow. The Bresciani put their result beyond doubt with another goal while Udinese grabbed an equaliser. The sombre silence of the Franchi left no room for dubiety, we were going down.

Everybody sleepwalked through those closing moments. Foggia waltzed around zombie-like defenders to make the score 6-2. It was a resounding victory which nobody celebrated.

The jokes at the Viola’s expense were not long in coming. Some suggested that their new sponsors should be toothbrush makers Oral B (it translates as “Now in B” in Italian). It would certainly be a while before Fiorentina fans could smile again.

Giancarlo is an amazing writer and I persnally thank him for this superb article. I hope he joins us again soon

 Follow Giancarlo Rinaldi on Twitter @ginkers and his own amazing blog http://giancarlorinaldi.tumblr.com/