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Remember when? Marcelo Salas v Juventus, 11th November 2000

Teams: Juventus v Lazio

Date: 11th November 2000
 
Goalscorer: Marcelo Salas

Location: Stadio delle Alpi, Turin

Sven-Göran Eriksson’s defending champions Lazio fell behind to one of their biggest title challengers. Carlo Ancelotti’s Juventus took the lead thanks to an Igor Tudor strike on the 22nd minute.
 
This lead however would only last a mere eight minutes as Lazio proved just why they were champions. Summer signing and the worlds most expensive player (€56m) Hernán Crespo combined well with new strike partner Marcelo Salas to equalise.
 
Alessio Tacchinardi would lose position in midfield as Juventus tried to attack, it would break to Diego Simeone just inside the Juventus half. He played a simple ball to Salas who, from 25 yards out turned as Crespo made a clever run. This made the Juventus centre halves think twice but the Chilean international decided against using the run of Crespo and decided to let fly himself.
 
He hit a powerful left foot shot which appeared to be going straight down Edwin Van Der Sar’s throat for a routine save but the big Dutchman uncharacteristically misjudged the shot and somehow dived out the way of the ball as it bounced off his legs and into the back of the net. This silenced the Juventus faithful inside the Stadio delle Alpi that night.
http://youtu.be/-WKFKeC4k2g
By Giovanni Dougall
@giovannid86

Filed under salas crespo van der saar juventus lazio

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Remember when? Juventus v Roma 15th February 1997

Location: Stadio delle Alpi, Turin


The unpopular Stadio delle Alpi was almost full as two of Italy’s biggest clubs prepared to go toe to toe.
 
Marcello Lippi’s European Champions welcomed a struggling Roma side to Turin for this ‘Round 24’ fixture. Brimming with confidence Juventus they sat top of Serie A and were impressing in Europe once again. It was the new summer signing Zinedine Zidane who was the architect to this success.
 
It would be the talented Frenchman who would set the tone for the afternoon as he bossed the midfield in the opening exchanges. It was Zidane’s deep cross that nearly gave Juventus the lead as Roma’s Giovanni Cervone knocked the ball into the path of Didier Deschamps, he fired it off Vincent Candela for a corner. Juventus would take a well deserved early lead with some superb link up play as Nicola Amoruso played a beautiful one - two with fellow strike partner Christian Vieri. It was a move that would see the fresh faced Vieri open the scoring with a fine strike past Cervone.
 
Roma tried to get back into the game but were being bullied in the midfield by the likes of Angelo Di Livio, Didier Deschamps and Alessio Tacchinardi.
 
It would soon be 2-0 as Angelo Di Livio won the ball in the midfield, he set off, dribbling well into the Roma half unchallenged before picking out an exquisite left foot pass for an outstretched Vieri. He managed to get on the end of this and lift the ball over the on coming Cervone. That was 2-0 and I Bianconeri hadn’t got out of second gear yet.
 
The second half began with Zidane causing all sorts of problems again, this time a free kick from some 20 yards out would see Cervone make a meal of it. Once again he flapped at the ball as it fell to Vieri who was so unfortunate not to get his hat trick, his incredible close range bicycle kick came bouncing back off the upright. 
 
Young Francesco Totti was trying to get his team back in the game and was starting to see more of the ball this half but it was Roma’s Uruguayan forward Daniel Fonseca who almost got I Giallorossi back in the game. His free kick whistled past Angelo Peruzzi’s post, Fonseca couldn’t believe it and on second viewing you could see why it was a matter of centimetres. 
 
That was to be as good as it got for Roma as The Old Lady wrapped up all three points with a lovely move. A diagonal ball was played into Atillio Lombardo, he cushioned it first time for Michele Padovano to finish however, he lost his footing at the last minute but strike partner Nicola Amoruso was queuing up behind him to fire home making it 3-0. The dominant Juventus finished the goal scoring as Lippi’s men ran out victorious.
 
The two sides meet again tonight, with both defending unbeaten records. Can Rudi Garcia’s men keep up the title charge and put a halt to Juventus’s bid for four in a row.
http://youtu.be/25K6OqR4koY
By Giovanni Dougall
@giovannid86

Filed under roma juventus serie a totti fonseca

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Remember when? AC Milan v Juventus 09/02/1992

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The San Siro was at its glorious best on match day 20 of the 1991/92 season. The grey and white smoke faded from the stands to unveil hundreds of red and black banners and flags in support of the home team. Before you knew it they were covered again as more smoke bombs and even more flares went off it was an electric atmosphere. The stadium was a sell out as two of not only Italy’s best prepared to go head to head.

 
AC Milan had returned to their glory days under Arrigo Sacchi but with new man Fabio Capello in charge for this campaign, many wondered if they could keep this going? Giovanni Trapattoni’s Juventus arrived in Milan in high spirits„ they had just came off the back of a routing Foggia 4-1 with Pierluigi Casaraghi and Roberto Baggio hitting top form.
 
Milan flew out the traps, clearly inspired by the passion coming from the stands. They took the lead after only four minutes, a lovely move down Juventus’ right side, a deep cross to the back post found Marco Van Basten who cool as always chested the ball instantly then fired a right foot volley under advancing Juventus keeper’ Stefano Tacconi. It was the perfect start for Capello’s men. 
 
Juventus were rattled and couldn’t get a grip of the game, Milan were bombarding them down both flanks and were unlucky not to be two or three up in the opening minutes. 
Juventus eventually did settle and started having more of the ball as the half hour mark approached they found themselves level as Pierluigi Casiraghi silenced the San Siro with a thunderbolt. Antonio Conte played a diagonal ball over the Milan defence, Casiraghi watched the ball come out the air and unleashed a venomous first time volley into the top corner, the game was tied at 1-1 as the half came to an end. 
 
Milan started the second half with the same intensity as the first and within the opening minutes they were unlucky not to take the lead again as Tacconi’s post was rattled. Daniele Massaro missed a golden opportunity as he found himself face to face with Tacconi but he somehow missed his kicked. 
 
Juventus finally woke up and started playing they had penalty appeals rejected as substitute Paolo Di Canio was brought down on the edge of the box, it would have perhaps been perceived soft if given.
 
Milan really should have won it at the death as Ruud Guilt found himself with a free header in the Juventus box, he threw himself at the ball but got it all wrong sending it way off target. A draw was how this battle of Italy’s top two would finish.
 
San Siro is sold out again tonight as these two giants of the Italian game clash. Will it be Filippo Inzaghi’s new look Milan or Max Allegri’s defending champions who’ll come out on top?
 
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http://youtu.be/HwNnyYV5ijg
By Giovanni Dougall
@giovannid86

Filed under serie a milan juventus van basten gullit rossi san siro

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Zaza and Immobile are proof that co ownership works

There are few things people like less than uncertainty. Fans react to the news of one of their favourite players potentially leaving with anger, we just like the idea that our clubs can hold on to their best players for as long as we like. So it doesn’t surprise me that most fans would much rather see their favourite team loan out their best prospects rather than sending them to a club on co ownerships. But if you pay close attention, there are many benefits to having both clubs with a financial stake in a player.

Co ownerships have been a staple of Italian football as much as the “Sqilli di tromba” on Rai’s broadcast of Serie A matches and Galliani making deceitful statements about transfers. But that is all about to change since next summer co ownerships will become a thing of the past, the Italian federation decided to finally put an end to the practice since in many instances it was just a way for clubs to inflate the revenues and lower the expenses on their balance sheets (Italy is also the only country in Europe who still allows this practice).

A few years ago, Juventus and Udinese completed a co ownership deal for Isla and Asamoah, that was so complex you needed a degree from Harvard’s Business school to fully grasp it. That deal was really just a way to spread out the payment of the transfer fees over multiple fiscal years, as well as the amortization of the players’ values over a longer period of time.  Aside from these accounting tricks that would make an Enron auditor blush, there certainly have been many instances in which co ownerships benefitted the clubs and the players involved- you don’t have to look any further than the 2 strikers who started Conte’s first two matches on the Azzurri’s bench.

Immobile and Zaza played the 2013/14 season on co ownership. Juve owned half of their rights and sent Immobile to Torino while Zaza played at Sassuolo. These were classic examples of the co ownership deals a rich club like Juve found advantageous, they entered into an agreement with a club of much lesser financial means- this would pretty much ensure they could retain control of the future of their best prospects. Since both Torino and Sassuolo had a financial stake into developing Immobile and Zaza, Juventus benefitted and the players were given more opportunities than a player loaned to another club.

The way the co ownerships of Zaza and Immobile were resolved this summer, gives us some great insight as to how Italian clubs plan on dealing with the end of a practice that was such an essential aspect of how they did business. Juventus and Torino agreed to sell Immobile to Borussia Dortmund last May, the two clubs ended up splitting the proceeds of the sale.

I suspect one of the main reasons Juventus didn’t want to bring back Immobile was the ghost of Giovinco, who just like Immobile came up in Juve’s youth system before being sent to another club on co ownership. Giovinco had a sensational season at Parma in 2011-12 when he scored 15 goals. Juventus paid 11 million euro to buy Parma’s half to his rights (Parma had originally paid Juve 3 million in 2010 to buy their half of Giovinco), and while Giovinco got many opportunities in his first season back at Juve he never lived up to his price tag. Had Juventus and Parma not been able to reach an agreement, they would have had to resolve Giovinco’s co ownership by going to “le buste” (the envelopes) where both clubs enter a figure in a sealed envelope- the team with highest bid would keep the player and pay the other club the amount in the envelope.

What happened with Zaza was far more interesting than Immobile’s situation, since it showed us how Italian clubs plan on getting around the end of co ownerships. Juventus sold their half to the rights to Zaza to Sassuolo (who already owned the other half to his rights) for 7.5 million euro, but the bianconeri inserted two buy back clauses into that agreement- they have the right to purchase Zaza for 15 million euro in summer of 2015, and a second option to buy him back for 18 million in 2016.

Essentially Juve is willing to pay Sassuolo a hefty premium for developing a player for them, but in the short term they also received 7.5 million up front this summer (most of that money was used to purchase Morata)- this is essentially a co ownership with set financial parameters. Immobile and Zaza are great examples of what co ownerships used to be in the past and what they will look in the future, they also probably wouldn’t be starting for the Azzurri had their clubs not been willing to make their fans feel some uncertainty.

Article by David Amoyal

@DavidAmoyal

Filed under azzurri zaza Immobile juventus Sassuolo dortmund

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English Players in Italy - David Platt

Bari 1991-1992, Juventus 1992-1993 and Sampdoria 1993-1995.

 “If I hadn’t scored that goal, I might still have ended up playing in Italy but, realistically, I’m sure it was the catalyst.” David Platt on the importance of his extra time goal against Belgium in the last 16 of Italia ‘90’.

We all remember the joyous days of Channel 4’s Football Italia. James Richardson bringing us the ins and outs of Calcio from a Piazza in one of Italy’s en vogue cities, a Gazzetta dello Sport in hand and a cappuccino at the ready. If it wasn’t for the move of David Platt, and of course cult hero Paul Gascoigne to Serie A, both of  which saw the English interest in Italian football sky rocket, Channel 4 may never have jumped on the Calcio bandwagon.

Having burst onto the scene at Italia ‘90’, scoring three goals including a memorable volley against Belgium, Platt earned himself a big money move (at the time a British transfer record of £5.5 million) from Aston Villa to Bari. At his first major Italian press conference and keen to make a lasting impression, Platt declared he wanted to become the “Maradona of Bari.” Was this hyperbole?  Almost certainly, but his magisterial claim wasn’t altogether empty. Of course he never achieved the dizzying heights reached by the Argentinian demi-god in Naples. However in his first and only season with the Galletti, Platt scored 11 goals in 29 games. It was an impressive tally for a midfielder playing in a league which prided itself on its defensive fortitude. The Englishman combined the mores of the English game - courage, determination and leadership - with a knack for bursting from midfield to find pockets of space, enabling him to finish ninth in the Serie A scoring charts of 1991-1992. This endeared Platt to the Bari faithful, and the Englishman, (while suspended), was even invited to join the Ultras in the Curva to watch a game against Hellas Verona. Platt obliged, spending fifteen minutes with the fans before taking his seat next to the Bari president, thus ensuring he remains an icon within the city.

However Platt’s first season would end in bitter disappointment after the Biancorossi slid into Serie B spelling an end to the Englishman’s love affair with the Puglia club. Despite the attempts of Roberto Mancini to tempt Platt to Sampdoria, the English international found the lure of Juventus impossible to resist and in 1992 he signed for the Turin giants for £6.5 million. Yet after a disappointing year which saw Platt struggle to cement a first team place at the Vecchia Signora, Giovanni Trapattoni deploying him in a defensive midfield position which consequently stymied his goal scoring, Mancini eventually got his wish and Platt joined Sampdoria in 1993.

Platt arguably had his best years at the Blucerchiati, becoming an integral part of Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Coppa Italia winning side in 1994 and again proving himself a fan favourite. In 55 games at the club he amassed 17 goals, perhaps the most memorable of which came in the Derby della Lanterna against Genoa. The blonde haired midfielder did what he did best, finding himself in the right place at the right time to drive home a rebound from an Atillio Lombardo effort (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjkkjZKj1ks), salvaging a draw for Samp. In fact watching a montage of his goals for Il Doria you come to realise Platt had a myriad of finishes in his armoury and by the end of his Italian career in 1995 he possessed the all-round skills to mix it with the very best – (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opqdGmVZFMY).

On arriving in Italy Platt said “I want to be an Italian, to speak Italian, live like an Italian and eat like an Italian.” Although he still possessed the midlands accent, he immersed himself in the culture. Celebrating like every goal was his last, gesticulating at officials, embracing the zealous fanaticism, wearing Armani and most importantly, when Calcio ruled the world Platt was playing like the very best Italian midfielders, defensively adept and composed in front of goal.

By Luca Hodges-Ramon

Follow him on Twitter @LH_Ramon 25, also follow the Gentleman Ultra @Gentleman_Ultra

Filed under platt bari juventus sampdoria football italia

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Remember when? Shevchenko v Juventus 2001

Classic Calcio Goal: Andriy Shevchenko v Juventus 2001

Teams: AC Milan V Juventus

Season: 2001 - 2002

Location: San Siro, Milan

Goalscorer: Andriy Shevchenko

As two of Italian footballs heavyweights clashed on the icy night of 19th December 2001, all eyes were on the star studded forwards of both teams. David Trezeguet, Alessandro Del Piero and Pippo Inzaghi were upstaged by Shevchenko who would steal the headlines in the morning.

On the 23rd minute Rui Costa collected the ball just in side his own half, he then played a wild first time pass up in the air which Paolo Montero failed to deal with. He was being out muscled by Javi Moreno who flicked the ball on to Shevchenko, the Ukrainian then took off at a frightening pace leaving Davids for dead. Gianluca Pessotto slipped and despite Montero ushering Shevchenko to the edge of the 18 yard box  the Milan forward let fly some 20 yards out. At an impossible angle Shevchenko sent the ball flying with pace over Buffon’s head, it nestled in the top corner, in fact it was probably the only place he could have put it to score. It was truly a remarkable strike from one of Serie A’s greatest.

http://youtu.be/5Gprcg0jUdU

By Giovanni Dougall

@giovannid86

Filed under shevchenko Milan Juventus Montero San Siro

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Gabriele Marcotti talks to Richard Hall about the Serie A season ahead

Journalist, author, TV Pundit, podcast host, European Football expert and all round nice guy Gabriele Marcotti, very kindly took some time out to talk to me, about the upcoming Serie A season.

The season seemed some distance away, this being July but I still wanted to know Gabriele’s initial thoughts as to how the season in Italy could pan out. Speaking about the summers events I shamefully asked Gabriele for his predictions.

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(Richard) Antonio Conte has walked away from Juventus and Massimiliano Allegri has arrived. Do you think Juventus’s domination of Serie A will suffer because of this, or will it be business as usual?

(Gabriele) I’m answering these questions in late July and as we’ve seen in the past A LOT can happen at the end of the calciomercato. So take that as a caveat. But in general I think Conte is a big loss. Juve still probably have the best squad (either with Vidal or - if Vidal goes - with whoever they bring in) but there will inevitably be a drop off with Allegri. His time at Milan was more successful than people realize, but there’s a big difference between coming in after a so-so year and following a guy like Conte with his three straight. Juve are still the team to beat, but Conte is a massive loss and I think it will be a lot tighter this year. 

(Richard) Both Milan clubs has a torrid time of it last season for their lofty standards. Who do you think is best equipped to deal with the new season?

(Gabriele) I find both Milan and Inter very tough to read at this time. I might suggest Inter are marginally better off simply because they have solid ownership and with Mazzarri you know what you get. (Which may not be great, but at least there’s a solidity there). That said, there seems to be a huge amount of confusion — do you really want Vidic to learn a back three at his age?  But Milan is a roll of the dice. It has been a bad summer. The treatment of Balotelli, the way Seedorf was ditched, the  fact that the Galliani-Barbara issue remains unresolved… it just feels like the medium-term is dire and even a good season this year won’t change the facts.   You either go with youth or you try to win now.  You can repackage Menez and Alex all you like, but they are what they are.  Are the guys you really needed or do they just eat up minutes that could otherwise go to youngster you want to develop?  Inzaghi worked with a lot of the kids and some of them do look really good (Cristante and Mastour above all) but will he get a chance to play them? And if and when Galliani finally goes - this is one situation where I think the Ultras are correct - what will it mean for Inzaghi? Too many questions and it’s sad to see Milan - long one of the best-run clubs in Serie A - in this situation.

(Richard) Palermo, Cesena and Empoli have arrived in Serie A this term. Do you think that any of these teams has a good chance of surviving in the division after this season?

(Gabriele) Palermo are clearly on a different level from the other two in terms of size of club and budgets. They have a very good shot at staying up.  Empoli and Cesena will struggle, I get the impression (and again, as I write this, there’s plenty of mercato to go) that Empoli will push kids and Cesena look for value signings. 

(Richard) Last year ended with the unfortunate scenes in the Coppa Italia final between Napoli and Fiorentina. In your opinion, was this a one off incident caused by an individual and is Serie A in a better place than in recent years?

(Gabriele) I think we hit rockbottom some years ago and we’re in the long, slow climb back. I really do. Despite the many media members, FA executives and politicians who tried to use what happened for their own ends, we do know there WAS NO negotiation with the Napoli Ultras. And the shooter was already a pariah among the mainstream Roma curva as, frankly, any Ultra would be who would consider carrying a firearm.  I look at the reaction and I’m not sure it would have been so vehement a decade ago. I see it as a positive though, obviously, the incident itself and the shooting were dreadful.  But it was precisely because it was so rare and so  unusual that it got so much attention.

(Richard) Zdenek Zeman is at the helm at Cagliari. Do you think this is an exciting new dawn for the club? Or is Zeman tactically outdated now in his approach?

(Gabriele) I wouldn’t describe Zeman as outdated because it implies his football is obsolete because others have got wise to it. That’s not the case for the simple reason that nobody else plays that way so there is nothing to get wise to. I do wonder though to what degree it’s sustainable for an entire season.  And whether the new Cagliari owner is simply looking for a cheap publicity stunt


 
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(Richard) Juventus disappointed in Europe last year by their own admission. Do you think any of the Serie A representatives stand a chance of succeeding in Europe this year?

(Gabriele) Sure. Once you’re in the round of 16, anything can happen.  Rafa Benitez remains one of the best in a two-legged knockout format. And Napoli were unlucky last year.  Roma are deeper and more talented. And I think Juve too are due.

(Richard) Who do you think has made the greatest step forward in this year’s Calciomercato so far?

(Gabriele) It’s way, way early of course. But Roma are squarely ahead right now I think. Iturbe and Astori are instant upgrades, Keita can provide veteran leadership and Cole will be good for another season or two.

(Richard) The usual rumours of Stadium development are resurfacing again (most notably Roma and Udinese).  Until this happens can you see Italian Football ever really making a comeback to sit amongst Europe’s better marketed leagues?

(Gabriele) It will help to some degree, but I don’t think it’s as essential as people make out.  A modern stadium can be more inviting and boost attendances and generate more money. And in some cities it would provide a much-needed boost.  Certainly it’s absurd that in places where they want to build one there are bureaucratic hurdle through which they need to jump.  But I don’t think it’s the be-all and end-all.  And sometimes there are other, non-football interests pushing the “stadium-at-all-costs” mentality.

(Richard) What is the overall health of Serie A at present in your opinion?

 
Gabriele) Better than a few years ago, though it was a shame that the Lotito-Galliani alliance denied us a real innovator like Abodi a year ago. We’ll just have to wait. But I think we’re close to tipping point where the number of progressive, honest, forward-thinking owners outnumbers the rest.  And then we can see true change
 
(Richard) It’s the last question and yes it’s a horrible prediction. I’m sorry. Who do you think will walk away with the Scudetto this year?
 
(Gabriele) Aaargh. I hate this.  With the caveat that it’s still July as I write this I’ll say Roma. Which is what I said last year. And Juve proved me wrong.
 
Everybody at The Gentleman Ultra Would like to thanks Gabriele for his time and insight. We consider him a friend of the site and we follow his work closely and with much interest. We hope to speak to him again soon.
 
Please take some time to take in some of Gabriele’s work, he is a dignitary of the Press room and has contributed to Times, Corriere dello Sport, ESPN, Wall Street Journal, Sunday Herald, La Stampa.
 
You can also see him on BT Sport (amongst other TV channels) and also don’t forget to listen to ‘The Game’ Podcast from the Times.
 
You can follow Gabriele on Twitter @Marcotti
 
You can also follow ourselves @Gentleman_Ultra
 
By Richard Hall
 

Filed under The Gentleman Ultra Gabriele Marcotti Richard Hall Serie A Juventus Inter Milan Napoli Fiorentina Palermo Cesena Empoli Roma

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The Gentleman Ultra series for the Guardian

Juventus: Serie A alternative club guide

In his latest Italian football guide, the Gentleman Ultra profiles Juventus’s ground, fans and classic player David Trezeguet

Alessandro Del Piero, Gianluigi Buffon and, of course, Michel Platini, embody what 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 for the 2000-01 season. He started well, scoring 15 times in his first season. Juventus were all-conquering at this time and it was no easy job establishing yourself among this plethora of talent. The Frenchman did just that and in the next season he finished Serie A’s top scorer with 24 league goals (32 in total).

READ THE REST ON THE GUARDIAN SPORTS NETWORK

http://www.theguardian.com/football/the-gentleman-ultra/2014/jul/22/juventus-serie-a-alternative-club-guide-fans-trezeguet?CMP=twt_gu

Follow me Richard Hall @Gentleman_Ultra

Filed under Juventus Juventus Arena david trezeguet guardian

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The Gentleman Ultras guide to the teams of Serie A: Juventus

The Stadium

Team: Juventus
Capacity: 41,000
Built: 2011
City: Turin

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.

The Ultras

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.

Filed under Vikings Juventus Juventus Arena Ultras Turin Del Piero Platini Bianconeri Buffon

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When Calcio Ruled The World: Jürgen Kohler

It was the start of the 1990’s and Silvio Berlusconi’s AC Milan were dominating Serie A. Just how do you stop Marco Van Basten, Ruud Guillt, Frank Rijkaard and as well as the rest of that Milan side?

In the land where traditionally the best defenders on the planet come from, Juventus looked further a field. They signed a giant German to try and stop Arrigo Sacchi’s red and black machine That man was Jürgen Kohler.

Kohler was already a proven top class defender having already a World Cup winners medal and a Bundesliga title. This was acquired before he joined The Old Lady from Bayern Munich in 1991.

He was everything you could ask for in a defender, conistant from, hard tackling, dominant in the air and an ability to read the game. Kohler also had an impressive goal scoring record for a defender with 36 career goals to his name.

The big German settled in well in Turin and formed a formidable defensive unit along side, Ciro Ferrara, Andrea Fortunato and Massimo Carrera with the great Angelo Peruzzi behind them.

With this solid back line success soon followed and Kohler was a key player. The Bianconeri lifted the 1993 UEFA Cup beating Kohler’s fellow German’s Borussia Dortmund 3-1, this was followed by a domestic double in 1995 as Juventus won the Italian Cup. They finally stopped the Milan domination and lifted the Serie A title this year winning it by an impressive ten points with Kohler at the heart of the defence he was solid.

With mission some what accomplished in stopping Milan, Kohler, after just over 100 Juventus appearances would leave after the Serie A title win. He would head back to Germany to join the team Juventus beat in the 93 UEFA Cup Final, Borussia Dortmund.

His affection for The Old Lady never faded as after he and Dortmund won the 1997 Champions League 3-1 against Juventus. Kohler was seen wearing a Juventus scarf during the lap of honour given to him from the crowd a great gesture by a true Bianconeri club legend.

When Calcio ruled the world, Jürgen Kohler made it look easy stopping the worlds greatest forwards.

By Giovanni Dougall

@giovannid86

Filed under Kholer Juventus Turin UEFA CUP Scudetto Serie A

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Is the Europa League dream over for Donadoni’s Parma?

Roberto Donadoni was still upbeat after last night’s 4-2 defeat to Roma. With statements like, Parma could have been more aggressive and that, with a full squad the game could have been different, it gave off the impression that this was merely a blip. Parma had been charging towards a Europa League spot but does Donadoni’s nonchalance hide a potential implosion.

Parma have been magnificent this season and have had fans and journalists comparing them to the great Parma sides of the 1990’s. Up until two weeks ago they sat proudly in sixth place in the table, eleven points ahead of Milan and unbeaten in the league since last November. Even that was to high flying Juventus.  They have been playing superb football and with players such as the marmite Amuari, Marco Parolo, the long forgotten Ezequiel Schelotto and ‘the big fish in the small pond’ Cassano,  it has come as a surprise. None the less this rag tag group has been making everyone stand up and take note on Donadoni and his dirty dozen.

When the Gialloblu welcomed Juventus to the Stadio Ennio Tradini many thought Juventus were in for a tough game but not many thought the Turin giants would fail to win. The ‘Old Lady’ did not let anyone down winning 1-2 but there was no panic in the ranks. Parma had acquired enough points to handle a blow from the runaway league leaders and would just have to recover against Lazio.

This is where the problems started as Donadoni’s consistent side outfit started to fall apart. In a bizarre 90 minutes Lazio won 3-2 in a match they tried very hard to let Parma back into. Donadoni bemoaned that Parma could have won easily if luck had gone their way and that their fate was still in their own hands if they beat Roma in the next match.

Parma stayed in Rome to play the last 79 minutes of the game called off earlier in the season. The cracks were perhaps starting to show and their normal measured approach that had deserted them against Lazio did so again. It was a deluge of goals (not rain) that engulfed the Stadio Olimpico this time and as the Gialloblu went down 4-2. Donadoni tried to stay bullish but could the problem be bigger then he makes out.

The next match for Parma is at home to inform Napoli, this is followed by a local derby against Bologna before they host Europa League challengers Inter. This will require some steel to get through this period and the points will be needed. They finish the season with an away trip to Cagliari before taking on in form Torino and Sampdoria. Should the fight go to the last day and they will face relegation stricken Livorno.

It is testament to Parma that after these three defeats they still hold sixth position. Donadoni has produced some superb football and if they can stop the rot then they still have a real chance. A win against Napoli is a tall order but it is possible, they beat them 0-1 away in November.

However it turns out for the Gialloblu they have brought pleasure to many who have watched them play this season. The fact that they are even being seriously compared to the great Parma side of the 1990’s is an achievement in itself.

By Richard Hall @Gentleman_Ultra

First published on Bleacher report by Richard Hall

Filed under parma Roma Donadoni Juventus Napoli Lazio Stadio Ennio Tardini

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Classic Serie A Match: Juventus v Napoli 09/11/1986

Juventus are ’The Old Lady’ of Italian football and in 1986 they dominated Italian football. Since Serie A began in 1929 along with the two Milan giants nobody else has had competed on their level.

Just like outside the world of Calcio Italy was divided in two, a North/South divide, all the riches and success to the north and the poverty and failure to the south.

That was until November 1986 when 20,000 Neapolitans travelled North to Turin, lead by a little Argentine genius going by the name of Diego Maradona. This wasn’t just a game if football, this was war.

The 20,000 plus southerners rolled into Turin in high spirits having already beaten both Milan teams at the San Paolo but this was different, this was Turin. A victory here would be so special, after having to deal with years of teasing from their rich northern counterparts and having failed to win in Turin since 1957 this was arguably their best chance.

It was Platini v Maradona (that’s like Messi v Ronaldo today) the stadium was buzzing with expectation from arguably the two best players in the world.

It was Maradona and Napoli who started the brighter, you could tell they were fired up for this battle as the little genius was starting to cause problems with a couple half chances.

However Juventus came closest to opening the scoring Claudio Garella flapped at an I swinging corner from the left ‘punching’ straight of to the Juve attacks head but as the ball ricochet against the bar and post and Napoli managed to scrambled the ball clear.

It was Maradona’s turn next as he won a free kick some 25 yards out. As the crowd held their breath Maradona struck the ball with that wand of a left foot. It hit the wall but then Maradona hit a fierce mid air scissor kick that Stefano Tacconi was equal to. The first half was a even affair and 0-0 is how the first 45 minutes of this stalemate would finish.

Juventus flew out the traps in the second half and took the lead with in five minutes of the restart as Garella made a meal of a Juventus cross and the ball fell to Michael Laudrup to smash home from close range, 1-0 to the home team.

Napoli got themselves together again after a shocking start. They nearly equalised as Renica danced through the heart of the Juventus defence but the Bianconeri managed to keep the ball out.

Napoli were on top now and Maradona forced a good save out of Tacconi, he through himself to his right to push away a powerful drive from Maradona. Tacconi was having a great start to the half making another two outstanding saves to frustrate the Neapolitans.

Napoli did get back on terms this time and it was Juventus’ turn not to defend a corner. As Romano whipped in a corner from the left the ball fell to Moreno Ferrario to prod home of the post. Napoli took the lead just a minute later as Juventus made a mess of defending a Maradona corner from the other side. This time it was whipped and Napoli won the first ball at the front post, flicked on Bruno Giordano was there to scramble the ball home and the Napoli fans behind that goal erupted in joy.

Napoli were comfortable now and as Juventus pressed for an equaliser. The Neapolitans caught them on the break with a two on one situation as Joseph Volpencina received the ball, he took it on first time and bent it round Tacconi in the Juventus goalkeeper with a beautiful left foot finish. With seconds to play the game was over at 1-3.

The thousands of Napoli fans celebrated a huge victory not only for Napoli but for the south too and being led by Maradona they believed there first scudetto wasn’t just a dream now it was reality.

Napoli of course did go on to claim their first ever Scudetto sand Maradona became a god in Naples leading them to the most successful period on the clubs history.

This weekend it’s Napoli who welcome the somewhat unstoppable Juventus to the red hot cauldron of the Stadio San Paolo in a match that promises to be a classic.

http://youtu.be/EVxArsYQp_k

By Giovanni Dougall

@giovannid86

Filed under Napoli Juventus Turin Platini Maradona

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When Calcio Ruled The World: Antonio Conte

It was 1985, the year of Live Aid, Back to the Future, The Super Mario Brothers, Madonna and some terrible fashion.

Over in Italy however the latest calcio star was about to be come onto the scene as a 17 year old boy’s dreams were about to come true.

Born and bread in little old Lecce, he was about to make his Serie A debut for his home town club. That little boy was Antonio Conte.

Conte was a small (5ft 8in) hard, dogged, versatile centre midfielder. He spent his early years as a youngster learning his trade in the Lecce youth system before being given his chance in the first team.

He would spend the first five years of his professional career with his home town club, despite making his debut at such a young age in 1985/1986, he would not cement his place as a first team regular until season 1988/89.

This was the season his team returned to Serie A after two seasons away, it was also the season Conte would score his first (and only goal for the Giallorossi) in a 3-2 defeat to Napoli. As a first team regular now and showing what he had to offer on arguably the worlds greatest stage in Serie A Conte was beginning to catch the eye.

After five years, 89 appearances and that one goal Contes time at Lecce was up, as Turin giants Juventus splashed out seven billion lire on the talented midfielder in November 1991.

He couldn’t have picked a bigger game to make his debut for his new club, as Juventus entertained city rivals Torino.

Conte would spend the next 13 seasons at Juventus and would later describe the famous black and white strip as “a second skin”.

Conte didn’t have to wait long for success at his new club as Juve lifted the 1992/93 UEFA Cup defeating Borussia Dortmund 6-1 over two legs. This was followed by five Scudetto titles (1995,1997,1998,2002,2003) and more European success as Conte’s Juventus lifted the 1996 UEFA Champions a League title by defeating Ajax. He also added a Coppa Italia, 4 Super Coppas, A UEFA Super Cup, Intertoto & an Intercontinental Cup to his list of honours.

He should have added another Champions League title to that list losing out to AC Milan on penalties in the 2003 final, with Conte rattling the Milan crossbar in normal time. In 1996 Conte was given the captains armband this was undoubtedly one of his proudest moments as he lifted trophy after trophy for the Old Lady. This an honour which would be passed to Alessandro Del Piero in 2001.

Conte would retire from playing in 2004 after 13 very successful years in Turin and would go down as one of Juventus’ most influential players, a true club legend racking up over 400 appearances and scoring a total of 44 goals.

He made 20 appearances for Italy between 1993-2001 coming so close to lifting the World Cup in 1994 only to miss out on penalties to Brazil.
He would suffer more heartache at Euro 2000 as part of the squad that missed out to France and David Trezeguet’s golden goal.

These days you can find Conte back at his beloved Juventus as first team coach barking out orders and kicking every ball as if he were still dictating play in the middle of the park.

When Calcio Ruled The World: Antonio Conte was the midfield myestro at the heart of Juve’s success.

By Giovanni Dougall

@giovannid86

Filed under juventus Conte Serie A Calcio Lecce Azzurri bianconeri

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JUVENTUS ULTRAS LAUNCH A SCATHING ATTACK ON THE WIDOW OF GAETANO SCIREA

Juventus’s Ultra group, the Drughi, have launched a scathing attack on the widow of former player Gaetano Scirea after she condemned the anti-Neapolitan chants that have been heard in the Curva Sud Scirea of the Juventus stadium.

Gaetano Scirea is considered as one of the greatest Juventus players of all time however at the age of 36 he tragically died in a car crash in September 1989 while he was on a scouting mission for Juventus in Poland. In tribute to the Bianconeri legend the Curva Sud of the old Stadio Delle Alpi and now the Juventus Stadium was named in his honour.

The Curva Scirea has housed many of the Vecchia Signora’s Ultras over the years and Mariella Scirea has always asked that these groups respect the name of her former husband while occupying the Curva.

Following the discriminatory chants which were heard in that section of the stadium, Scirea’s widow suggested that the club should remove his name if the supporters continue to behave in this manner.

However this has triggered an unprecedented reaction from one of the Drughi Ultras who released an open letter chastising Mariella Scirea, accusing her of “working against the colours worn by the much-missed Gaetano.”

The letter then attacks her role in politics by claiming she “only got into politics because she was the widow of a legend, certainly not because of her talents or credentials.”

The Ultras suggest her request to remove the name Scirea from the Curva is “enthusiastically” supported by all the enemies of Juventus.

“Consider the incriminated chants have been sung by everyone for more than 20 years and are also sung loudly by the Curva Nord, only that section is reserved for the Club Doc.”
As well as urging her to step down from her role as President of the co-ordination committee for the fans the Ultras call on her to stop using the surname of the Juve cult hero.

“What we all agree on is that it’s wrong to use the name of a Champion beloved by all. Therefore we accept the invitation of the lady and from now on the name Scirea will no longer identify our section of the Stadium.

“However, she should do the same and go back to using her maiden name, Cavanna. Having known Gaetano’s reserved nature, we are certain he wouldn’t have appreciated such a pushy wife who, shielding herself behind a name she inherited, made her way in the worlds of politics and sport proving she knows nothing about either.”

The Drughi are renowned for their uncompromising nature and in the past they have been implicated in acts of violence, even against other Juventini. Back in 2006 they were allegedly involved in a clash between various Ultra groups which culminated in two fans being stabbed and 50 being arrested.

The Drughi’s reaction has been decried by many in the Calcio world including other Juventus supporters and the FIGC president Giancarlo Abete gave his views on the letter:
“I think it would be only natural Mrs Scirea would want to hold dear the name and image of her late husband, who honoured Italian football with the jerseys of Juve and Italy.
“He deserves the utmost respect and the people who have the opportunity to sit in an area of the stadium that is in his honour have the duty to remember that.”

By Luca Hodges-Ramon - @LH_Ramon25

Filed under juventus ultras drughi italy serie a

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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

Filed under Juventus Juve Arena Fighters Ultras FIAT Fiorentina