Soccer in Italy, as one renowned author argues is much more than just a game. It is like a religion and much more than a lifestyle. The Italian soccer stage which is considered as the richest and most passionate has seen it all throughout its rich history. The author of the first Italian history book which has been written in English titled Calcio, vividly tells the history of Italian football with all the intrigue, analysis and insight into the most loved game in Italy (Foot, 2007).
The roots of Italian soccer can be traced back to 1800 where it evolved to become one of the toughest leagues in the world. Although soccer is played in other countries, Italian soccer leads the pack and given its rich history it would not be difficult to know why it is held with such high esteem across the world. The history of Italian football goes through several stages in evolving right from the Italian heroes who played it with such passion to some foreigners who could not play with the passion and intensity demanded by their Italian counter pants. The Italian soccer scene has not been all rosy with certain tragedies and scandals still lingering fresh in the minds of soccer fanatics not only in Italy but also the rest of the world.
Calico has failed in its description of just a game. Some argue that it is more than life and if the events that have over the years shadowed the soccer scene in Italian football then these sentiments are to be echoed (Foot, 2007). The history of Italian football is one to be longed for by any country especially considering the successes that Italy has enjoyed over the years in the soccer world. The Italian soccer faithful is usually at the centre stage of all the drama in Italian soccer and this sentiment is echoed by Foot who seem to suggest that most of them view winning as an undertaking to be gained by any means possible. He stresses this by saying that most of the soccer fans in Italy believe that the winner is always right while the loser is wrong. This statement evokes wild passions and this in sometimes has led to fierce battles between rivals which at sometimes has resulted in catastrophes.
The late 1800’s period has been considered as the main turning point of Italian soccer by many soccer pundits in Italy as well as the world. This time in history provided the closest variation in modern soccer of Italy’s soccer history. Controversy in Italian football which has been one of the highlights over the years may well have started during this period. The controversy surrounding the formation of the first Italian club still lingers on to this present day. However, history records seem to favor the Genoa Cricket and Football Club. The club had started as a cricket club to represent England in international competitions. In 1986, a man by the name James Richardson came to Genoa and formed a soccer section of the club and thus he automatically became its manager (Domenico, 2002).
However, evidence exists to show that Turin may have been home to the first soccer club in Italy. Some historians have argued that Eduardo Bosio who was a worker in the British Textile Industry had first hand experience in witnessing the game while in England and fell in love with it. This prompted him to spread the “marvelous experiences” he had witnessed in the game back home. After returning to Italy in his home town Turin, he founded the Torino Football and Cricket Club. Bosio’s love for the game prompted him to form another football club known as the Nobilli Torino which in English means “Turin Nobles”. These two clubs would in the later years merge to form the Internazionale football Club Torino in 1981 (Guttmann, 2004).
The football governing body in Italy, FIGC (Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio) created the Italian Football Championship. FIGC which was a rival federation from FNGI which was the Italian federation for Gymnastics gained wide recognition. The first version of this championship consisted of four founder clubs namely: Genoa, Torinese, Ginnastica and Internazionale Torino. The first championship was held in Turin in 1898 where Genoa emerged as overall winners and thus won the bragging rights (Foot, 2007). Although teams would participate in both the championships, the championships won in the FGIC are the only recognized achievements in modern times.
However, it was the FNGI which had the honors to organize the first national championships which were played in 1896. S.Udinese G.S a team from the North Eastern part of Italy emerged victorious. A second tournament saw S.G Torinese crowned as champions. However, the formation of a rival faction the Federation Italienne du Football (FIF-FIGC) in 1898 saw the birth of organized soccer in Italy. The body organized well orchestrated regional tournaments as well as championships. The tournaments which also included playoffs saw Genoa clinch first place in the grilling tournament and emerge overall winners.
The history of Italian soccer has seen it all. This is what a renowned Italian football pundit Foot seems to believe. He gives three main events that have shaped the face of Italian football as one of the most dramatic, tragic as well as fascinating. The earliest event in Italian football which will remain vivid in the minds of many Italian football fanatics is the fiasco between Torino and Juventus in 1927. This was just one of the numerous scandals that would rock Italian football in its history. Torino was stripped off its championship after an irregularity was encountered in the match it had played pitying Juventus. This scandal reverberated again in the football stage but this time Juventus were on the receiving end (Foot, 2007).The Torino based club hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons with accusations and counter accusations of match fixing scandals. This however, did not deter the Italian national team from winning the coveted world cup as the news back home unfolded. Juventus were stripped off their championships and relegated to a lower division championship.
Another event which will forever remain etched in the minds of many soccer fans across the world was that in May 4, 1949. This was however not a scandal but a tragedy. The tragedy involved the Torino A.C. football team who, after coming from a game in Lisbon the aircraft which was carrying the entire soccer fraternity except one crashed. All the players and staff on board died on that fateful day. During this period Torino A.C. were leading the league with only four games remaining. They had no other option but to field their youth team. Other teams in fair sportsmanship also fielded their youth teams.
The Italian national team is actually the most successful in Europe. It is only second to Brazil in the world. The team which is nicknamed the Azzuri and sometimes squadra azzurra earn its name from the blue shirt that is characteristic of the national team. Italy’s game was mainly at its peak between the 1970’s and 1990’s their characteristic cattenaccio style of play which mainly centered on hard tackling, no non sense defending, earned them unrivalled success both in Europe and the world over. Italy is renowned for its world class defenders. The national team is the current world champions with the trophy they worn in the backdrop of the scandals that rocked back home when they were in the 2006 tournament (Foot, 2007).
The Italian club competition is basically divided in competitive levels in which teams are classified in accordance to their level of play and organization. The lowest division includes neighborhood teams without any rich history or any sophisticated level of organization characteristic of other major teams. The highest level is the Serie A which has the best 18 clubs in the country. It is at this level that soccer is played with such intensity as well as passion for pride.
Italian clubs have also not been left behind with the likes of AC Millan, Juventus, Lazio, Internazionalle and Roma enjoying unprecedented success in Europe. Italian clubs have been the most successful in Europe and with the rich history it is not hard to see why. Italian football has also been the centre stage of Italy’s civilization. Soccer in Italy has been a great attraction and this has in itself given Italy a renewed vitality in promoting soccer. The rich history of Italian soccer has been embedded on the lifestyle of many Italians who see pride in giving their national team as well as favorite teams unrivalled support as well as attention.
Politics has also not been spared in the Italian soccer scene. The affiliation to political sides is mainly characteristic of the fan base in which they main sides that they side with are either right or left extremists. Politics flourishes in the stadiums where it is echoed in banners, chants and choruses. The prime minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi who from his early childhood was an ardent supporter of AC Millan bought it out of passion and love for the game as well as politics as some critics may argue (Briquet, 2007). The ailing club was transformed into one of the most prominent and successful in Italian history. He used the popularity he had gained from being the owner of AC Millan in the political centre stage which played to his advantage.