9 March 2016

Internazionale - football superpower

Famous club that broke away from rivals AC Milan

Internazionale's famous logo was designed by Giorgio Muggiani
Internazionale's famous logo, designed
by club founder Giorgio Muggiani
Internazionale, one of Italy's most successful football clubs, came into being on this day in 1908.

The winner 18 times of lo scudetto - the Italian championship - the club known often as Inter or Inter-Milan was born after a split within the membership of the Milan Cricket and Football Club, forerunner of the club known now as A C Milan.

The original club was established by expatriate British football enthusiasts with a membership restricted to Italian and British players. It was after a dispute over whether foreign players should be signed that a breakaway group formed.

Plans for a new club were drawn up at a meeting at the Ristorante L'Orologio in Via Giuseppe Mengoni in Milan, a short distance from the opera house, Teatro alla Scala.  It was a restaurant popular with theatregoers and artists, among them Giorgio Muggiani, a painter who would become renowned for his work in advertising, where he designed iconic posters for such clients as Pirelli, Cinzano, Martini and Moto Guzzi.

Muggiani, who had developed an enthusiasm for football while studying in Switzerland, was the driving force behind the new club and it was he who designed the club's famous logo, featuring the colours blue, black and gold.  He was appointed the club's first secretary.

A statement issued to announce the birth of the new club romantically proclaimed:

Giorgio Muggiani (second left) pictured in 1912 with some of his fellow founding members of Internazionale
Giorgio Muggiani (second left) pictured in 1912 with
some of his fellow founding members of Internazionale
"This wonderful night will give us the colours for our crest: black and blue against a backdrop of gold stars. It will be called Internazionale because we are brothers of the world."

The new club had to wait only two years to win their first scudetto in 1910.  Their total of 18 titles is the same as that of the city rivals from whom they broke free and with whom they share the colossal Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, which holds 80,000 spectators.  Only Juventus (31 titles) have been champions more often.

Also known as San Siro, after the district of Milan in which it is situated, the stadium was named in honour of Giuseppe Meazza, the inside forward who is Internazionale's all-time record goalscorer with 241 league goals and who was captain of the Italian national team that won the World Cup in 1934 and 1938.

Inter's history features two peaks of dominance in Italian football, the first in the 1960s, when they won three Serie A titles in four years as well as two consecutive European Cups, and the years between 2005 and 2010, when a record-equalling run of five consecutive titles culminated in an unprecedented treble in 2010. They are also the only Italian club that has never been relegated from the top division.

The inside forward Giuseppe Meazza scored 241 league goals for Inter
The inside forward Giuseppe Meazza
scored 241 league goals for Inter
The Argentine coach Hellenio Herrera, famous for his belief in the catenaccio tactical system, with its strong emphasis on defence, was behind the first golden era.

The more recent one was started by the current manager, Roberto Mancini, after he was appointed for the first time in 2004, and continued by Jose Mourinho, who steered the team to a domestic double of Serie A and Coppa Italia in 2010 as well as winning the European Cup for Inter for the first time in 45 years.

Inter benefited during that period from the penalties imposed on Juventus and AC Milan following the calciopoli corruption scandal.  They were given the 2005-06 title by default, having actually finished third, and by the time their two rivals recovered -- Juventus were punished with relegation to Serie B, AC Milan with a points deduction -- they had developed a winning momentum that remained with them until Mourinho left, bound for Real Madrid.

Inter's fortunes have dipped in more recent times, failing to qualify for the Champions League for four seasons in a row.  With Mancini back in charge they have improved this year but having led the Serie A table in the first week of January they have slipped back to fifth, 13 points behind current leaders Juventus.

The Arena Civica in Milan as it originally looked
The Arena Civica in Milan as it originally looked
Travel tip:

For many years, Internazionale's home ground was the Arena Civica, in the heart of Milan. Opened in 1807 in the city's Parco Semp-ione, behind the Castello Sforzesco, the arena is one of Milan's main examples of neoclassical architecture, an elliptical amphitheatre commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte soon after he became King of Italy in 1805.  Napoleon wanted it to be Milan's equivalent of the Colosseum in Rome, although there are Greek influences too.  The structure was built using stone reclaimed from the destruction of the Spanish fortifications at the Castello Sforzesco and from the castle at Trezzo sull'Adda. The first event to be staged there, fittingly, was a chariot race.  It was adapted for football in the early part of the 20th century and was Inter's permanent home until the move to San Siro in 1947, although they continued to play some matches there until 1958.

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Milan's Piazza del Duomo is near Via Giuseppe Mengoni, where Inter's founders met in a restaurant
Milan's Piazza del Duomo is near Via Giuseppe Mengoni,
where Inter's founders met in a restaurant
Travel tip:

Although the Ristorante L'Orologio in Via Giuseppe Mengoni no longer exists, the street is at the centre of Milan, running parallel with the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and opening out into the cathedral square Piazza del Duomo.  The Castello Sforzesco and Parco Sempione are a 15-minute walk or two stops on Metro Linea 1 from the Duomo.

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