22 November 2016

Nevio Scala - footballer and coach

Led Parma to success in golden era of 1990s

Nevio Scala led Parma to unprecedented success after taking charge in 1989
Nevio Scala led Parma to unprecedented
success after taking charge in 1989
Nevio Scala, a European Cup winner with AC Milan as a player and the most successful coach of Parma's golden era in the 1990s, was born on this day in 1947 in Lozzo Atestino, a small town in the Euganean Hills, just south of Padua.

A midfielder who also played for Roma, Vicenza and Internazionale at the top level of Italian football, Scala was never picked for his country but won a Serie A title and a European Cup-Winners' Cup in addition to the European Cup with AC Milan.

But his achievements with Parma as coach arguably exceeded even that, given that they were a small provincial club that had never played in Serie A when Scala was appointed.

He had given notice of his ability by almost taking the tiny Calabrian club Reggina to Serie A in 1989 only a year after winning promotion from Serie C, and needed only one season to take Parma to the top flight for the first time.

With the massive financial backing of Calisto Tanzi, the founder and chairman of the local dairy giants Parmalat, Scala then led Parma into a period of sustained success no one could have predicted.

With a galaxy of top international players at his disposal, including Tomas Brolin, Antonio Benarrivo, Gianfranco Zola and Faustino Asprilla, Scala coached his side to play a swashbuckling brand of football that took the established big hitters by surprise.

Gianfranco Zola, one of the stars of the  Parma team of the 1990s
Gianfranco Zola, one of the stars of the
Parma team of the 1990s
Between 1991 and 1995, Parma won the Coppa Italia, the European Cup-Winners' Cup, the European Super Cup and the UEFA Cup and the team Scala handed over when he was replaced by Carlo Ancelotti in 1996 went on to finish runners-up in Serie A in 1997.

He went on to enjoy more success as a coach, but outside Italy, winning trophies in Germany with Borussia Dortmund, in the Ukraine with Shakhtar Donetsk and in Russia with Spartak Moscow.

Scala returned to live in his home town of Lozzo Atestino, where he served on the local council and ran unsuccessfully as mayor in 2007.

He moved into football punditry on radio and TV with state broadcaster Rai, making regular appearances on the Sunday evening TV review of the Serie A programme, Domenica Sportiva. 

He was linked with a return to coaching, first at the Scottish club Motherwell and later with AS. Roma.  When he did return to football in 2015 it was as president of Parma, although a very different Parma from the one he coached.

Since he left the Stadio Ennio Tardini, Parma has twice been made bankrupt, first in 2004 in the wake of the catastrophic collapse of Calisto Tanzi's Parmalat empire, which saw the business tycoon jailed for fraud and criminal association, and again in 2015, when the relaunched club folded with debts of €218 million.

In July 2015, with the support of pasta makers Barilla, the club made another fresh start as SSD Parma Calcio 1913, taking its name from the year of foundation of the original club and was granted entry to Serie D.

Scala was appointed president and former player Luigi Apolloni as head coach.  The new club sold more than 9,000 season tickets, more than doubling the Serie D record and won promotion at the first attempt into professional football league Lega Pro.

The 13th century Valbona Castle at Lozzo Atestino
The 13th century Valbona Castle at Lozzo Atestino
Travel tip:

The Colli Euganei, to give the Euganean Hills their Italian name, was the first regional park to be established in the Veneto when it was mapped out in 1989, enclosing 15 towns, including Lozzo Atestino, and the 81 hills - rising to between 300 and 600m - that make up the area, a volcanic outcrop in an otherwise flat terrain. Lozzo Atestino is situated at the foot of Monte Lozzo.  Of particular interest to visitors is the 13th century Valbona Castle, an imposing fort that now houses a restaurant.

Travel tip:

Despite the damage done to its economy by the Parmalat collapse, one of the biggest financial scandals in Italian history, Parma remains an elegant city with the air of prosperity common to much of Emilia-Romagna, famous for Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and boasting some outstanding architecture, including the 11th century Romanesque cathedral and the octagonal 12th century baptistery that adjoins it.

More reading:

Antonio Conte - former Juventus coach now in charge at Chelsea

The birth of Italy's first football club

The story of Italy's World Cup winning coach Marcello Lippi

Also on this day:

1710: The death of composer Bernardo Pasquini

(Picture of Nevio Scala by Anastasiya Fedorenko; Gianfranco Zola by Hilton1949; Valbona Castle by Milazzi; all via Wikimedia Commons)


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