Showing posts with label Udinese. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Udinese. Show all posts

16 July 2023

The first Coppa Italia football tournament

Tiny club from Liguria emerged the winners

The 11 players and their manager, centre, who gave Vado their moment in the spotlight
The 11 players and their manager, centre, who
gave Vado their moment in the spotlight
The first final of the Coppa Italia, which was to become Italian football’s equivalent of England’s celebrated FA Cup knock-out competition, took place on this day in 1922.

It was won by Vado Foot-Ball Club, from Vado Ligure, a commercial and industrial port in the province of Savona in Liguria. 

Vado, who defeated Udinese in the final to lift the trophy, have not won any major honours in 101 years since their famous triumph and currently play in Serie D, the fourth tier in the Italian football pyramid.

The circumstances of their victory would look quite bizarre in the context of modern-day football. 

The competition itself existed only because of a major schism in the Italian championship that had taken place the year before, when 24 of the country’s major clubs broke away from the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) to form their own championship after a demand for a reduction in the number of teams in the Prima Categoria - the forerunner of Serie A - was rejected.

With the likes of Pro Vercelli, Juventus, Bologna and AC Milan choosing to play in the new Italian Football Championship (CCI), the FIGC launched the Coppa Italia as an attempt to regain prestige.

Felice Levratto, who scored the winning goal in the final, went on to play for Italy
Felice Levratto, who scored the winning
goal in the final, went on to play for Italy
However, the take-up among the clubs was much less enthusiastic than the FIGC had hoped. Teams from the south of Italy had aligned themselves with the CCI and of the northern and central teams registered to play in the regional sections of the Prima Categoria, only 23 out of 46 accepted the invitation to take part.

The invitation was thus extended to teams from the second-tier Promozione division, which included Vado.  The total entry grew to 37 teams.

The structure of the new tournament was further complicated by the rules for taking part. Participating teams, which had to be able to provide a fenced playing area, had to guarantee to pay the FIGC a sum of 100 lire to host a match, in addition to paying the opposition players (and their manager) a fee of 30 lire each, plus the cost of third-class rail travel to and from the tie.

Clubs drawn at home but unable to meet those requirements had the option to switch to the home ground of their opponents.

While other clubs baulked, Vado took advantage of this rule. Through the entrepreneurial skills of their managers, they were able to raise the funds to offer to pay the costs of every team against which they were drawn and play five of their six ties at their home ground - the Campo di Leo - including the final itself.

Vado almost left the competition in the first round, needing extra time to overcome Fiorente Genova 4-3. Wins against Molassano (5-1) and Juventus Italia Milano (2-0) followed, before their only away tie, against a strong Pro Livorno team, in which they came out on top by a single goal.

The semi-final turned out to be another tough battle, against Libertas Firenze - the future Fiorentina - which Vado won in extra time.

The replica of the Coppa Italia trophy won by Vado in 1922
The replica of the Coppa Italia
trophy won by Vado in 1922
Udinese, one of the teams that decided against joining the breakaway CCI, started the final as favourites, despite having had to play their semi-final against Lucchese twice because of a technical infringement when the teams first met.

Yet Vado again had the advantage of playing at home and prevailed - again in extra time - thanks to star player Felice Levratto’s goal.

Levratto went on to enjoy a successful career with Genoa, Ambrosiana-Inter and Lazio, as well as playing for the Italian national team at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam.

The Coppa Italia did not become a regular fixture in the Italian football calendar until 1935, by which time the breakaway by the top clubs had long been resolved and Vado were a lower-tier club unlikely to climb much higher than the occasional foray into Serie C.

The trophy they were awarded in 1922, meanwhile, no longer existed, having been handed by the club as a gift to the nation on Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini’s so-called ‘day of faith’ in December 1935, to be melted down along with tens of thousands of gold and silver rings donated by Italian women as a means of raising funds for Mussolini's empire-building ambitions.

However, the fact of Vado’s victory could never be taken away and in 1992, following a friendly against Udinese to mark the anniversary, the FIGC presented FC Vado, as the club is now known, with an exact replica of the original trophy.

That trophy was placed in a case on display inside the Vado Ligure branch of the Cassa di Risparmio di Savona bank in Piazza Cavour, where it remains.

Vado Ligure has a ferry terminal for services between Italy and the island of Corsica
Vado Ligure has a ferry terminal for services
between Italy and the island of Corsica
Travel tip:

The port of Vado Ligure, just outside the city of Savona, has its roots in the Roman era, when it was called Vada Sabatia. A former military camp, it was one of the first Roman settlements in Liguria, becoming an important traffic hub for trade.  Now heavily industrialised, it is home to a large railway construction plant, founded in 1905 as Società Italiana Westinghouse and now part of Bombardier Transportation. Vado also has an electric power plant, whose two towers, 200 metres (660 ft) high, are visible from many kilometres away.  In the centre of the town, there are some attractive pedestrianised areas, while the beach front has many bars and restaurants.

The beautiful Piazza della Libertà is Udine's  main square and architectural showpiece
The beautiful Piazza della Libertà is Udine's 
main square and architectural showpiece
Travel tip:

Udine, whose Udinese team provided the opposition when FC Vado Ligure won the Coppa Italia, is an attractive and wealthy provincial city and the gastronomic capital of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Udine's most attractive area lies within the mediaeval centre, which has Venetian, Greek and Roman influences. The main square, Piazza della Libertà, features the town hall, the Loggia del Lionello, built in 1448–1457 in the Venetian-Gothic style, and a clock tower, the Torre dell’Orologio, which is similar to the clock tower in Piazza San Marco - St Mark's Square - in Venice.  The city was part of the Austrian Empire between 1797 and 1866 and retains elements of a café society as legacy from that era, particularly around Piazza Matteotti.

Also on this day:

1194: The birth of St Clare of Assisi

1486: The birth of painter Andrea del Sarto

1852: The birth of sculptor Vincenzo Gemito


1 April 2018

Alberto Zaccheroni - football coach

First Italian coach to lead a foreign nation to success

Alberto Zaccheroni achieved success at many levels in Italian football
Alberto Zaccheroni achieved success at many
levels in Italian football
The football coach Alberto Zaccheroni, who won the Serie A title with AC Milan and steered the Japan national team to success in the Asia Cup, was born on this day in 1953 in Meldola, a town in Emilia-Romagna.

In a long coaching career, Zaccheroni has taken charge of 13 teams in Italy, a club side in China and two international teams, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.

In common with many coaches in Italy, Zaccheroni began at semi-professional level and worked his way up through the professional leagues.  Before winning the Scudetto with Milan in 1999, he had twice won titles at Serie D (fourth tier) level and twice in Serie C.

Zaccheroni played as a fullback, with the youth team at Bologna and the Serie D team Cesenatico in Emilia-Romagna, but his career was hampered by a lung disease he contracted at the age of 17, which meant he could not train or play for two years.

He quit playing in his mid-20s and began to coach Cesenatico’s youth teams.  His coaching talents began to attract attention when, in two consecutive seasons, he was asked to take over on the bench for Cesenatico’s first team following the sacking of the head coach and on each occasion saved them from relegation.

This brought him a head coach’s position in his own right at Riccione, near Rimini, where he won promotion to Serie C2, and then at Baracca Lugo, the team near Ravenna that takes its name from Francesco Baracca, the First World War flying ace who was born in the town.

The German striker Oliver Bierhoff served  Zaccheroni at Udinese and AC Milan
The German striker Oliver Bierhoff served
Zaccheroni at Udinese and AC Milan
He achieved promotion in consecutive seasons with Baracca Lugo, taking them into Serie C2 and then C1, before continuing his rapid rise with Venezia, where he won the Serie C1 play-off to take the club of La Serenissima into Serie B for the first time in 24 years.

After Venezia, Zaccheroni spent a season with Bologna before taking up his first post outside northern Italy at Cosenza in Calabria, where he had a remarkable Serie B season, taking over a team that had began the campaign with a nine-point penalty yet not only avoided relegation but at one point were in contention for promotion to Serie A.

As a result, he landed his first Serie A post with Udinese, where he became known as the father of 3-4-3, the tactical formation he favoured and which became the stock system for other coaches, such as Antonio Conte, who employed it with great success at Juventus and Chelsea at club level, and with the Italian national team.

Bringing together an Italian (Paolo Poggi), a German (Oliver Bierhoff) and a Brazilian (Marcio Amoroso) in his forward line, Zaccheroni steered Udinese to 10th place, fifth and third in consecutive seasons.  The fifth place in 1997 meant the Friulian club qualified for the UEFA Cup for the first time in its history.

This opened the door to even bigger challenges, this time with AC Milan, one of the giants of Italian football.  Zaccheroni was successful immediately, delivering the club’s 16th Scudetto in their centenary season, with his former Lazio star Oliver Bierhoff the leading goalscorer.

Zaccheroni took charge of the Japan national team in 2011
Zaccheroni took charge of the Japan
national team in 2011
Only then did Zaccheroni’s almost continuous record of success come to a halt. He could not replicate his domestic success in the Champions League and when Milan finished sixth in 2000-01, his third season in charge, and therefore qualified only for a UEFA Cup place, he was dismissed by president Silvio Berlusconi.

Faced with much higher demands, he subsequently spent only one season at Lazio, qualifying for the UEFA Cup, and one season with Internazionale, where he finished fourth and thereby clinched a Champions League place, but on each occasion he was replaced as head coach with Roberto Mancini.  

From Inter, Zaccheroni went to Torino and then Juventus, again without success, before the chance arose to take charge of the Japan national team in 2011.

Despite language problems - Zaccheroni struggled to learn any Japanese and had to communicate with his players either via an interpreter or, as one of his players later explained, with only gestures when no interpreter was available - he led the Japan to the Asia Cup in his first season in charge, the first Italian coach to be successful with an international team other than Italy.

Subsequently, Zaccheroni’s Japan won the East Asia Cup in 2013 and qualified for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.

He left after the 2014 World Cup, when Japan finished bottom of their group. Following an unsuccessful stint in the up-and-coming Chinese professional league as coach of of Beijing Guoan, Zaccheroni accepted his second international posting as head coach of the United Arab Emirates, with whom he reached the final of the Gulf Nations Cup in January this year.

The castle at Zaccheroni's home town of Meldola
The castle at Zaccheroni's home town of Meldola
Travel tip:

Zaccheroni’s home town of Meldola, situated some 14km (9 miles) south of Forli in the foothills of the Apennines, with a population of just over 10,000, was once notable for the production of silk.  The site of a large Roman aqueduct, now submerged, it has a well-preserved medieval castle. The Rocca della Caminate fortress was a former holiday home of the Fascist leader Benito Mussolini.

The canal-port at Cesenatico was built to designs by Leonardo da Vinci
The canal-port at Cesenatico was built to designs
by Leonardo da Vinci
Travel tip:

The Adriatic resort of Cesenatico, where Zaccheroni began his coaching career, is 16km (10 miles) from the city of Cesena, on the stretch of coast between Rimini and Ravenna, has a number of distinctions, including an 118-metre office and apartment building that was once the tallest building in Italy and a port and canal built from designs commissioned of Leonardo da Vinci. It also has a handsome, Liberty-style Grand Hotel and a museum dedicated to the former cycling champion Marco Pantani.

More reading:

Massimiliano Allegri, the former Milan coach who broke records at Juventus

Roberto Mancini - the Italian who led Manchester City to their first title for 44 years

Why Milan great Franco Baresi was called the player of the century

Also on this day:

April Fools' Day - Italian style

1946: The birth of former AC Milan and Italy coach Arrigo Sacchi