Violence, Corruption and Organised Crime. This is Sicily.
The decline of southern Italian teams is well documented, but it wasn’t always that way. This is the story of the downfall of Sicilian football, and the beginning of it’s revival.
Italian League Football is in chaos, a summer rocked by the Calciopoli scandal. Juventus are stripped of their 05/06 title and relegated to Serie B, with other clubs such as AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio handed points deductions. Masked by their world cup win, corruption is rife in Italy’s top flight.
Amongst the mess, three Sicilian clubs prospered. Palermo rode the wave of points deductions to finish in their highest ever league finish, 5th. Messina, placed 18th before the scandal, were moved into 17th, avoiding relegation to Serie B. With Catania promoted from the second division, this meant three Sicilian sides competed in the Serie A for the 2006/07 season. Sicilian football was on the up. All that was about to change.
Catania were set to play Palermo on February 4th. Like all derbies in Italy, the derby di sicilia is a hotly contested affair. The game was brought forward to the Friday night, so as not to clash with religious celebrations on the Sunday. The scene is set, a 6pm fixture on a cold winter night under the floodlights in Catania. A night that would change Sicilian football forever.
The game began without the Palermo fans, who didn’t arrive until 10 minutes into the second half. The away side took the lead in the 50th minute, a controversial goal by Andrea Caracciolo, and after the entrance of the away fans, the throwing of smoke bombs and firecrackers started. Police were forced to retaliate, throwing tear-gas canisters into a section of the crowd where the Catania Ultra’s sat.
As a result, the match referee Stefano Farina decided to suspend the match for over forty minutes. Catania eventually lost the game 2-1. After the game, the Catania fans took to the streets, clashing with the police.
One police officer, Filippo Raciti, was killed in the pursuing riots. Coincidentally, a week before his death, Raciti gave evidence at the trial of a football hooligan, who was then freed by the local magistrate. According to one of his colleagues, the hooligan laughed in his face as he left the court.
Events in Catania led the Italian Football Federation to cancel all football-related events in the country, including all professional and amateur league matches, as well as all national team matches. The whole football world strongly condemned the events, showing full support for the IFF’s decision to stop all football activities in Italy, and suggested a solution similar to the UK’s Football Spectators Act 1989, the goal of which was to wipe out football hooliganism.
Catania were successively punished by the Italian Football Federation, firstly with the obligation not to play its home matches in its home stadium, and additionally with no spectators (a porte chiuse). After the Italian football league restarted, Catania continued on but dropped in form largely. Eventually they finished 13th.
11 years later and Sicilian football has never reached those heights since. Sicilian football is rife with corruption and mafia links. Palermo play in Serie B, missing out on promotion last season after losing the playoff finals to Frosinone. Catania languish in Serie C, relegated in the 2014/15 season for match fixing. Messina are as far down as Italy’s fourth tier owing their woes to financial troubles and fraud.
The financial divide between Northern and Southern Italy is immense. This year in the Serie A only one club, Napoli, represents the southern mainland, with Crotone and Benevento relegated last season. Things are about to change however. A new team has begun their rise to the top.
Set under the hills of Erice on the west coast of Sicily, Trapani is a small fishing city with an interesting history. This picturesque city was originally named Drepana from the Greek for sickle, owing to the curved shape of the Trapani coastline. This sickle can be found in the Trapani coat of arms, and the club badge. Trapani was influenced by the Roman, Vandal, Osrtogoth, Byzantine and Arab dominations over the years. In 1077 it was conquered by the Normans, having a key role in the Crusades as one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean Sea.
Sicily has always had a connection with different cultures and religions, and football has often followed this trend. Many South American talents have moved to Sicily to get their first taste of European Football, before moving to the Serie A and beyond. Paulo Dybala, Edinson Cavani, Javier Pastore and Franco Vasquez all played at Palermo, along with other noteable foreigners such as Kamil Glik, Simon Kjaer and Josip Ilicic. My save will try to emulate this, recruiting young foreign players, mainly from South America, and develop them in the first team, giving them a stage to showcase their talents. Trapani will be the Southampton of Italy, buying up all the young talent we can find and giving them an opportunity in Europe before selling them on for a big profit.
Trapani Calcio don’t have much of a history to speak of. Just ten years ago the club were in the 5th tier of Italian Football. When they reached Serie B in 2013 it was a first for the club. They finished 3rd in Serie B in the 15/16 season, missing out on promotion after losing to Pescara in the Play Off finals. They were relegated the following year. Now in Serie C/C they finished 3rd last season, but lost to Cosenza in the Play Offs.
La Falce (The Sickle)
The aims of the save are as follows:
- Win Promotion to the Serie A
- Become a financially stable top flight club
- Develop young South American players into leading Serie A stars
- Win the Scudetto
Trapani Calcio have begun their rise to the top. The short term aim for the club is simple; reach the Serie A, and stay there. This will be a long save, I want to take it as far as I can. In my next post I will outline the manager who will be taking charge of Trapani Calcio, his managerial style and what he will bring to the dressing room. I will also release another post closer to the release of what tactic I am aiming to employ.
Thanks for reading, if you’d like to ask me about the save you can find me on Twitter. Any feedback is greatly appreciated.