Why does a guy from England love Bologna and Italian football? He explains all here …
Who thought I would reinvigorate my love for Italian football. The memories of weekends spent in England visiting my grandparents. It started on an off chance waking up one morning whilst they were still asleep and it was Channel 4 left on from the night before.
This was my first view of a long-haired tanned footballer dancing down the wing in a red football kit. It was Football Italia highlights and the team was Perugia. I was mesmerised by the football as I was only used to Match of The Day. This football was different. It felt exotic with team names you had never heard of. Reggiana, Parma, Piacenza. This was my first introduction to Serie A. I was transfixed, and from that Saturday onwards I was hooked. It was one of the main reasons I looked forward to waking up on a Saturday morning. Names like Chiesa, Batistuta, and Montella. My eyes and ears would be wide open listening to the tones of Wolstenholme and Brackley providing the narration and commentary respectively to the match action. The sound of Brackley calling out “RAVANELLI”.
That iconic them tune of “CAMPIONATO, DI CALCIO, ITALIANO.” This Saturday love lasted until its end on Channel 4 in 2002. I would recreate those highlights in the playgrounds scoring goals and shouting out “GOLAZZO” as I turned with my arms in the air celebrating.
Then there were Sundays. Sunday was game day. The only live football I had available to me coming from an upbringing of not being able to afford Sky Sports. Sundays I would sit watching the live match that day with the smell of my Nans best Sunday roast and my grandad sat with me or most of the time found in the garage tweaking some sort of car that was never going to be finished. I’d spend that two hours glued to the screen watching all the greatest players at the time smashing in goals, and crunching tackles. I still now remember even then at 9 years old thinking how tactical and refined the football was. Every pass and tackle felt measured. Goals were spectacular and etched in my memory by commentators Brackley and Bloom.
James Richardson was my idol. A presenter who could transition from speaking English to interviewing the best world stars in Italian with ease. His natural humorous way of presenting highlights. The show was so light-hearted and presented itself to both kids and adults alike with a love for the beautiful game.
When 2002 came around and Serie A left channel 4 it was then that Italian football drifted from my weekend life, and I was now transfixed with La Liga football as I had a best friend who was Spanish and his parents had it on their TV.
Fast forward to September 2012. My first vacation to Italy. My destination Bologna. The choice of Bologna was a simple one. Sat with my wife, and father in law at the time we sat on the EasyJet website and pulled up all the Italian destinations they flew to. Put them in a hat and pulled out the Rosso Blu location. I instantly fell in love with the country and the City. The culture, people, food, and wine were amazing. Bologna has three nicknames. La Dotta, La Grassa, and La Rossa (The Learned, The Fat, and The Red). Bologna itself having the oldest university in Europe, home to some of the world’s finest produce, and the city which from the air is a deep terracotta red.
Passing shops seeing the red and blue of Bologna proudly on show from the small shop owners, I could tell that there was only one team you supported if you came from Bologna. Old men sat on benches in the city smoking their Toscanello cigars pointing at the backs of newspapers discussing the latest signing. With those who love the game in Bologna the week ahead hinges on the results at the Dall’Ara. Youngsters sporting the latest Italian trends until a Sunday when all are wearing Rosso Blu. Football isn’t just a past time it’s a religion in the city. Matchdays sees a sea of mopeds traveling to the Stadio. People really feel it in Bologna when results are bad, and there have been many bad results, but when they win. Boy does the city come alive. People smile, are joyous, reinvigorate a love for life. I remember being stood in a bar one Sunday wearing my Bologna jacket. Some opposing fans confronted me, and introduced themselves in Italian. Quickly my limited Italian language ran out and they quickly realised I was a Brit abroad. They were so curious to know of my love for Bologna the city and club, and all things Italian and Serie A. They were so proud that an outsider could fall in love with Italian football. They were interested to hear of the old days of Football Italia in Britain and how it shaped my passion.
A long way from England where you could support Manchester United but come from Chertsey. On that trip I had the opportunity to visit the Stadio Dall’Ara and instantly knew that Bologna was going to be my team. I had grown up loving Parma, Roma, and Fiorentina but I had to make a choice. It was the Rosso Blu of Bologna, however, I did also visit Parma on that trip and the Stadio Ennio Tardini trapesing from the city centre to the outskirts east of the city.
The first match I saw Bologna play live was in October 2015. A 1-0 home defeat to Palermo but I will always remember the Tifosi, the noise of the Curva Bulgarelli with firecrackers exploding in the stands creating the most hostile of atmospheres. I was sat surrounded by hardcore lifelong fans around me in the Distinti. Families, and friends talking to each other about last weeks result, the game today, and the cursing of the officials. The chants, and songs sung were not understood by me but I knew by the passion that they were sung with that they meant to spur on the team to a good result. This was so different to all the Premier League grounds I had visited where the matchday experience was more about pies and pints rather than flares, and the fans I could now see before me. The glitz and the glamour now in the Premier League that was once associated with Serie A in the 90s is no more. Stadiums now feel half full but the noise of those that are there makes you feel as though capacity is overflowing. I feel like there is a purity to the matchday experience at Bologna. There are no brightly lit bars and restaurants in the concourse, just a large window with soft drinks and beer being served to quench the thirst of cheering on your team. The burger vans are replaced by piadina (a round flatbread) trucks serving snacks filled with parma ham, and soft cheese. Where the Premier League now feels more about the money, Bologna appears to be solely concentrated on the football, and the ever need for success in whatever way the individual Bolognese believes it to be.
From that match I made it a necessity that we visited Bologna on a weekend when they were playing at home. At least one game a season I would make a point of attending and in my English way support my team.
The love has not dwindled and even now I am still passionate about Italian football and look for those results on a Saturday and Sunday before the Premier League. I will forever be in the debt of James Richardson, Peter Brackley, and Gary Bloom for creating something quite special, and poignant in my childhood that has lasted into adulthood.
Who’s to say where my Serie A Italian journey will take me. Perhaps an away day with the Rosso Blu but for now in the words of James Richardson “It’s arrivederci”.