Tag Archives: Juventus

FC Esperia Viareggio

14 Apr

10 April 2011

Italian Lega Pro Prima

FC Esperia Viareggio 1 v 1 Cavese (att 1000 +/-)

Stadio dei Pini, Viareggio, Italy

Pre-match warm up. Following last month’s breaking of a Pigeon Stands’ golden rule, I thought I’d self indulgently break another: Thou shalt not blog about football north of the Thames and/or outside of the M25.

Today, I’m blogging from Viareggio in Tuscany. Well, if you’re going to break the rules, you might as well do it properly. Viareggio is a busy little seaside town, popular more so with locals visiting from the landlocked conurbations of Florence, Pisa and Lucca than with foreign tourists. It’s basically exactly what Saltcoats could be like if it wasn’t in Scotland and more people holidayed at home…and generally wasn’t shit. Much like Salty, Viareggio’s links to football are perhaps a little limited. It’s major footballing claim to fame is that it’s the hometown of football icon and general good egg(head) Pierluigi Collina. The man widely accepted as the best referee in the history of the modern game and one of very few top-class Italian referees to retain his reputation following Calciopoli.

Luckily for the big guy, ref chasing wasn’t on my Itinerary as my time would be taken up by the town’s sleepy little 3rd Division (Lega Pro Prima) side F.C. Esperia Viareggio. So having successfully deposited Mrs M at the beach with an ice-cream, I headed for the terraces.

Please have some sympathy with me as this post was written, photographed and uploaded via on my iPhone. Consequentially, the final product is somewhat rough around the edges.

Team Talk. Viareggio, known as the The Zebras (so called because of their black and white kits) have been competing in their current division for only 2 years. AS Viareggio Calcio, the town’s previous team had previously competed in the old Serie C and even played 4 seasons in the 30s in Serie B, however, the team fell on hard times during the 90s and folded in 1994. After a 9 year absence, Viareggio was reborn in 2003 under the name of the town’s first side: L’Esperia. A quick rise through the provincial divisions has seen them establish themselves in the Lega Pro Prima, although a tough start to 2011 has seen them take just 1 point in their last 6 games to leave them in 17th, one place off the bottom and automatic relegation. Their opponents on this fine day on the Tuscan coast was the only side more lowly than them, Cavese.


Park the bus. Viareggio is a relatively compact city and Stadio Dei Pini is located just a 10 minute walk from either the middle of town or the beach. There appears to be several bus routes, however, the timetables looked harder to decipher than the Enigma Code. Walking is definitely the safe option.

Home Advantage. Stadio dei Pini is what most would assume is a classic Italian football ground: Massively utilitarian with no real sense of being designed for spectators, or even football. An 8 lane running track separates the supporters from the pitch, with the majority of fans located in the main stand. Another stand was located on the far touchline, though this was in the direct sunlight and too much of a risk for my fair hair and pasty complexion. Neither end was terraced. One seemed to lead off into some dark (and hopefully mystical) woods whilst the other served as the main entrance to the ground and was decorated in mock-renaissance statues. Around the whole perimeter was a mural depicting a number of sports…apart from football. Even skiing gets a mural. In a ground used primarily for the beautiful game, its absence was duly noted (by me at least). A not so fun fact worth noting is that it’s law for EVERY Italian league side to take down passport details of those attending. This wouldn’t have been a problem if I hadn’t left mine in the trusty Mary Poppins handbag of my good lady wife. So after an unexpected visit to the beach to pick up my ID, I finally made it inside the ground.

Prawn Sandwiches. As you might expect, the prospect of investigating a continental tea bar was far too great to resist. Alas, the faint hope of pizza and fine pastries was wiped out as the tea hut looked more like a bar-cum-newsagent with chocolate, nuts, chupa-chups and crisps all that i could see on offer in terms of food. Luckily there was one interesting offer on the menu, a ‘Corrected’ coffee. This was basically an espresso super-charged with a shot of sambuca (or local aniseed-based spirit alternative). To say to was a taste sensation would be an understatement. On a cold winter’s night, I could imagine these slipping down a treat at Champion Hill, however, on a 30+ degree afternoon in spring, it seemed slightly unnecessary.

…and the game. I went not really knowing what sort of game to expect. In the end it turned out to be a classic, and very familiar looking, relegation tussle. Although instead of the atypical British long ball contest, it was played very much in the Italian style of percentage football. Easy on the eye, great fundamentals but little cutting edge. No surprise then that Cavese’s opener came from a misplaced clearance in midfield. Equally unsurprisingly, Viareggio equalised from a penalty, a weak decision but one Viareggio’s deserved after two blatant stonewallers were rejected, these refereeing blunders were highlighted by the home support, prompting cries of “Mafiosi Mafiosi” and “You’re more x than Burlesconi”. Now, my italian isn’t amazing and depending on circumstance the value of that x could represent “orange” or “horny” or a whole manner of other words, but in this instance, I dare say it was “Corrupt”. My favourite part of this ref bashing was the waving of Bank notes in a Real Madrid white-hanky style as the officials left the pitch at half time.

If I’m honest, I was hoping to come away from the game with a ringing endorsement of Viareggio’s 20 year old goalkeeper, Carlo Pinsoglio. Currently registered to Juventus, he was expected to go out on loan to a side in Serie B at the start of this season, as it happened, he was allowed to drop to Viareggio. Already an Italian under 21 international (currently the only player from outside the top two divisions), he has been labelled by many as the new Gigi Buffon. No doubt a lazy comparison based solely on his parent club and nothing at all on his ability as a keeper. Whilst the lad did seem to have something about him, he fell short of looking unstoppable or even that he was playing below his station. With the average age of Viareggio being just over 20 (almost as young as Dulwich Hamlet), maybe the powers that be in Turin decided that he’d have a better time commanding a line defence of his peers as opposed to battle-weary veterans that very much rule the roost at a number of Serie B sides. However, at times he seemed more lost than any of his back 4 and some rogue punching left his side in a massive pickle on more than one occasion.

Man of the match. Well sadly it wasn’t Carlo Pinsoglio, who may  take a few more years to develop. Luckily for him Juve seem hell-bent on keeping Buffon in town for as long as possible so he may still yet get his chance to represent another side in black and white.

My man of the match was Burlamacco the Clown, Viareggio’s town mascot and terrifying icon of the Viareggio’s annual beach carnival. He was all over the place, statues, flags, masks, the lot. Whilst the nickname The Clowns probably isn’t sending out the right vibes for the football team, The Terrifying Beach Clowns might do the trick. It’d certainly keep me awake the night before the match.

Post match rub down. I had a blast at Viareggio but suspect I would have had an equally fun time at any game at this level. There’s something (as the blogging community knows only too well) about opening you’re football horizons when abroad, and the lower the divisions you go (within reason) the more likely you’ll be to make a real find. I was welcomed with open arms by everyone I met, all delighted that their little team had attracted (albeit minor) foreign interest, frankly I’d be equally impressed if I saw some tourists down the Hamlet. Having enjoyed Viareggio so much, I’m left wondering if I’ll have nearly so much fun at the Olimpico in Rome next week.