Sunday, August 2, 2009

Club focus -- Fiorentina

Next Saturday I will be at Villa Park for the friendly with Fiorentina. When I lived in Italy Fiorentina were one of my favourite teams. I saw them twice, once against Roma where they went down to a last minute goal by Dmitry Aleinichev and was with the Fiorentina fans when they played Lazio. At the time they had a lot going for them with Batistuta knocking the goals in and Trappatoni at the helm. Despite starting the season off well they were eventually pipped for the title by Milan and also finished behind Lazio. At the time they were likeable as they had a left wing fanbase, whereas fascism was on the rise at most serie A clubs (although I have heard that since then Fiorentina have also become more right wing). I also admire them for being the only city in Italy without a Juventus fanclub and the city was full of anti 'gobi' merchandise (hunchbacks, as Juve are often known) when I went there.

Fiorentina were formed in 1926 by Luigi Ridolfi a memeber of the fascist party when CS Firenze and PG Libertas joined together. In 1931 they got into Serie A and moved to the Franchi stadium, which is seen as a masterpeice and was designed by Pier Luigi Nervi. Their first piece of major silverware was the Coppa Italia which they won in 1941, however the war stopped them perhaps going on to further glory. In 1956 they got their hands on the scudetto, and the following year became the first Italian team to reach the European Cup Final (well it was only the second one) where they lost to the all conquering Real Madrid, who had beaten Reims the year before in the final and would go on to beat Milan the year after.

In 1961 Fiorentina got their hands on some European silverware when they beat Rangers in the final of the first ever Cup Winner's Cup. In 1969 they went on to win the Scudetto again despite being up against a formidable Milan team and Gigi Riva's Cagliari.

Things were quiet at Fiorentina until 1980 when the controversial Flavio Pontello took over the club. He was unpopular for breaking a lot of traditions, but won some friends by breaking the bank to sign players like Eraldo Pecci from Torino, Daniel Bertoni from Seville and Pietro Vierchewod from Sampdoria. There was also a young player by the name of Roberto Baggio who was coming through the ranks.

In 1982 the hatred of Juventus started in earnest when Fiorentina lost the Scudetto on the last day of the season when Juve were awarded a dubious penalty. In 1990 they had even more reason for complaint when they lost to Juve in the final of the UEFA Cup, again with a few dodgy decisions going against them. They also lost Baggio to Juve which prompted riots on the streets of Firenze. This led to the famous film director Mario Cecchi Gori taking over the club and he bought in some great players like Brian Laudrup, Stefen Effenberg and the toast of Firenze, Gabriel Batistuta. However, despite a start filled team a young Claudio Ranieri couldn't get them to achieve consistantly, and the 3rd place under Trap when I lived in Rome was the most succesful finish in the Cecchi Gori era.

In 2002-2003 Fiorentina didn't start the season after going bankrupt. A new club known as 2002 Associazione Calcio Fiorentina Viola was formed and competed in C2, where they climbed back from to now be regular performers in Serie A again.

It is rumoured that their Viola shirts came from a mistake in the washing of their original red and white shirts. However, surely they would be Rosa rather than Viola.

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