Genoa the 9 times Champions of Italy are the country’s oldest active football club. Formed in 1893 as the Genoa Cricket and Athletic Club the club initially focused on, surprisingly cricket and athletics. It was however under the guidance of James Richardson Spensley football came to prominence. Richard Spensley took the role as Player Manager guiding the club to its first title in 1898 as a defender. The following season he switched positions playing between the sticks for Il Vecchio Balordo winning six titles before his retirement from playing in 1906. He stayed on for one more year as manager before leaving the club for good in 1907. Further titles followed with the final and ninth at the end of the 1923/24 season under the guidance of another Englishman William Garbutt. Garbutt was manager for the clubs final 3 titles that have left them stranded on 9 and starless for nearly 100 years. In 1928 due to the rise of Fascism in Italy the club changed their name to Genova 1893 and began a rollercoaster period that included relegation to Serie B as well as a Copa Italia win. Post-War the club changed their name for a final time becoming Genoa Cricket and Football Club, the anglicised name showing a clear nod to their history. The club never rose to the heights of their dominance in the early 20th Century, in fact their 1937 Copa Italia is their last major honour (if we’re not counting the last ever Anglo-Italian Cup). In 2005 the club found themselves relegated to Serie C1 after a match fixing scandal. They had beaten Venezia on the last day of the of the 2004/05 Serie B season to win the title however, after an investigation by the FIGC they were relegated to the first tier. By 2007 they were back in Serie A for the first time in 12 years where they have been ever since.
The Stadio Luigi Ferraris or Marassi is one of the oldest stadiums in Italy being opened in 1911. Home to both Genoa and Sampdoria, the stadium was also a host at the 1934 & 1990 World Cups. It’s probably best known in the UK and Ireland for being the stadium where Jack Charlton’s Eire side knocked out Romania thanks to a save from Packie Bonner and David O’Leary converting the winning penalty. The Marassi with it’s iconic corner pillars made from red brick was rebuilt ready for Italia 90. At the stadium Genoa’s Ultras, Fossa dei Griffoni hold Curva Nord while Sampdoria’s Ultras Tito Tito Cucchiaron have Curva Sud.
We’d made our way to Genoa for the Derby della Lanterna, the Derby is named after the Lighthouse of Genoa first constructed in the 12th century. I left Bristol on the train to Stansted, a quick hour and a half to Paddington before heading across London to the airport. The game was a Saturday evening Kick-off so the lunch time flight got us to the city in plenty of time. I met Ffion at Stansted had a couple of beers in the pub at the airport watching Charlton players file in for their Christmas Do trip to somewhere or other. The just over two hour flight cost £28, I’d be flying back a couple of days later on an £18 flight back to Bristol from Bergamo. The descent into Genoa is pretty special, the mountains around the city protect it until you swoop over the Mediterranean before landing on a runway that doesn’t look big enough. A bus into town and just outside the train station we’d arrived at our very 80’s hotel. Once we’d dropped off our stuff we decided to make our way by foot to the stadium.
As we moved closer to the ground the atmosphere began building, gaggles of scooters going past with beeping with flags, groups drinking on street corners, the lot. We were arriving South so grabbed a couple of beers with Samp supporters before popping into a shop for some souvenirs and a walk closer to the ground. Genoa is famous for its focaccia so we popped into a takeaway to grab some. Absolutely sensationally good for €4, we grabbed some more beer as the Samp coach drove past us. Tickets for the match cost around €40 which, for a derby and seats near enough on the half way line is decent. We queued to get in the ground and oddly bumped into a bloke who had family in Bath of all places. Once in the ground, like the San Siro I had been to a couple of years previously the ground is fantastic but tired. Concourses with chipped concrete and let’s just say interesting toilets. Aesthetically the ground is superb though, the red brick pillars in each corner make it instantly recognisable. As kick-off neared both sets of Ultras went about welcoming their teams onto the pitch. Samp to our left went for flags in the bottom tier with a large banner over the tightly packed top tier. Genoa went for a slightly different approach with fireworks, flares and their usual multitude of flags.
The game itself was utterly dire, one of the worst I’ve been to, certainly up there with Stenhousemuir against East Fife in the Scottish Cup in January 2009 (the linesman got suspected hypothermia). The game was won by the only real attempt after 85 when former Southampton striker Manolo Gabbiadini rolled a ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the area. Literally that was it. Absolutely dreadful game. The most exciting moment of the match was a chap in front of us who’d had one to many Peroni and proceded to spray vomit all over the row in front of him before disappearing never to return. At the time this was a big relegation six pointer, but with the current goings on in Italy and globally it could count for nothing. While the football wasn’t good, this was an interesting experience. There didn’t seem to be the vitriol between the two clubs, I did wonder if the Ponte Morandi disaster had softened the relationship between the two clubs. We made our way back to the hotel, well not after another beer and some pizza. An interesting day of Calcio, if not the most exciting.