Pride of venice

The story of Venezia

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - CON­TENTS - @statto1968 LT

THE great cities of Italy such as Rome, Mi­lan and Turin are all home to fa­mous clubs with long and well-known histo- ries.

But we have come across an in­ter­est­ing tale from the city of Venice. When peo­ple visit the city, they do not have the faintest idea that there is a foot­ball club in the mid­dle of its maze of canals, which can only be reached by boat.

It’s a club that has been around for over 100 years and that has had to strug­gle with fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties for most of its his­tory, in­clud­ing bank­rupt­cies, poor man­age­ment and long spells in the lower lev­els of Ital­ian foot­ball.

But now, thanks to an am­bi­tious group of Amer­i­can in­vestors led by Joe Ta­copina (a celebrity at­tor­ney from New York), they have hired the former World Cup, Cham­pi­ons League and Serie A win­ner Filippo In­za­ghi as coach to lead the club back to the top.

The club was founded on De­cem­ber 14, 1907 and moved into their cur­rent sta­dium in 1913, the Sta­dio Pier­luigi Penzo - named af­ter a World War One pi­lot.

It is the sec­ond oldest sta­dium in Italy and surely the only venue where play­ers and sup­port­ers ar­rive by boat. It is in­ti­mate with a ca­pac­ity now of about 7,450.

How­ever, the record at­ten­dance of 26,000 was for a Serie A match against AC Mi­lan in 1966.

On Septem­ber 11, 1970, a tor­nado hit Venice and caused con­sid­er­able dam­age to the ground. With the club’s de­cline in the 70s and 80s, only par­tial re­pairs were ever com­pleted and so, be­cause of safety is­sues, the ca­pac­ity was re­duced to around 5,000. When the club got back into Serie A in 1998, tem­po­rary stands were added to try and in­crease the ca­pac­ity but, again, since then it has re­verted to its cur­rent limit. Dur­ing the early years the club plod­ded around in Serie B, never com­ing close to go­ing up. That was un­til 1939 when Venezia fi­nally gained pro­mo­tion to Serie A and then two years later won the Coppa Italia and fin­ished in third place, their high­est-ever po­si­tion, the fol­low­ing year. In the next few sea­sons, Venezia started los­ing their best play­ers to ri­val clubs, in­clud­ing the likes of Ezio Loik and Valentino Maz­zola who moved to Torino and who sadly died in 1949 in the Torino air dis­as­ter. The club yo-yo’d be­tween the top two divi­sions, un­til we reach the 1966-67 sea­son and the club was rel­e­gated again. This time, though, it would be over 30 years be­fore they would re­turn to Serie A. Win­ning pro­mo­tion in 1998, they fin­ished in 11th place with some no­table play­ers, in­clud­ing Al­varo Re­coba, Filippo Maniero and goal­keeper Mas­simo Taibi (some might re­call that he joined Manch­ester United to re­place Peter Sch­me­ichel in 1999 and played only four matches in which he con­ceded 11 goals and was sent pack­ing back to Italy, where he joined Reg­gina). The fol­low­ing sea­son they got through four man­agers and were rel­e­gated, but bounced straight back up again, only to have an even worse sea­son in 2001-02 - sack­ing three man­agers, only win­ning three matches and fin­ish­ing rock-bot­tom. The owner Mau­r­izio Zam­par­ini aban­doned ship and went on to buy an­other club (Paler- mo). He took most of the team with him, leav­ing Venezia bank­rupt.

Af­ter more fi­nan­cial woes, in­clud­ing an­other bank­ruptcy, they were taken over by a Rus­sian oli­garch Yuri Korablin and the club ended up in Serie D (the top level non-pro­fes­sional league in Italy).

In 2011-12 they won the ti­tle, but, again, more money prob­lems sur­faced. The Rus­sians pulled out of the club, leav­ing it head­ing for a third bank­ruptcy.

This is when Joe Ta­copina stepped in. He could have bought the team, paid off the debts and started the next sea­son with a points de­duc­tion and other mea­sures to pe­nalise the team.

In­stead, he let the club fold and then took it over and re­launched the club with a new mod­ern name Venezia FC, fresh-look­ing play­ing strip and re­designed badge.

The team were placed in Lega Pro, the third tier in Ital­ian foot­ball which has 60 clubs split across three groups of 20 clubs each, with the

high­est fin­isher in each group gain­ing one of three au­to­matic places in Serie B.

He then went to work on get­ting the lo­cals back in­ter­ested in sup­port­ing the team, ho­tels in Venice would sell tick­ets to tourists for re­duced prices (re­mem­ber Venice av­er­ages 20 mil­lion tourists a year). Within weeks of tak­ing over, the club had sold more than a thou­sand replica shirts.

On the pitch, things were look­ing up as well with new coach In­za­ghi’s pas­sion and emo­tion on the touch­line in­spir­ing the team to play at­tack­ing, ag­gres­sive foot­ball that made them hard to beat. In fact, they ended the 2016-17 sea­son top with 80 points, hav­ing won 23 of their 38 games, los­ing just four and were 10 points clear of Parma (an­other fallen gi­ant of the Ital­ian game). They also won an­other tro­phy, the Coppa Italia Lega Pro, a knock­out com­pe­ti­tion for the 60 Lega Pro sides. It meant they ended last sea­son with a mem­o­rable league and cup dou­ble. Dur­ing the sum­mer, they vis­ited the United States to play friendlies, while at the same time look­ing at the Amer­i­can mar­ket to pick up some bright young play­ers, with tri­als in Ta­copina’s na­tive New York be­ing heav­ily pro­moted.

His other ma­jor off-field suc­cess has seen a rise in Venezia’s so­cial me­dia pop­u­lar­ity, com­pa­ra­ble to any of the big clubs and not just in Italy.

In just two years, Venezia have risen from the dead and are just a divi­sion be­low the elite where they be­lieve they be­long. A place which looked beyond them now has a fan­tas­tic chance of be­com­ing a re­al­ity.

At the start of this sea­son, Ta­copina and In­za­ghi made some shrewd trans­fer deal­ings with play­ers who have ex­pe­ri­ence of Serie B and se­cur­ing the loan deals of promis­ing play­ers from Ju­ven­tus and Mi­lan. They were un­beaten in their first five games, ad­mit­tedly with four draws to their name.

This is a club look­ing to go places. With their unique lo­ca­tion and his­tory, it will be in­ter­est­ing to fol­low their progress this sea­son and beyond…

Mov­ing on up: The Venezia team

Filippo In­za­ghi

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