“Of course, their current lodgings are a bit temporary. But they should see it like a weekend of camping.”
– Silvio Berlusconi after the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake.
According to students saviour and pub quiz hero, Wikipedia, the Italian city of L’Aquila has over 66,000 inhabitants and nestles snugly between the Apennine Mountains and the Gran Sasso d’Italia mountain, creating the perfect picturesque holiday getaway. And with all roads leading to Rome, the capital lies just over 70 miles (119km) south-west of L’Aquila and is easily accessible by a leisurely drive down the Autostrada 24.
The city has been rocked by a series of earthquakes dating back to the 13th century but in April 2009 it was almost broken by one measuring 6.3 magnitude on the Richter Scale. Many were killed and left homeless and despite several quotable gaffes, then Prime Minister Berlusconi made it his upmost interest to get L’Aquila back up and running. But with the financial maelstrom taking affect, the city is still toiling to get back to normal and four years after the event it is still at a standstill. In the shadows of the natural disaster, the city’s main team L’Aquila Calcio 1927, have had a similar history that ties itself to it directly to its roots.
After decades wallowing in the lower reaches of Italian football, promotion was looking ever so close before changes were made. Out went manager Maurizio Ianni on 10 April 2013, to be replaced by current gaffer Giovanni Pagliari, and he guided them via the play-offs to the Lega Pro Prima Divisione. Starting as an amateur side in 1910 as Football Club L’Aquila, they changed to Società Sportiva Città dell’Aquila 19 years later when they turned professional. The University Fascist Group (Gruppo Universitario Fascista) decided that a third moniker should be moulded in the shape Associazione Sportiva L’Aquila in 1931 and the Eagles continued to bounce around the lower leagues.
Their first star shone during the 1935-36 Serie B season – Annibale Frossi, a myopic midfield dynamo made famous for wearing glasses during matches. His exploits earned him a place and a gold medal at the infamous 1936 Berlin XI Summer Olympics before a transfer to Inter Milan, formerly Ambrosiana, where he stayed for six seasons. But tragedy struck the Rossoblù the same year when a train accident killed boss Attilio Buratti and decimated the team, which ultimately ended their three year stay in Serie B.
World War II took its toll on Italian domestic football and the club, with another renaming, Sportiva L’Aquila 1944 took over and continued to struggle until they also eventually folded in 1993. One year later Associazione Sportiva L’Aquila rose from the ashes and were admitted to the Eccellenza division, then 12 months later they merged with Paganica Calcio to form Vis L’Aquila. The club continued to yo-yo between Serie C-D and bankruptcy again forced the them to close their doors and rebrand as L’Aquila Calcio 1927 for season 2004-5.
It meant a berth in the Eccellenza and four years later, with promotion almost in their grasp, the earthquake took its toll as they were not able to train or compete, and despite having two games left to play they were promoted to Serie D due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’. Italian football rallied around their disaster struck friends and donated cash and supplies to aid the city and help return it to some state of normality.
The next season for the Eagles would be tough and they just missed out on promotion after a 4-4 semi final playoff draw with Prato – the Lanieri just edged it by finishing higher placed in the league. But the L’Aquila managed to grab a place in the Lega Pro Seconda Divisione B as they had more financial stability than some of the other teams promoted.
And there they stayed and battled until not long after the fourth anniversary of the disaster where they finished fifth with 54 points and set up a two-legged semi final play-off tie against Chieti. The Stadio Tommaso Fattori hosted the first leg with home advantage allowing Umberto Improta to open and Imperio Carcione giving them a two goal cushion late on. Although the second leg was a different affair as Riccardo Capogna halved the deficit for Chieti but L’Aquila held on to reach the final against Teramo, also over two legs.
Teramo would prove a sterner task at the Stadio di Piano d’Accio but Saveriano Infantino netted on 54 minutes to take a slender lead back to the Abruzzo region. At the Fattori, Carcione scored again and Gaetano Iannini added a second but late on Tommaso Coletti pulled one back. But it was too little too late as Pagliari’s battlers earned promotion to the Lega Pro Prima Divisione with a 3-1 aggregate win. Over their 19 home matches, 17 league and two play-offs, the Rossoblù averaged an attendance of 1242 with 23,600 fans turning up and creating 13.38% of a possible 100% or 176,415 attendance.
Another solid season would see L’Aquila reach the dizzying heights of Serie B – a league they have not kicked a ball in anger in since before World War II. With Pagliari signed on to lead them next season, it will be tough and the city might still be a red zone in ruins, but the slow shoots of recovery can be seen as the Eagles continue to rise again.
[Stephen Coutts is a footballer and sportswriter based in Glasgow, Scotland. His blog, The Dirty Tackle, is a wonderful supporter of Oceania football and well worth checking out!]
Categories: Roma/Italian Calcio
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