Tuesday, September 05, 2006

AC Parma –
Cagliari Calcio (06-03-2005)

For my work I had to be in Bologna on Friday and Saturday, so I decided to stay a day longer to see a game. As Bologna FC played away, and I had seen them already the last time I was in Bologna, I took the opportunity to go to Parma, one of the few teams in Italy I like. On the way there the train took only some 50 minutes – on the way back, on the other hand, it took a good 1.5 hour!

Around 13:30 I arrived in Parma and started walking north without having any clue where I was going. The weather was cold, but with regular sun, and still some snow around me from previous days. Very good weather for a walk through a nice Italian town and… because that’s what’s life really about… to see a game. A good hour before kick-off I arrived at the Stadio Communale Ennio Tardini, home of AC Parma, which is positioned in the middle of a housing area. The tickets are not cheap – I bought a ticket for 25 euro at the Distinti Laterali Nord, in the corner of one long side. It turned out to be an temporary stand, but that didn’t kill my enthusiasm.

Culinary tip: if you ever visit a home game of AC Parma, and you really should, eat a macaroni al ragu in the restaurant next to the stadium. Delicious!

After a good paste and the obligatory football snack (in this case the Italian version of the hot dog) I entered the (temporary) stand. With the exception of the Curva Nord, where the Parma tifosi are standing, the stadium was only moderately filled – I would estimate some 12.000 people, but it was really difficult to estimate. Parma is having a very bad season and suffers greatly under the bankruptcy of its biggest sponsor Parmalat. In addition, it was cold and they played an uneventful mid-table team, Cagliari, so the low turnout was understandable.

I didn’t know much about the two teams before the game (but then again, I don’t follow Italian football). From AC Parma I only knew Paolo Cannavaro, ‘the brother of’ (Fabio, the central defender of Juve and the Azzuri). But at Cagliari was a pleasant surprise: Gianfranco Zola, the small ex-star of AS Napoli and Chelsea. For the rest I didn’t know any of the players.

Let me come directly to the point: the game was un-Italian. Boy, did I enjoy myself! After 1 minute the Cagliari goalie (Iezzo) made an excellent safe on a shot from only a couple of meters and after 5 minutes it was 0-1, after a half-chance of the visitors. Parma kept coming, however, and after 10 minutes it was level, 1-1. Another 5 minutes later Iezzo had to make his second great safe, but shortly after it was 2-1 after all. At times Parma played some beautiful combinations and particularly Azzuri striker Gilardino impressed. The only dissonant was the pseudo-star Morfeo, on bright yellow shoes, who did see a nifty backheel hit the post. Half time 2-1 and I have seldom seen so much attacking football in the Serie A.

Even more surprisingly, the second half started where the first half had left off. Already in the 48th minute Parma hit the crossbar and less than 10 minutes later Morfeo was able to miss the target from less than 10 meters and completely unmarked. Despite the clear dominance of Parma it remained 2-1 and Cagliari sneaked back into the game. In the 65th minute Parma goalie Frey fouls a player outside of the box (unnecessarily) and gets a well-deserved red card. Parma defends heroically (you might notice some slight bias creeping into this report ;-), but in the 88th minute the disaster strikes nevertheless: a soft goal and 2-2. Completely destroyed the audience watches the last minutes… squandered a safe three points after all. But than, in the 91st minute, a counter through the impressive central midfielder Simplicio, who shoots out of sheer necessity the bal from over 20 meters at the goal… directly in the upper corner!! 3-2 for Parma, the referee whistles, game over, we all go crazy!

Seldom have I enjoyed a game between two teams that I do not really support so much. Or should I say did not support, as I have been so entertained by Parma that they have deservedly claimed a special lace in my football heart. The atmosphere was also really good… much singing, next to me three fanatical old men, and a very impressive applause when Cagliari player Zola was substituted. Fortunately, this is also still possible!

Thus, there can be only one conclusion: if you ever find yourself in the neighborhood, you should absolutely visit the Stadio Communale Ennio Tardini. It is no San Siro, there are no big stars, but you will have a delightful football afternoon!

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