Monday, August 06, 2007

AC Parma – Cagliari (06-03-2005)

I had to be for work in Bologna on Friday and Saturday, so I decided to stay another day and see a game. As Bologna FC played away, and I had seen them at an earlier visit to the city, I decided to go to Parma. The trip takes only some 50 minutes, if you take the right one (my train back took 1.5 hours!), and goes regularly.

Around 13.30 I arrived in Parma and started to walk haphazardly north. It was cold and sunny in the north of Italy and there was quite some snow. Excellent weather to talk a walk through a nice Italian town and… because that’s the core of everything… see a game. A good hour before kick-off I arrived at the Stadio Communale Ennio Tardini, the home base of AC Parma, which is truly smack in the middle of a residential area. The tickets are pricy: I paid 25 euro for a ticket on the Distinti Laterali Nord, in the corner of one of the long sides, It turned out to be a wooden emergency stand at that, but that couldn’’t take away the pleasure.

Tip: if you will attend a game of AC Parma, and you really should, eat macaroni al ragu in the restaurant next to the stadium. Deeeeeeeeeelish!

Ok, after a tasy pasta and the obligatory snack (an Italian version of a hotdog) I took my place at the (emergency) stand. With the exception of the Curva Nord, home to the Parma tifosi, the stadium was only modestly filled – I guess some 12.000 people, but find it difficult to estimate. Parma is having a bad season and is suffering badly as a consequence of Parmalat, its main sponsor. Additionally, it was cold and they were playing
Cagliari, a rather colorless middle bracket teams in the Serie A (First Division).

I knew little about the two teams before the game. To be fair, I’m not a big fan of Italian football. At AC Parma I only knew Paolo Cannavaro, the brother of (Fabio, the defender of Juve and the Azzuri). But Cagliari had a very pleasant surprise in its lineup: Gianfranco Zola, the tiny ex-star of Napoli and Chelsea. For the rest I didn’t recognize anyone.

Let me get directly to the point: the game was un-Italian! Man, have I enjoyed myself! Already after 1 minute the Cagliari goalie (Iezzo) pulled off a great safe at a closeby shot and after 5 minutes it was 0-1, after a half chance for Cagliari. However, Parma continued to attack and after 10 minutes it was 1-1. Only 6 minutes later Iezzo had already made his second great safe, but couldn’t prevent that the home team scored the 2-1. At times Parma played a very nice passing game in which particularly striker Gilardino excelled. The only dissonant was the pseudo-star Morfeo, playing on shiny yellow shoes, who saw a great backheel go on the post. Half time score 2-1 and seldom have I seen so much attacking football in the Serie A.

The second half was much of the same, which in this case was good news. Already in the 48th minute Parma hit the crossbar and less than 10 minutes later Morfeo shoots from under 10 meters next to the goal.
L Despite the clear domination of the hosts it remains 2-1 and Cagliari gets more and more back into the game. In the 65th minute the Parma goalie fouls a player (unnecessarily) and is sent-off. The 10 men defend like lions (the observant reader might notice a slight pro-Parma bias here), but in the 88th minute the inevitable happens: a disappointing 2-2. Completely in pieces the crowd watches the last minutes…. Screwed up a victory after all. But then, in the 91st minute, a counter by the impressive central midfielder Simplicio, who, out of a lack of option, decides to shoot from some 20 meters and… straight into the top corner of the goal!!! 3-2 for Parma, the referee whistles for the end, and we all go crazy! J

I have seldom enjoyed a game between two teams I didn’t support this much. Or better, I didn’t support before, as Parma has really gotten a special place in my football heart. The atmosphere was really good… much singing, next to me three fanatical old guys, and a very impressive applause of the Parma fans when Cagliari player Zola was substituted. So that is also possible!

Parma might not have any big stars, but there are some very useful players. Bolano is a real interceptor, whose positioning is strong and who breaks up many attacks. Simplicio is a very efficient central midfielder, who might be too slow for the top (one-pace-player) but is of immense value to Parma. Boc is a very strong central defender with a great long ball and Gilardino is a somewhat lazy striker with many tricks up his sleeve.

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

Ciao a tuti!

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