Pro Piacenza v Viterbese, Serie C, Sunday 18th February,
Stadio Calcio Leonardo Garilli
(with Genoa v Inter, Serie A, Saturday 17th February,
Stadio Luigi Ferraris)
The first time I’d heard the word “Piacenza” said out loud, it was with exaggerated elongated vowel sounds, articulated by the Godfather of Calcio, Joe Jordan. “Peee-aahhh-chennnn-tsaaaa”.
Coming from Genoa by train – a train we nearly missed – Piacenza and Voghera (where we changed train) were like onomatopoeic terms for how sick I was feeling. It had been a heavy day’s drinking on the Saturday, so my jakey demeanour on the train was not unexpected. The cloud receded a little upon arriving at the excellent Dubliner’s Irish Bar in Piacenza. which has an excellent selection of Italian Craft Beers (Hipster Alert) and soya burgers.
After eating and nursing our beers during the first half of Torino v Juve, a game we snubbed for this one, we set off towards the Stadio Leonardo Garilli. It is a good forty minute walk to the stadium from both the bar and the train station, so sensible shoes, a warm jacket and a clear head are all desirable. I had none of these things. Leaving a historic old town and marching through a bland housing area makes it feel more like “normal” football though.
Stadio Calcio Leonardo Garilli
The stadium is a wonderful oddity. When buying tickets, at the counter adjacent to the only opened gate in the huge car park, we had no idea what was where, as they don’t put a map up. And you kind of need one. The two stands along the long sides of the pitch are covered, but very different. Only the main stand was open for this match. The stadium has clearly hosted bigger matches during Piacenza’s time in Serie A and there are echoes of this in the crumbling concrete.
Behind the goals, each curve is split into three mini-stands, and is almost in a different postcode, thanks to the running track. It remains, however, characterful, if a little run down. We paid 20€ for our tickets, in the tribune but not the central part (which was 10€ dearer – 30€ for this would’ve been criminal). Those who did pay a tenner extra were given a plastic seat instead of a stone one. To be honest, it was “dance-on-the-spot-cold” anyway, so standing was the optimal choice.
Upon climbing the ramp (not stairs), we arrived in an area that had a press room to the left and toilets (I’ve seen plusher abattoirs) and a bar to the right. The cans of Dortmunder beer were 2.50€ each, and coffee was one euro.
Pro Piacenza v Viterbese
I did have a brief moment of “I’m drinking beer when I don’t feel like it, watching Piacenza’s second club play a team I haven’t heard of, inappropriately wrapped up, along with perhaps 150 others, in a stadium that holds 21600. What am I doing?” The joys of a groundhopping weekend. Proper “blood and snotters” football.
Pro Piacenza were on the defensive for most of the first half, with Viterbese having a lot of joy on the left via Calderini, yet it was the home side who took the lead against the run of play, through Musetti. The game changed, however, shortly after half-time, when Viterbese had a defender sent off for a professional foul in the box. Pro Piacenza converted the penalty, and were much more in control from this point on. The goal-to-beer ratio was further augmented with another two goals in the last ten minutes, the match finishing 3-1.
Genoa v Inter
I’ve decided not to offer this match a separate review as I’ve been to Genoa before, for the Derby della Lanterna, and my inebriation levels on the Saturday restricted my insight somewhat.
We arrived in Genoa, from Chiavari, by train, twenty minutes later than foreseen. Our hotel (mini-hotel) informed us that there would be no check-in after seven o’clock. Of course, we arrived at the hotel, stressing, with five minutes to spare looking for number 6A in a street of medieval, irregular building. Scanning the buzzers, we eventually found the name of the hotel scrawled, in biro, on a button with no discernible number.
Genoa is both medieval and irregular in general. After check, we found a pizza place (second of the day) close by, as we were approaching the danger zone of tipsy and hungry, and my memory of food in the stadium was crisps or chocolate and nothing else. Feeling satiated, we started wandering towards the station but had miscalculated how far we still had to go, so a taxi was hailed and we ended up taking our seats in the stadium, with a beer, just before kick off.
The Genoa fans behind the goal were in fine form, and made an excellent noise throughout the match. The stadium is still very no-frills once inside, but the view from the 3rd tier of the Distinti was excellent and, given the availability of seats, we sat where we liked. The attendance was 23000 and the stadium holds 38000, so there were plenty of seats to be had. Our tickets were pre-bought, however, from Listicket, and were 41€ each.
The football on show was, of course, a step up from Virtus Entella earlier in the day – proper Espresso Football – but Inter’s toothlessness in attack without Icardi and Perisic was the story of the match, along with Genoa’s resolute defending and the evergreen Goran Pandev, who I thought must’ve been about 40, such is his longevity. He is only 34, and was a nuisance for Skriniar and Ranocchia (who scored an unfortunate own goal), as well as scoring an opportunistic toe-poke.
After the match, refuge was sought in a local bar to allow the crowds to diffuse. We thought we’d ordered a red wine, but we were served two red malt beers. These were foul-tasting creations: only a few sips made me feel like my insides were fermenting. Having stared at this poison long enough, we decided to start walking towards Piazza dell’Erbe, via various random castles and Roman remains. This was a surprisingly inspired choice, as there are an abundance of cool and vibrant bars.
Two Chiantis and an obscure Belgian Beer later, we found our way back our accommodation to get some sleep before our 0812 train Piacenza. I’ve no idea what time it was (well after 1am anyway), but it had been an action packed day of footballing debauchery. Salute.