What ever happened to Serie A?

Shaun Botterill/Allsport/Getty Images

Bob Thomas/Getty Images

There was a time when Italian football was looked upon as the best in the world.  This was due largely to the fact that the domestic competition, Serie A, was full of star players and drew a captive audience.  During the late 80s and early 90s, football in Italy was brilliant.  Maybe Italy’s hosting of the 1990 FIFA World Cup played a significant part, but that alone was not the reason for domestic success.

Italian football at this point had a plethora of home-grown and foreign talent producing exceptional football.  Some of the best home-grown talent, the likes of Roberto Baggio, Gianluca Vialli, Roberto Mancini, Salvatore Schillaci and Franco Baresi, were taking ownership of their domestic league and are now immortalised for the part they played in the competitions history.

A foreign legion of stars made Milan their home, with AC and Inter showcasing the best from the Netherlands, winners of Euro ’88, and then, West Germany, eventual winners of Italia ’90.  Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard chose the red and black side, and on the blue and black side, Lothar Matthäus, Jürgen Klinsmann and Andreas Brehme conjured-up a rivalry unsurpassed to this day.

Serie A was not just a league for Juventus, AC Milan, Inter and Roma as it is today, teams like Napoli and Sampdoria were competitive.  Napoli won the League and Cup double in 1986/87 and the Serie A title again in 1989/90.  The great, Diego Armando Maradona, was the catalyst and promoter of such success, a feat which was both incredible and inspirational for the player, the Club and the people of Naples.

Sampdoria won the title in 1990/91 due largely to the efforts of Vialli and Mancini.  They also had a dream-run in Europe during the 1991/92 season, making it all the way to the European Cup Final (aka UEFA Champions League) narrowly losing 1-0 to Barcelona after extra-time.

I remember watching Mancini play with so much passion it would make you cry, he was in love with football and knew how to express it.  Former Sampdoria team mate from 1993-95 and ex-England international, David Platt, said Mancini would “celebrate a pass.”  It was this kind of appreciation for the beautiful game that made Mancini one of a kind.

Times have changed.  Football has changed and so has Serie A.  What happened?  The competition is now tarnished by corruption, match fixing and crowd violence.  Devious administrators have been using the game as if it were a toy to play around with, displaying a carefree and scandalous attitude, until they got caught.  These tyrants and their goons have no place in football.

A state of unrest has been created over recent years.  This has led directly to the prominence of extremist groups.  These so-called “Ultras” are using this negative situation to promote fear and unbalance around Serie A, a shameful act and something which needs to be taken to pieces.

It’s time Serie A was back to normal, back to the glory days of the early 90s.  We don’t want to read about teams having to play behind closed doors, unashamed racism from visiting supporters or the death of innocent fans in the streets.  That is not in the spirit of the game!  Surely that is not the future.

After condemning the current state of affairs, there is some hope for Serie A.  Inter have been flying, still undefeated so far this season under the management of Mancini.  Roma has produced some outstanding Italian players over recent years, the likes of Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi and Simone Perrotta, and as always AC Milan, although currently in a slump, is a shining example of how effective Italian football can be, with national team heroes, Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso, Alessandro Nesta, Massimo Ambrosini and Filippo Inzaghi still among the best in the league.

The days of Baggio destroying opponents one-by-one are gone.  The “divine ponytail” was a gift from the Gods.  Gone too is the influx of foreign players, these days the Barclays Premier League in England has become the place to play.  Western commercialisation has hit football hard since the turn of the century.  Serie A has some work to do if it wants to re-emerge as the most popular league in the world.

Italians are proud people, they love their football and so do I.  My football discovery occurred during Italia ’90 and I guess for that reason I will always consider Serie A the most sacred league of all, as it was there I began my football odyssey.  What a journey it has been and will continue to be.  Baggio, Mancini and especially Matthäus were favourites of mine during a time when football was played with style.

The world game moves with time, mirroring society, it changes, usually for the better but Serie A has unfortunately lost some of its magnificence.  I want to see it thriving again!  It’s what the country needs and what the fans want to see: Serie A back on top.

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