Informed piece from the wonderful Gentleman Ultra website who document all things Italian football. Here they write about the fans of Serie A’s Sampdoria
Stadium: Stadio Luigi Ferraris
Also known as the Marassi, the Stadio Luigi Ferraris is one of the oldest in Italy. Built in 1911, the stadium was originally property of Genoa and was the stage of their early titles won during Serie A’s primitive years.
The stadium is a daunting place. With the crowd close to the pitch, it gives the players the feeling they are enveloped in a wall of noise and fire. One of the best examples of the atmosphere in the ground is evident during the derby della lanterna in which Sampdoria take on Genoa. Arguably one of the most passionate derbies on the Peninsula, it transforms the stadium into a cauldron.
Marcello Lippi has claimed that the game is “the most special in Italy”. In these matches Genoa hold the Curva Nord with their Ultra groups such as the Fossa dei Griffoni, while Sampdoria take the Curva Sud with their Ultra groups, which include the Ultras Tito Tito Cucchiaroni.
The last derby was one of the games of the season and the atmosphere and choreography were breathtaking. The stadium had been updated for the 1990 World Cup and you may remember it from the second-round penalty shoot-out between Ireland and Romania. It still is one of the best stadiums in Serie A.
From an Anglo perspective, the Stadio Luigi Ferarris or Marassi is one of Italy’s more aesthetically pleasing stadiums. Located in the port city of Genoa, its rectangular shape and crowd’s proximity to the pitch make for a claustrophobic and intense atmosphere. The stadium also plays host to what is arguably one of Italy’s most underappreciated rivalries, contested between Genoa Cfc and UC Sampdoria.
Known as the Derby della Lanterna, – named after the port’s iconic old Lighthouse – this fixture captures the imagination thanks to the efforts of those standing on the steps of the Gradinate, with both ends of the stadium engulfed in a riot of noise and colour. The heart of Sampdoria’s support beats in the Gradinata Sud and the Ultras help make the Marassi one of the most eye-catching venues in Calcio.
Key Ultra Groups: Ultras Tito Cucchiaroni, Fedelissimi 1961
Other Ultra Groups: Rude Boys, Fieri Fossato, San Fruttuoso 1987, Valsecca Group 1991, Palati Fini, Irish Clan, Struppa 86, Hells Angels, i Gunners, i Bulldog, Ultras Girls, “Herberts”, “Cani Sciolti”, “Riviera Blucerchiata”, “Sgreuzzi”, “Belli e Gonfi”, “Struppa 86”
The Blucerchiati cannot boast the same distinguished tradition as their neighbours, Genoa. Formed in 1946, following the merger of two sports clubs known as Sampierdarenese and Andrea Doria, Samphave had to endure the haughtiness of their older city cousins. However, despite being born some 53 years later than the Rossoblu, Sampdoria have carved out an identity and rich history.
The name and colours (blue-white and red-black) pay tribute to the clubs from which they emerged and they have enjoyed spells of veritable success. At their zenith, Samp toppled the mighty AC Milan, beating Silvio Berlusconi’s giants to the Serie A title in 1991. The following year, the Doriani threatened to conquer Europe, Barcelona and a swing of Ronald Koeman’s right foot shattering their dreams in the final of the European Cup. The game was played at the old Wembley, a stadium Brazilian icon, Pelé, once described as “the cathedral of football.” That day in 1992, the Sampdoriani ensured Pelé’s observation was true, bellowing chorus after chorus while decorating their end in a sea of blue, white, red and black.
Sampdoria’s group, Ultras Tito Cucchiaroni, is one of the most venerable in Italy. Formed in 1969, they were trailblazers in the Ultra movement. In fact, the group contest that they were the first to differentiate as ‘Ultras’. The evidence for this claim is in the writing on the walls. “Uniti Legneremo Tutti I Rossoblu ASangue” – ‘United, we will beat the red and blues (Genoa) till they bleed’, the Acronym for this tactful slogan – ULTRAS.
This graffiti is still visible in parts of Genoa and, according to the Ultras Tito Cucchiaroni, it could be seen in the city’s Piazza della Vittoria and Scalinata Montaldo, long before supporters of Torino and AC Milan laid claim to the title of first ‘Ultras’ in Italy. It all seems like nit picking, squabbling over who came first. But in football, history and tradition matter. To the Ultras it’s no different.
There is also a story behind the group’s name. Ernesto Cucchiaroni or ‘Tito’was an important player for Samp during the 1960’s. He immediately endeared himself to the supporters after scoring two goals in his first Derby della Lanterna,and this admiration was cemented after the Argentinian helped the Blucerchiati to a fourth place finish during the 1960/61 season. Despite being a diminutive figure, ‘Tito’ possessed ‘grinta’ (grit) and after finishing his career at the club, the Ultras decided to adopt his name to honour his effort and commitment.
The Ultras Tito Cucchiaroni has shared the Gradinata Sud with a number of other groups, most notably the Fedelissimi 1961. Although they were born eight years earlier, the Fedelissimi actually originated as a simple fan club. Barring a faction of left-wing, anti-racist campaigning Ultras known as Rude Boys, Sampdoria’s fanatics are generally known to be apolitical. This absence of politics undoubtedly contributed to the harmonious existence of the two groups who wereunited by their passion, both physically and metaphorically, in the lower tier of the Gradinata. This was until Sampdoria’s travails in the late 1990’s, which saw the departure of golden boy Roberto Mancini in 1997 and, two years later, the clubs relegation to Serie B.
The Blucerchiati’s malaise split opinion. The president at the time, Enrico Mantovani, suffered the opprobrium of the Fedelissimi, who felt that his mismanagement had brought about the club’s demise. On the other hand, the Ultras Tito Cucchiaroni sided with Mantovani and instead railed against Mancini for the manner in which he left. After 15-years of service, the Sampicon had allowed his contract to expire and joined Lazio on a free transfer, leaving the club short of money to replace him. The spat resulted in separation: accompanied by a group called San Fruttuoso 1987, Tito Cucchiaroni moved to the upper tier of the Gradinata, leaving Fedelissimi and the other groups to occupy the lower.
Having documented a myriad of Italy’s Ultras, the homogenous nature of the movement at times lends itself to repetition, different club but the same old story. However, scratch beneath the surface and there are always differences and peculiarities to be uncovered, even trends being set. Allegedly Sampdoria were the first club to have a group of women Ultras, while women were prominent within Tito Cucchiaroni’s hierarchy.
Doria’s Ultras are also among the few supporters in Italy who don’t use banners during their match day displays. This is largely in protest against specific legislation within the ‘Decreto Antiviolenza’, a decree aimed at tackling football hooliganism. This legislation has seen drums and megaphones banned in Stadia, while the use of flags and banners is strictly regulated. Supporters must seek police permission for the paraphernalia they intend to bring into the stadium seven days in advance. According to many fans across Italy, this ‘draconian’ legislation is systematically destroying the phenomenon of organised support and limits their freedom of expression.
When it comes to violence and politics, it appears that the Sampdoriani take a philosophical viewpoint, as revealed by this quote taken from a fanzine:
“Above all, it’s wrong to go to the stadium with the intention of causing havoc. As much as possible, we try to behave, however it’s almost impossible not to react when opposition fans pass the Gradinata and start launching objects at people: it’s wrong, this is true, but we try to limit our retaliation…Luckily we have managed to expel the delinquents and political troublemakers from our ranks.”
In football we are often mesmerised by the talent exhibited on the field, whether it be a sleight of foot, a moment of individual genius or the elegance of the ‘perfect’ team goal. There is no doubt that Football support in Italy can unleash the ugly and grotesque. But, it’s also worth appreciating the raw beauty and innovative spirit of Italian football fanaticism. In 1982, during the Derby della Lanterna, the Sampdoriani lived up to their self-acclaimed pioneering title, unveiling a gigantic flag displaying the the club colours, swallowing the entirety of the Gradinata. Its sheer scale was impressive. The flag remains the magnum opus of the Blucerchiati’s support and one of the biggest ever seen in Italian stadia.
The level of organisation and effort behind such displays should not be underestimated. Today, under the tenure of eccentric owner Massimo Ferrero and the guidance of coach Sinisa Mihajilovic, the club have threatened to rekindle the distant glorious memories of the early 1990’s. Regardless of the club’s success however, Sampdoria’s Ultras continue to charm those who admire an alternative form of footballing art, one born in the terraces.
By Richard Hall @Gentleman_Ultra and Luca Hodges Ramon @LH_Ramon25