The season of 2005-06 is one that Italian football shall never forget. It had it all, from the emergence of the Calciopoli scandal, that still wrangles to this day, to the national team’s victory at the World Cup later that summer.
These historical events sandwiched so close together has led us to forget a remarkable fairy tale that took place in Serie A. It is the fairy tale of the forgotten club, A.C.D Treviso.
The city of Treviso is situated roughly 40 minutes from Venice. It is the birthplace of Luciano Benetton of the famous Benetton fashions, as well as sports manufacturing giants Pinarello and Diadora. Sports wise, rugby reigns supreme and the aptly named Benetton Treviso rugby club have 15 Scudetti to their name. However, calcio does have its place and since 1909, Treviso Calcio have been ploughing the lonely furrow.
For the first 80 or so years, the club achieved little as they floated around the lower levels of the Italian game. Their one period of slight success came in the early 1950s, when the great Nereo Rocco guided them to a sixth place finish in Serie B. Come 1993 however, the club went bankrupt and was forced to close up shop. A new club was quickly formed and under a slightly different guise, they entered the semi-professional category of Serie D.
A year later, the club appointed Giuseppe Pillon as coach, a man born in the province of Treviso. It was only Pillon’s second job in management, having coached during a short spell at Bassano, yet it proved to be a master stroke. Not only did Pillon lead Treviso out of obscurity, he guided them to three consecutive promotions.
The club were back in Serie B for the first time in 40 years. Pillon, though, would not be at the helm them as their talismanic coach left to take charge at Padova. It was a blow that could have set the club back, but as we will soon find out, Trevisani are made of stern stuff and they managed Serie B survival. Despite being relegated in 2001, Treviso would bounce straight back and in 2004, the great Pillon returned having found out that the grass was not always greener on the other side.
Sometimes, certain coaches click with certain clubs and this seemed to be the case with Pillon. In the one season that he returned, the Trevisano tactician led them to a fantastic fifth place in Serie B, only losing to Perugia in the promotion play-offs. But the best was yet to come. Over the summer months an unlikely chain of events took place that would be of unforeseen benefit to Treviso. Two of the promoted clubs, Genoa and Torino had been refused entrance to Serie A for the forthcoming season.
Genoa had been denied because of sporting fraud (Match fixing) and Torino because of financial irregularities (they were completely broke). All of this meant that along with Ascoli, little old Treviso were plucked from the second division and handed a place in Serie A. It had taken 96 years but Treviso had finally done it, they were in the big time. A trip to face Inter at the San Siro was their opening fixture and despite being comfortably beaten 3-0, for the travelling Trevisani, it was quite the start to their debut Sere A campaign.
As the season progressed, Treviso battled hard but found the going tough and they remained rooted to the bottom of the table for much of the campaign. Despite giving all they had, a draw with Juventus being a notable high point, it would prove futile as the club finished bottom with only three wins all season.
Not long after, the Calciopoli scandal broke, devastating the reputation of calcio at home and abroad. Initially, Lazio and Fiorentina were relegated alongside Juventus for their part in the shenanigans. Treviso looked like they had earned an unlikely reprieve. However Lazio and Fiorentina appealed and devastatingly for the Veneto club, the appeals were successful. The dream of a second season in Serie A had been dashed. Relegation beckoned.
With relegation it soon became apparent that all was not right at the club. Financially speaking, Treviso were in disarray, having fallen foul of spending too much on trying to sustain their Serie A dream. At the end of the 2009 season things finally came to a head both on and off the pitch. The club had been relegated once more, this time to Lega pro and the already creaking financial strains pushed Treviso over the edge. For a second time in their history, the Biancocelesti had gone bust and been forced out of business.
That summer the club was again revived, with another slight name change. Entered into the Eccellenza Veneto, Treviso set off in pursuit of the promise land once again. Promotion after promotion followed as they rose from the Eccellenza to Lega Pro Prima Divisione, a jump of three divisions. But it seems affairs never stay rosy in the garden of Treviso and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess what happened next. The club suffered relegation at the end of the 2012-13 campaign and with it, financial demise.
That post season, Treviso Calcio underwent their fourth rebirth. A.C.D Treviso 2013 were placed in the Promozione Veneto, the sixth and second highest amateur level of the Italian game. Putting that into perspective, there are only nine tiers in total. The 2013-14 season did see them win promotion from the Promozione, but they currently remain a run of the mill mid-table side in the local Eccellenza.
The sights, smells and sounds of Serie A are a long way away, a Serie A they graced only ten years before. Yet every Sunday afternoon, a small band of locals are accompanied by the remaining ultras and the fans make their way to the Stadio Omobono Tenni to watch and cheer their team. They do it all in the hope that their forgotten club will one day rise like a Phoenix from the flames and do battle on the big stage once again. Who knows, stranger things have happened.
Notable players from Treviso’s Serie A season: