It is fair to say that the early part of 2015 will not be looked back on with much fondness by fans of Venezia football club. On the pitch the club was going nowhere fast, while in the boardroom, leadership and money were lacking in equal quantity.
The euphoric days of watching Alvaro Recoba light up the Stadio Penzo while in Serie A has long been consigned to the past. Over the course of the four previous years dating back from 2015, the club had been owned by a Russian businessman named Yuri Korablin. Of course, as seemingly every new owner does these days, Korablin arrived espousing dreams and plans that felt just too good to be true. But in the case of Venezia, who had suffered such heartache in recent years having seen their club go to the wall twice since 2005 (Also in 2009), they dared to dream that this time might be different.
Sadly, as you may have already gathered, the fans of the club from one of the most romantic cities in the world were duped once again by a false prince in shining armour. As the 2014/15 Lega Pro season hurtled to its close, Korablin had basically given up funding the club, leaving it to fend in shark infested waters by itself.
With Korablin now gone, the club suffered humiliation when it once more went out of business at the end of the season. In what has become an all too regular occurrence, the loyal fan base was forced to bide their time and wait for a new entity of the club to be re-established. This new entity was entered into the semi-professional Serie D.
The year (2015/16) in the fourth tier proved rather fruitful as Venezia spent the season challenging for top sport, with only Campordarsego Calcio able to compete with them. They, however, would eventually fall away leaving Venezia to storm to the title. While the Serie D title and promotion provided some light relief, the achievement was not the best piece of news the club received that season. Back in October, an American by the name of Joe Tacopina assumed the role of club president.
Tacopina, no stranger to the Italian game having had previous spells at Bologna and Roma, was looking to branch out on his own in terms of owning a club and Venezia came along at just the right time.
Like many before him, Tacopina has come in and stated he wishes to achieve big things with Venezia. For instance, he is the latest in the long line of owners looking to move the club to a new stadium and out of the 103-year-old Penzo. Alongside this, he also is determined to return the club to Serie A as soon as possible.
Even though they have been fooled by owners in the past, there is a genuine sense of optimism surrounding Tacopina’s ownership. He has already signalled his intentions by bringing in World Cup winner and goal poaching legend, Pippo Inzaghi, as head coach. Meanwhile, no expense has been spared in their forays into the transfer market.
Tacopina and Venezia look like a man and a club on a mission. This determination from the American has brought a new lease of life to football in the city, with many dreaming that the Arancioneroverde (Orange, Green and Blacks) may make a return to the top of the Calcio world sooner rather than later.
However, not everyone in the city feels the same way. In fact, there is a small band who believe that this Venezia are not actually the true footballing representatives of the city. In their view, this honour belongs to another. Some 1.3 kilometres from the ageing Stadio Penzo, across the Laguna, there lies another football pitch. Hemmed in on one side by a mammoth stone building and on the other by the water, this rather quaint little field is accommodated by a tiny corrugated iron stand. It is home to Terza Categoria side, Calcio Venezia 1907.
For those of you who may not be avid followers of amateur Italian football, the Terza Categoria is the lowest tier of Italian football and last season Calcio Venezia finished 11th out of the thirteen teams in their group. How is it then, that a club who finished third from bottom in the worst level of Italian football, consider themselves to be the true representatives of Venetian football, carrying on the tradition that has existed since 1907?
Firstly, it must be explained that in Italy, when a club goes bankrupt, an embargo is put on that club name for a period so that it is unusable by anyone. That is why when you see new entities of the club being formed, they have slightly different names than before. Perfect examples of this would be Piacenza (who returned as Lupa Piacenza), Siena (who became Robur Siena) and Parma (now known as Parma 1913).
After a certain period of time, the club that has been re-formed may buy back the name of the old club or, as is often the case, have the right bestowed on them to be the bankrupt club’s natural heir or successor, thereby inheriting all the club’s history from results to trophies won. This is indeed what happened with the three clubs mentioned above.
Now those of you with a better memory than mine may recall that earlier in this piece, I mentioned that Venezia went bankrupt in 2009. FBC Unione Venezia was founded in the wake of that failure, and although the new outfit may have been seen as the natural successor to Venezia, it never fully acquired the company brands and name of the deceased club.
This lack of foresight then led to the situation where on May 17, 2015, a lawyer by the name of Gianalberto Scarpa Basteri bought the brand name, ‘SS Soccer Venezia’ (the rubric of the club that went bankrupt in 2009), at a bankruptcy hearing in a court in Venice. He thus took control of a club name that had disappeared back in 2009.
Basteri, along with his cohorts then proceeded to re-form this club and were duly given FIGC accreditation on July 21, 2015, taking the federal registration number 943473. To make matters even more complicated, FBC Unione Venezia went bankrupt in 2015 and were forced to start again under the American Tacopina. That club also registered with the FIGC and is seen by the majority of Veneziani to be the original club’s heir, although its federal registration number is 943476, three more than Venezia 1907’s.
However, a trip to the website of Calcio Venezia 1907 (the side who play in the Terza Categoria) will leave you in no doubt as to who they think they are. The article on the club’s history dates back to the original founding of the club in 1907 and includes everything that has happened since. Under titles, it lays claim to any and all won by the original Venezia.
Who then you may ask is the official Venezia? Well the city recognises the one that now currently plays in Lega Pro, with Inzaghi in charge and the one that also uses Venezia’s traditional stadium, the Penzo. It is they who receive the most backing from the fans and whose backing is most crucial of all.
Yet on a small piece of Venetian land, there lies a club, small though it may be and with very modest ambitions, who defend to their last breath their claim of being Venezia’s true representatives.
Words by Kevin Nolan: @KevinNolan11
Kevin is an Irishman who loves to watch calcio no matter how lowly the level, Parma being his team of choice. Besides the @GentlemanUltra, he also writes for @ItalianFD.