Some share enemies, others based on matches
8 November ~ The picture that many have of a typical Italian football fan is of someone wielding a flare standing beneath a tifo that disparages rival clubs’ fans and players. However, there is a friendlier side to Italian fandom that receives substantially less attention but is seen as an equally significant part of the ultra culture. It was demonstrated perfectly at Genoa’s Stadio Luigi Ferraris on the opening day of the season. Napoli were the visitors on a mild August night, and the Genovese public greeted the travelling fans with a banner that saluted their “Neapolitan brothers”.
Napoli returned the favour with some pro-Genoa pre-match chanting, and even a last-minute Jonathan de Guzmán winner could not tarnish the positive atmosphere.
This is the phenomenon of the gemellaggi, the twinning of rival outfits. The practice dates back to January 1977, when 3,000 Pescara fans made the trip to Vicenza for a top-of-the-table Serie B clash; the visitors secured a vital 1-0 win, but the Vicenza supporters were in a gracious mood, warmly applauding their Pescara counterparts for their incessant backing of their team. The sense of goodwill was strengthened when Pescara amicably welcomed Vicenza fans to their city for the return fixture, and the accord has endured to the present day.
Genoa and Napoli’s friendship is similarly based on a memorable encounter featuring the two sides. In May 1982, Genoa headed south in need of a point to ensure their Serie A status at Milan’s expense. Fully aware of the consequences of a draw, Napoli’s fans were delighted when Genoa’s Mario Faccenda levelled the scores in the 85th minute. The goal was enough to secure a 2-2 draw, and Napoli supporters were elated that they had helped to relegate Milan, their enemies from the north.
Sometimes a common enemy is enough to establish a gemellaggio between clubs. Fiorentina fans join Torino in a strong dislike for Juventus and, since the 1980s, games involving the pair have been marked by a shared anti-Bianconeri sentiment. Other relationships are based on common political beliefs, as typified by Lazio and Inter, both of whose fanbases are known for their right-wing views. The feeling is so strong that, when Lazio beat Inter 4-2 in 2002 and handed the title to Juventus at Inter’s expense, many Lazio supporters vehemently called for the sacking of manager Alberto Zaccheroni. Shared friendships on the left include that between supporters of Livorno and Ternana.
A website run by a German fan of Italian football has even attempted to chart the gemellaggi through an exhaustive list of who likes who (which has inevitably been disputed by some of the commenters). Greg Lea