With their new coach Luca Fusi, and their new signing, terzino (“fullback”) Gianluigi Bianco, now fit enough to start, Castel Rigone looked to get their first away win of the season at Arzanese, in Campania. It was a lively match in which the referee played a significant role, awarding a free kick to Castel Rigone from which Bianco scored his first goal, two penalties to Arzanese (both converted), and sending off Castel Rigone striker Agostinelli for a kick to the ankle in the 20th minute of the second half. (Agostinelli will miss the next two matches in penance.) Two wonderful open-play goals (see highlights below) by Tranchitella (the league leader) and Bontà (after his team went down to 10 men) were enough to earn a 3-2 victory.
Official Lega Pro video highlights of the week 9 victory v. Arzanese:
Alas, Arzanese didn’t even get to play their home game in their own Vallefuoco stadium, because of a dispute over their grounds. Workers of Munianum Spa, who staff and maintain the stadium, have not been paid for two months by the Arzanese club, and so until the dispute is resolved, the city of Mugnano has closed the facility.
What does it mean for a community to have a team, and for that team to succeed or slide?
At the moment, Castel Rigone sits in 12th position, and this is as good a time as any to explain how this season’s particular promotion and relegation system will work. Everything is changing this year. “Lega Pro” Prima and Seconda Divisions are being replaced, and “Serie C,” the old name (which never quite went away) is returning. At the end of the season, teams will either be in Serie C (the lowest professional league) or Serie D (the highest amateur league). This is a significant hinge-point; as mentioned before, Castel Rigone has only this season joined the professional ranks. The top eight teams from Lega Pro Seconda Divisione B will stay where they are (in Serie C) — with the top teams from Lega Pro Seconda Divisione A — while the bottom six will automatically drop into Serie D. Four teams in between (nos. 9-12) will compete via playout, with the winner earning a single spot in Serie C, while the other 3 go to Serie D. (The illustration above is clearer.)
In all, 18 teams from A & B will stay in Serie C, while 18 are are demoted to Serie D. The 18 teams ‘staying’ in Serie C will be joined by: 29 teams currently in Lega Pro Prima Divisione (A & B), where AC Perugia currently plays, + 4 teams demoted from Serie B, + 9 teams promoted from Serie D. That adds up to 60 teams in Serie C for 2014-15, so they’ll play in three divisions of 20 teams each. I’ve made a diagram that explains it below.
The potential of being promoted or the danger of being relegated means that almost every team has a stake in the season. This makes the competition exciting and exhausting at both ends of the table.
American sports leagues, which are organized around franchises that could move from one city to another, have no promotion or relegation. The idea that if the Boston Red Sox finished last they’d be relegated to Triple-A is ludicrous. Equally, the idea of moving a Serie A side such as Fiorentina (Florence) to Perugia would make no sense in Italy; such a move would simply be impossible. When Fiorentina collapsed in 2002 due to bankruptcy and then re-formed, they had to work their way up from Serie C2 (the equivalent league to where Castel Rigone plays this year). That’s because Italian soccer clubs are not built on franchises tied to a wealthy owner (though they may have a wealthy owner); they are built on communities. The fan-base and ties of loyalty to that community trump everything. It’s not that money doesn’t matter in Italy (it does; see the case of Arzanese above), but that Home Is Where The Heart Is in a way that can never ever be overthrown by money (as when the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants moved to California). Teams that grow from deep roots are stronger.
Footnote no. 1. Style of Play. New manager Luca Fusi has described his philosophy for how the team can improve their play (Giornale dell’Umbria, 30 Oct. 2013):
Fare una vittoria vorrebbe dire, con ogni probabilità, ritrovarci fra le prime otto. Più che la classifica sarebbe la continuità il fattore determinante. Per il resto voglio vedere da parte dei miei una migliore gestione della palla e un miglior approccio. Voglio un Castel Rigone che faccia la partita dai primi minuti e non dopo mezzora. E non dobbiamo sempre forzare la giocata. Abbiamo i palleggiatori per far girare la palla aspettando di trovare l’imbucata giusta. Finché ce l’abbiamo noi il pallone non ce l’hanno gli altri. Questa deve essere la nostra filosofia.
“Earning a win would mean, in all likelihood, finding ourselves in the top eight [teams to stay in Serie C next year]. Keeping momentum would be more important than the table as the decisive factor. As for the rest, I want to see from my players better ball-handling and a better approach. I want a Castel Rigone that takes the game from the first minutes and doesn’t wait a half-hour. And we always must force the game. We have the dribblers to run the ball around looking to find the right opening. As long as we have the ball, the others don’t have it. This must be our philosophy.”
Fusi, while looking to get results, is focusing more on nurturing the team’s recent form. Specifically, he wants them to play strongly from the start (which they’ve not done well), to press, and to play more of a possession game. Like the banal maxim (from last week) that you “have to score more than the other team,” a common coaching phrase is: “if they other team doesn’t have the ball, they can’t score,” the mantra of the possession-based game. Such a style depends on a high level of technical skill, and a high level of teamwork, and lots of movement by everyone off the ball. It is what Barcelona has done: pressing to win the ball, and then being patient once they have it. Of course, there’s only one Barcelona. Such an approach is highly demanding, mentally and physically, of players, but Fusi seems to be happy with his men, so we’ll see how their play evolves.
Footnote no. 2. Fines from a fracas. The Court of Sport in Italy has slapped Castel Rigone’s next opponents, Melfi, with a fine of 10,000 euros, because fans at their home game on Sunday abused the referee, and also turned on an observer of the Professional Referees Association (Can Pro) with repeated insults, expletives, threats and even physical kicks to the leg and slaps to his face (Melfi drew the game 1-1). Melfi team executives were even involved in the fray, and have been sanctioned with ‘inibizione‘, which means that they cannot be involved with team administration for the designated periods of time (it’s a suspension).