Have you heard FC Bari's sad Lega Calcio tale?
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus arrival has breathed fresh air into Italian football. The filthy decline of notable club sides, however, still lingers. After 110 years of existence, FC Bari must start afresh from bottom division.
Bari was in dire need of financial aid. A meagre £2.5m would have kept them up. Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani and local businessman Ferdinando offered to help but ultimately didn't. Inability to register for the upcoming season means the Cockerels will play amateur football (Serie D). They are not alone though; in the company of Cesena.
Bari’s predicament has become a regular sight in Italy. Every year, a prominent club suffers financial implosion. While the running of the top sides has improved markedly since the days of Fiorentina, Napoli and reformed Torino, further down the league, the decay is very common. Over 20 have endured this unfortunate fate in the last five years.
Italy's Southern region has borne the brunt. The Biancorossi is the latest inductee to this long-suffering group which has Salernitana, Avellino, Reginnia and Modena.
Bari go back by a century
With a little above 300,000 inhabitants, the coastal city of Bari is Italy’s ninth most-populated and only second to Naples in the South. Not the most exotic destination, Bari is renowned for its cultural heritage. The Castle, Basilica of St. Nicholas and Cathedral attracts the highest tourists.
Football is perceived as the city’s no 1 sport. FC Bari was born in 1908 to satisfy the native's unending appetite for top-flight competition. However, that has hardly been achieved. The club has struggled to keep up financially. The direct consequence is a perpetual flight around the two elite divisions, earning the nickname Ascensore (elevator).
After clinching their maiden Serie B title in 1934, Bari was finally able to rub shoulders with the country's top shots. That didn't last, however. Persistent off-pitch crisis completely marred the Cockerels’ potency. Ten other Serie A stints have followed. All utter disaster.
In terms of talents, the Southern club has manufactured loads. Among them Nicola Ventola, Gianluca Zambrotta, Antonio Cassano and Leonardo Bonucci. David Platt wasn’t bred there but joined from Aston Villa for a then British record of £5.5m. For managers, Antonio Conte and Gian Ventura used the Cockerels as a ladder to greater things. Both coached the Azzurri.
Bad day for Bari
Bari’s expulsion from Serie B sent shockwaves across the city. The Biancorossi was only a whisker away from Promised Land in the last three seasons. Last year, they were stopped in the play-off quarter-final. AC Milan’s Bonucci, a proud son of Bari, was quoted on Twitter. “You don't forget the past...Bari & its fans deserve better."
Bari may be a Yo-Yo team but they boast one of the most loyal fanbases in Italy. The faithful support their side through thick and thin. It’s Stadio San Nicola home ground can accommodate nearly 60,000 of them – one-fifth of the entire population. Let's leave the last words for bitter Mayor Antonio Decaro.
This is a bad day, not only for football in Bari but for the whole city. It’s a day of defeat, which burns 1,000 times more than any defeat on the pitch. We tried everything possible, I perhaps even went beyond my remit as a mayor. I did it as a citizen and also as a fan.