Life as a Serie B fan can be complicated. Unlike someone who follows the Championship, your team exists almost entirely off the soccer radar in the United States with almost non-existent media coverage (except for Soccer Minnows of course). For someone like myself, who roots for FC Bari, this life in an information vacuum is frustrating, to the point where not being promoted to Serie A after making the Serie B playoffs is devastating.
This is the first in a series of weekly posts chronicling the life of a Serie B Italian soccer fan. Although this column is specific to FC Bari, the sentiments are universal enough that fans of Vicenza or Ascoli can relate.
How did I, someone born and bred in the U.S., become a fan of a soccer club in Southern Italy? When I had my soccer revelation after the 2006 World Cup, I began to look for a natural club to support. Of course I would follow the local U.S. team, but to truly get the soccer experience I wanted to become more involved in European soccer. So I went back to my roots, or more accurately my mother’s family roots.
My maternal family come from the small Italian town of Bari. Known primarily as a beach town and the resting place of St. Nicholas’ remains, it is a typical southern Italian city – big on history, low on citizen wealth. On a whim I decided to see what club played in Bari and, of course, there was a team.
i Galletti are a yo-yo team in Italian soccer, with its “glory years” in the 1930s and ’40s. When I began following them, they had just returned to Serie A and their first match was against mighty Inter Milan. I remember turning on the match on TV and watching my new team draw against one of the royalty of Serie A. The 2009-2010 season was a glorious one. The club finished 10th and was guided by Antonio Conte. The roster featured a young centerback pairing of Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Ranocchia. However, as is typical in Bari’s history, the club lost a ton of money during the season and the next season began to hemorrhage talent and more money. In 2011, they were relegated again and I have yet to see them on television since.
This column is my account and my story of following a minnow in the lower level of Italian soccer. Think The Miracle of Castel di Sangro, minus the shock and outrage at what Italian soccer actually is. Every week I will talk about a different aspect of following a Serie B team on its quest for promotion. These posts will not be recaps of results, but more emotional reactions to the unique aspects of passionately rooting for a sports team for which you have not seen a match in five years (sort of).
As I mentioned prior, even though the name of the club in these articles is Bari, substitute almost any Serie B or small Serie A club and the experience is probably close. That’s why I encourage all readers to weigh in on my observations and share if your club is going through the same, or if you have a different perspective.
Next week – why big-money foreign investors does not always mean your club turns into Manchester City.