Morgan Green is a soccer writer and podcaster. He is the creator of the When I Get To It podcast, which can be found on the United and Liverpool Fans Network.
Years ago when I was first getting into football, my knowledge of the sport was limited to the Premier League and the Greek Super League. While these two leagues are on the complete opposite end of the quality spectrum there is a perfectly good explanation as to why I was a follower of both. The Premier League is the easy one to explain, but I followed the Greek League because my family is Greek and Greece had won the Euro in 2004, right around the time I was starting to get into football. At that particular point in my life, I was enthralled with everything that was Greek, not just football or sports in general. It was through that Greek pride that I was introduced to Hellas Verona. It started simple enough, a buddy of mine made me aware of a small Italian team in Serie B with Hellas in their name. For those who do not know “Hellas” is the Greek translation for Greece.
So naturally I was overjoyed that such a team existed, especially in Italy of all places! Can you imagine a team named after Greece winning the Scudetto? My tiny brain would have imploded in on itself if such a thing were allowed to happen. BUT IT DID HAPPEN! In the 1984-1985 season, a tiny team from the Italian north named after Greece had won the Scudetto. Needless to say, this discovery had gotten me initially enthralled with Hellas Verona and I wanted to know more about them, buy their jersey, support their cause, etc. Unfortunately, this was the mid-2000’s when mainstream football in America was relegated to Fox Soccer Channel and GolTV and scores were followed through the LiveScore website. MySpace was all the rage, Facebook was in its infancy and Twitter wasn’t even heard of. Basically an information wasteland compared to the ease in which things can be found and followed today.
What was also unfortunate was that Verona were also starting to go through their own wasteland as they were relegated from Serie B to Serie C1, which not only meant they were no longer playable on FIFA, they were also (as far as I knew at the time) basically impossible to follow in real life as well.
It was no big deal really, Chelsea and Panathinaikos were doing well, my football knowledge was growing by the minute and with no way to reliably follow them, Hellas Verona were starting to slip from my main stable to teams that I was following at the time. It wasn’t until almost a decade later that my fascination with Verona would resurface. It all started back up when I was reminded of them following their promotion to Serie A for the 13/14 season under Andrea Mandorlini. Around the same time I had stumbled upon Tim Parks fantastic book “A Season With Verona” (which is recommended reading for any football fan, not just fans of Hellas Verona). After finishing the book, I did what any sane person would do and re-did my research on Verona. The old feeling started flooding back and this time they were enhanced when I found out they had signed legendary Italian striker Luca Toni.
I was more determined than ever to follow Verona and this time it was going to be different. With the advent of better score apps (Soccerway being my choice), Twitter and various other avenues that have made following virtually any club easier my fandom was renewed and intensified. Verona’s first season back in Serie A was magical. The second season not so much as it ended in relegation back to Serie B after a tough start to the season which lead to the sacking of Andrea Mandorlini.
The reason for this story is simple, it’s never too late to pick up with a club that has piqued your interest at some point in the past. The fact that I am able to follow this team through its trials and tribulations with relative ease is a testament to how far technology has come in the past decade. The fact that I am able to tell you this story here today is also a testament to how far footballs popularity has come over the past 10 years in America. It is now easier than ever to become completely enthralled in a football team from a far away land, even if your initial reason for supporting them was a bit selfish or misguided. Hellas Verona weren’t named after Greece because of some great expat population in Verona or some unwavering passion to be identified with Greece. They were named that on the suggestion of a classical studies professor, most likely because it was different from the other football teams that were popping up at the time. While my initial reasons for supporting Verona were due to Hellenic pride, the more I followed them and the more I watched them, the more I loved them. You don’t need some noble reason to become a fan of a team. Just a spark and some passion.
It is now easier than ever to become completely enthralled in a football team from a far away land, even if your initial reason for supporting them was a bit selfish or misguided. Hellas Verona wasn’t named after Greece because of some great expat population in Verona or some unwavering passion to be identified with Greece. They were named that on the suggestion of a classical studies professor, most likely because it was different from the other football teams that were popping up at the time. While my initial reasons for supporting Verona were due to Hellenic pride, the more I followed them and the more I watched them, the more I loved them. You don’t need some noble reason to become a fan of a team. Just a spark and some passion.