When we think of Italian soccer, we generally think of the Milan clubs, Juventus, Napoli, and the Rome clubs. But what if I told you that none of them won the first Italian title or were the best in the early history of soccer? It’s a smaller club called Genoa, a club that happens to be the first club in Italian soccer. Like with anything in the sport, the early reaches of spreading of the game are from the British. The “Father of Italian Football” James Spensley played goalkeeper for Genoa.
On April 10th 1897, Spensley opened up the footballing department of the Genoa Cricket club, thus changing the name to the Genoa Cricket and Football Club. He was placed in charge of the club as the first manager. Spensley was a doctor, and a correspondent for the Daily Mail back in England, while living in Italy. In the early days the only clubs were in Turin. The first match was a friendly against a mixed group of players from Internazionale FC Torino, and F.B.C Torinese, which Genoa lost 1-0. The three clubs competed in the first ever Italian Football Championships. Likewise the first win was a 2-0 win against U.S Alessandria Calcio.
However the first official win was a 2-1 against R.S.Gimanstica Torino in 1898 when the Italian Football Federation created the Italian Football Championships. Later that day, they won their first title with a 3-1 win in extra time against Internazionale Fc Torino (it’s a defunct club, not associated with Inter Milan). The next year Genoa was back in their winning ways beating Internazionale again this time 3-1. They’d go for the three-peat while beating local rivals Sampierdaresnese 7-0 along the way, the winning margin wouldn’t be bettered until 1910. The final they’d win the title again with a 3-1 this time over FBC Torinese.
In the new century, Genoa claimed their fourth title in 1902, and then the next couple years they beat Juventus in the national final two years on the spin. Genoa was also the first Italian team to play an international match when on April 27, 1903 they visited FVC Nice (now OGC Nice) and beat them 3-0. The title winning years were halted in 1908 when the Italian Football Federation banned the use of foreign players. Genoa had always been a club that used foreigners, per them being founded by Englishmen. Eventually the federation relented.
The club returned to the top of Italian football in 1914, but the First World War got in the way of playing the national final. They were awarded the title anyway in 1919 for the 1914 season. The War took a heavy toll on the club, five players and founder Spensley all died seeing action in the war. Genoa would win two more titles, bringing their total up to 10 with back to back titles in 1922-23 and 1923-24. Their last major trophy of any kind came when they won the Italian Cup in 1937. For the most part of the next many years they settled into a mid-table or a lower division club, until 1991-92 when they ran to the semifinals of the UEFA Cup; in the quarters they beat Liverpool twice. Once was at Anfield becoming the first Italian club to beat the Mercyside club at Anfield.
The club recently has transferred in the son of Atletico Madrid’s manager (Diego
Simeone), his son Gio Simeone, has been described as one of the top young Argentinean strikers in South America. So next time when you think of Serie A, think of the early years when Genoa was the top of the sport.