Soccer Magazine

US Cremonese 0 Fiorentina 2

By Stuartnoel @theballisround

Sunday 12th March 2023 3pm – Serie A – Stadio Giovanni Zini, Cremona

Back in 1992/93 the Premier League launched, but with a couple of notable absentees. OK, so I may be slightly biased to say one was West Ham United, but also missing was Newcastle United, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City. So instead of the razzmatazz of the bright shiny new age of football, the League One (as was the second tier back then) sides played in the reformed Anglo-Italian cup as compensation.

The competition was based on both the English and Italian sides playing their own mini groups in the first round, before they were paired together in the second phase. West Ham became the last English side to progress based on their fate being decided on the toss of a coin, having finished in their group with an identical record to Bristol Rovers. In the second stage they were drawn in a group with Pisa, Reggiana, Cosenza and Cremonese. The games weren’t without their challenges. The crowds were really poor – just 7,000 saw the Hammers take on Pisa, the away game in Cosenza saw just 800 fans, whilst the trip to eventual winners of the tournament, Cremonese, saw 1,600 spectators.

That was my one and only point of reference with US Cremonese before this season. At the time I had wanted to travel to Italy to see the game but the club trip was exorbitant – if only there was some inside information about how to travel overseas to watch football back then! They had last been in Serie A in 1996, dropping down as far as the fourth tier at the turn of the century. But in May 2022 they returned to Serie A, finishing as runners-up in Serie B.

It is fair to say that the return may be short-lived. It has taken them 24 games to get their first victory, a 2-1 win over Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma although it is a surprise that they are still only 6 points from safety despite only having 12 points. So now was the perfect time to take in a trip to see I Grigiorossi (The Gray and Reds) before they return from where they came.

Task number one was to find Cremonese on the map. Well, you can’t. They hail from the city of Cremona, Lombardy, not to be confused with the town of Crema, Lombardy, just a twenty minute drive up the road. Task number two – find a suitable game to attend – with a relatively small capacity stadium (20,600), and an easily accessible location from the major cities in the north of Italy (Milan, Turin, Bologna, Florence), tickets for some games would be at a premium, as well as one that could be reached without an overnight stay. Task number three…book it!

US Cremonese 0 Fiorentina 2
US Cremonese 0 Fiorentina 2
US Cremonese 0 Fiorentina 2
US Cremonese 0 Fiorentina 2
US Cremonese 0 Fiorentina 2
US Cremonese 0 Fiorentina 2
US Cremonese 0 Fiorentina 2
US Cremonese 0 Fiorentina 2

For some reason the concept of doing a day trip to Italy to watch football seemed strange to many. The flight times and costs were perfect, and whilst we opted to hire a car, we could have done the trip by train. Every weekend there’s opportunities for day trips to Italy, Germany, Spain and even further afield if you put the research effort in.

Everything was going to plan. Tickets had been nabbed as soon as they went on sale, Danny had managed to get from Gatwick Train Station to the gate in less than 15 minutes, the flight landed 30 mins early due to strong tail winds over the Alps, the sun was shining and our hire car was ready and waiting for us.

We headed north to start, trying to find a magic door at Como 1907’s stadium, Stadio Giuseppe Sinigaglia. Located on the shores of Lake Como, there are few more scenic locations to watch football in Europe. Alas, there was no way in. Despite rattling a few doors, alerting the security guards to our presence, there was no way in. One to return to on match day, and definitely one that can be done on a day trip to/from Milan Malpensa.

So we headed south then east(ish), eating up the relatively empty Italian motorways. Just outside Piacenza we pulled into some services for some food. None of your greasy burgers here. A double espresso and a toasted mortadella and mozzarella focaccia was the order of the day. We got back in the car with our lunch and pulled back onto the road.

No more than 50 yards down the road the bottom half of my lunch collapsed and fell on the floor. I pulled over onto the hard shoulder and tried to recover as much as possible. Dan tapped me on the shoulder and I looked up to see the first police car in our 90 minute drive so far pulling in, with its lights on in front of us. It’s illegal to stop on the hard shoulder on Italian motorways unless it is an emergency. A dusty sandwich isn’t going to be included in that bracket.

Now was the time for quick thinking as the police car door started to open. I waved, gave a thumbs up and started to indicate to go back on the road. Panic over, they saw my intentions and sped off. Had they asked us to stop we quickly came up with a plan. There was a wasp in the car, I am allergic to them and thus we pulled over to get rid of it rather than me slumping over the wheel in anaphylaxis. One for the memory bank for next time.

Cremona is the home of the violin. and the birthplace of Antonio Stradivari (add a “ous” to the end to work out what he gave his name to). We chuckled at signs for the Museum of Violins but it is a serious business in these parts, or at least that is what it seemed with so many police at the toll booths and on major roundabouts. That or they were waiting for the few thousand Il Viola fans who were making the 3 hour journey up from Tuscany.

Stadio Giovanni Zini is located near the main train station to the north of the historic center of Cremona. We were early enough to get a decent parking spot little more than a 10 minute walk away. There was certainly a different feel to Cremonese than other Serie A grounds – whether than was from the apparent older age of the fans making their way into the ground, or the lack of any real fan engagement outside – one pop up stand and one food outlet, poor in comparison to what you see at Torino, Monza or Bologna.

We made our way in, having a decent view of the action from the corner of the Distinti. The Fiorentina fans had indeed come in their numbers and had the whole of the open air Curva Nord, filling it with their purple-ness. Next to us, in the Curva Sud was Le Tigri, the tigers of Cremonese, the hardcore fans who welcomed the teams onto the pitch with a few flares, flags, scarves and their own version of Take Me Home, Country Roads. They still had belief, they still had hope.

The away side had a chance in the first 90 seconds but Dessers headed over, and that was the tone for the opening half hour minutes: Fiorentina would make a mistake at the back and Cremonese would hurl numbers forward but never quite get it right, despite the away side being there for the taking. It was entertaining stuff alright and just before the 30 minute mark we got the first goal. A sweeping move from the edge of their own box eventually saw the ball fall favourably to Ikoné fifteen yards out and he smashed it home.

The second half was less than five minutes old when Fiorentina doubled their lead. A neat interchange of passing saw Mandragora through on goal and he squared the ball for Cabral to tap home. Game over. Whilst Cremonese tried to find a way through, that final ball was always just not there. The frustration of their whole season could be seen in the final ten minutes of so near, yet so far passages of play and it was with quiet resignation that the home fans streamed out into the sunshine at the full-time whistle as “Just Can’t Get Enough” optimistically blared out over the PA.

We had an hour to kill post match so went into the historic centre, which like so many hidden gems in Italy, was amazing. The musical history was everywhere and after a Caffe Violini and a violin-shaped pastry, we headed back to the car and our return flight back home. A long, but very rewarding and enjoyable day.

There’s a number of clubs you can easily do on a day trip from London assuming the kick-off times align. Milan, Turin, Bologna, Napoli, Salerna, Rome, Bergamo (Atalanta), Genoa and Verona to name but a few. Tickets for most games are easy to arrange – you just need a keep an eye out for when they go on sale and on what ticketing website.

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