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Wednesday, June 9, 2004
Scudetto Bolognese

Roberto Gotta

Count how many different clubs have won a Scudetto since, say, the 1962-63 season. The answer is 11.

Fifteen titles went to Juventus, nine to Milan, five to Inter, a couple apiece to Napoli, Roma and Lazio, one to Sampdoria, Verona, Bologna, Fiorentina and Cagliari.

An analysis like this could signal the status of the Serie A as the most balanced league in Europe, except three of those teams won it in the 1960s, Napoli owed it only to the brilliance of Maradona twice between 1987 and 1990 and Verona got their extraordinary success in 1985.

Those memorable triumphs apart, the 'Big Three' of Juventus, Milan and Inter have gobbled up the majority of Scudettos, and the last true underdog to outlast everybody else was Sampdoria in 1991, although it can hardly be said that team, led by Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli and coached by the funny-speaking Vujadin Boskov, came out of nothing, as they'd won the Cup Winners' Cup only twelve months earlier.

No supporter of medium-sized clubs can now reasonably expect his side to win another Scudetto in his lifetime, with the structure of Italian football geared towards the widening of the gap between the haves and the have-nots, who are now getting a smaller share of TV rights than ever before.

The outraged Bologna fans staged street protests - that age-old Italian tactic which requires little effort and not a whole lot of sense.

So it was especially significant on Monday, June 7, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the last Scudetto Bologna has won and, probably, will ever win.

Now a typical middle-of-the-pack side, whose main aim to is gather enough points to avoid relegation before going on the customary late season freefall, Bologna are now turning to the past to find a crumb of comfort and pride.

The 1963-64 season which brought the last title to the Emilian town was a remarkable affair which mixed intrigue, brilliant play, an overturned three-point penalty and a Scudetto playoff for, so far, the last time in Serie A history.

Bologna had been built around a core of players from the Northeast, among them Furlanis, Janich, Tumburus, Pascutti and captain Pavinato, with the additions of West Germany international Helmut Haller and Danish star striker Harald Nielsen. Local boy Giacomo Bulgarelli was the midfield schemer and Marino Perani a consistent contributor on the right flank.

Coaching and teaching them was Fulvio Bernardini, who later went on to manage Italy for three years before making way to his one-time joint manager, Enzo Bearzot.

Bologna were owned by flamboyant Renato Dall'Ara, a self-made, rough-edged man who was known to phone newsrooms of local newspapers if they had gone too long without criticising him and frequently clashed with his university-educated coach for whatever reason would come up each time they met.

But this unlikely partnership gave birth to a side which stormed through the first part of the 1963-64 with just one defeat from the opening 27 matches, a 0-2 midweek reversal at Sampdoria, and at one time - and remember, those were the years when the 'catenaccio' tendency, the defence-first approach, were gaining more and more prominence - had ten consecutive wins between November 24 and February 2.

But it was the latest in this winning string of matches that would spark a controversy which is still talked about forty years on.

On March 4, after a brilliant 2-1 result against Milan at the San Siro, which had brought them two points ahead of Inter, Bologna found themselves tangled in a doping scandal when it was revealed that five of their players had tested positive for amphetamines after that February 2 4-1 win against Torino, a game which the Rossoblu had put away in the second half after a lacklustre performance in the opening stanza.

The outraged Bologna fans staged street protests - that age-old Italian tactic which requires little effort and not a whole lot of sense - and the town mayor added his two cents in denouncing what was perceived by many as an attempt by the football authorities to kick Bologna back to their status as also-rans and boost mighty Inter's chances of retaining the Scudetto, while newspapers in Milano and Bologna went wild with mutual accusations.

Because of the still-standing rule prohibiting clubs resorting to 'regular' courts to rule on football matters, three ordinary citizens, who just happened to be lawyers but in no way related to Bologna, started a lawsuit against the 'unknown individuals who had tampered with the vials stored at the football association's testing rooms'.

When the Police got access to those rooms, they found traces of amphetamines in the vials but also discovered that the storing conditions were very poor, seals were broken and a cabinet full of chemical substances, among them amphetamines, was sitting just a few yards away.

It is in some ways sad that people are still talking about us, because it means Bologna have done nothing since, and I am afraid I cannot see them, or many other teams of similar size, winning things in the near future.
Marino Perani

A new test was ordered, and the accused players were found to be completely clean.

When Inter visited the then-Stadio Comunale, now Stadio Dall'Ara, on March 29, there were fears of violence among fans as spirits were running extremely high against the Nerazzurri, but the feared 'Bloody Easter' never materialized and the visitors won 2-1.

The Italian Football Association handed Bologna their one-point penalty and their win over Torino back in early May, and the Rossoblu entered the last month of the season with a chip on their shoulder after what was perceived as an orchestrated campaign by the 'Northern club-ruled League' against them, although why would the League do that is not clear.

By beating Lazio on a Haller penalty in the 34th and last match, Bologna ended on level points with Inter so for the first time in the history of modern Italian football a Scudetto playoff was required.

Bologna and Inter squared off on June 7 in Rome, only ten days after the Nerazzurri had lifted the European Cup in Wien with a dominating 3-1 win over Real Madrid.

Most neutral fans in the Capital sided with Bologna, as Inter was seen as the 'establishment' team backed by wealthy and influential owner Angelo Moratti (the father of current owner Massimo); adding to this, Bologna were everybody's sentimental favourites as Dall'Ara had died only four days before in the league offices while arguing with Moratti and FA president Perlasca.

Bologna could not lose and they did not. Bernardini surprised Herrera by replacing the suspended Pascutti (eight goals in the campaign) with a defender, Capra. After an uneventful first half the Rossoblu looked fresher in the Roma heat and scored first when a Fogli free kick was deflected by Inter's Facchetti past his own keeper and added a second when Nielsen drove the ball past Sarti with his left foot for his 22nd goal of the campaign.

It was the only major success of the team that, as Bernardini had memorably said some time earlier, played 'as they only do in Heaven'.

As winger Marino Perani, now a respected pundit in the local media, said the other day, 'It is in some ways sad that people are still talking about us, because it means Bologna have done nothing since, and I am afraid I cannot see them, or many other teams of similar size, winning things in the near future'.

So, that's what's left for fans outside the big five of Juve, Milan, Inter (don't tell their fans though, who've been waiting 15 years for a Scudetto now), Roma and Lazio: wait for some anniversary and bask in the memories of the past.

In some cases at least it's a glorious one, as a whole generation of young Bologna fans, who wouldn't dream now of winning a Scudetto, are discovering now thanks to the official ceremonies, books, DVDs and newspapers' special section which has been produced and that, for once, look more like a genuine effort to relive the past than an attempt to exploit it.

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