Once upon a time in Viareggio (Cup)

Once upon a time there was the carnival trophy. Then a lot changed, too much, maybe everything. First the name, then the locations and, for some time now, the development time. Since 2009 it has become Viareggio Cup: World Football Tournament. The final has always been held at the Stadio dei Pini, not since 2018: this year, for example, it is the turn of the “Ferracci” of Torre del Lago, played during the Carnival period, since the Burlamacco represented it in the cup would require it : Now we get on the field, long after the confetti has dried up, to look for a reasonable hole in the chaos of the international calendar.

But the use of the initial imperfect It’s not just a matter of nostalgia.

Perhaps the most significant photo – of what once was and no longer is – is of the city stadium. It is named after Torquato Bresciani, president of the Centro Giovani Calciatori and founder of the tournament. The last match was played there on April 29, 2018, the Viareggio-Seravezza derby, Serie D championship. Five years of abandonment and neglect: we are now expecting a Restructuring of almost ten million euroswhich was awarded the contract a few weeks ago.

“Viareggio” cannot be the same without the Stadio dei Pini, even if at least this year it will be played in two other nearby stadiums in the city (the “Martini” and the “Marco Polo”): the most glorious images will always remain those with the background of the open staircase and the profile of the pine forest to close the shot above. The years of the pandemic certainly didn’t help: 2020 and 2021 were not played, 22ers competed in the U18 formations instead of the usual Primavera, which is now being resumed.

The demonstration tries to reclaim space and meaning. The number of participants is 32, compared to 24 a year ago (but there used to be 48). But the authentic questions may always remain more numerous than the possible answers. Meanwhile, the three teams who have won the most titles in history are absent: Juventus (9 times, the last in 2016), Milan (9 times, the last 14), who are now in the semifinals. Youth League final, Inter (8 times, last ’18).

The Romans will be missingabsent for almost a decade (the Giallorossi have three titles: the last time as a winner was Roberto Muzzi centre-forward in the starting XI). Naples will be missed. League leaders Lecce will be absent. Instead, there is Fiorentina (also 8 titles), which has been pursuing this success since 1992: the protagonists of that time are now magnificently over fifty.

The team to beat will be Sassuolo who triumphed on penalties against Nigerian club Alex Transfiguration last year.

There will be 17 Italian and 15 foreign formations to fight from March 20th to April 3rd. We begin with Sassuolo-Rukh, an oath read by Jack Bonaventura, who competed twice with Atalanta.

But the names of the scream are really few: only six Serie A clubs (Fiorentina, Turin, Sampdoria, Bologna, Sassuolo, Empoli). With all due respect to Imolese, Monterosi, Pontedera, San Donato Tavarnelle (rescued at the last moment due to the Ghanaian Berekum Freedom Fighters lump sum) and Grosseto (in the very last dive after the surrender of the other Ghanaian Nkoranza Warriors and the subsequent rejection by the Ism Academy of Perugia by the Technical Disciplinary Commission: a terrible mess in extremis).

Even foreigners are far from the splendor of Dukla Prague of yesteryear (6 wins between 1964 and 1980) and if anything, they tell us a vaguely ecumenical version: an Australian, a Greek, a Brazilian (not Palmeiras or Flamengo: Sport Recife), an Argentine (not Boca or River: the Don Torcuato) , three Americans, one Hungarian, one Spaniard (neither Real nor Barça: the Jóvenes Promesas), three Nigerians, one Sierra Leonean, one Senegalese and one Ukrainian (a tournament that has already started, flat rate also for the Nigerians of Kakawa: all their place, a 0 km solution incorporating Seravezza).

With all good will, the years in which Mario Balotelli (2008) or Ciro Immobile (2010, with 14 goals in 13 games still the top overall scorer today) conquered the top scorer table seem very far away. It doesn’t matter when the attacking pairs were called Mazzola-Boninsegna (1962) or Vialli-Mancini (1985), or whether you could choose between the hopeful Dino Zoff from Udinese or the younger Sepp Maier from Bavaria (1961).

The Viareggio tournament, that’s easy to understand, was history. With a capital S indeed. 73 editions, like no other youth cup in the world. Born in 1949 as an evolution of a local bar tournament, Milan won the first edition out of ten entrants, three of whom were foreigners (5-1 in the final against Lazio). Already in 1954, Rai broadcast the second half of the Juventus final. Lanerossi Vicenza, commentary by Niccolò Carosio (rights to Rai again this year, although only the opening match, semi-finals and final will be broadcast).

Viareggio was also a geopolitical needle: It opened up in the East for a long time, it welcomed China in forbidden years, it has long had a strong focus on Africa (the aim of this edition was to have one African in each group, ie a quarter of the participants). It was also a nationally popular event: the chronicles of bygone times even report twenty thousand spectators for young Chiarugi’s victory of Fiorentina over the Prague Dukla.

Luckily all is not lost. At the last World Cup in Qatar, more than twenty players passed Viareggiofrom Kjaer to Vlahovic, from De Ketelaere to Papu Gomez.

Without getting lost in “nostalgia for the rich” (quoted by Guccini), one may ask oneself whether the Viareggio tournament is worthwhile fundamentally reform (but how?) to return to the glories of the past or, more simply, in the age of global football, a decade of youth leagues and match analysts already in football school challenges, there is no longer any viable space for a competition of this kind, for the dream , maybe first of all to see ourselves playing tomorrow’s champion, to discover the potential champion in us.

Those who were Gabriel Batistuta with Deportivo Italiano in 1989, Robert Prosineski, who scored the opening goal of the tournament against Inter in 1987 with Dinamo Zagreb, or Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger with Bayern in 2002, Edilson Cavani with the Danube in 2006, Romelu Lukaku with Anderlecht in Year 2009. If you look at the awards for the best players of the tournament, since then only Immobile, Cristante and Spinazzola and partly Bonazzoli have reached a high level. Guido Marilungo was the “golden boy” of 2009. Today he plays for Recanatese in Serie C: when he switched from Viareggio, he was considered one of the 100 best players in Europe.

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