Guest-blogger Rick Elliott travels to San Mauro Pascoli – a town of poetry and footwear – for Mantova 1911’s first away match of the season…
Let the away games begin! After ending the last campaign so dramatically, a new squad has been assembled with optimism and energy. The coming year will be tough and there will be many encounters against fierce opposition. Supporters will naturally be sceptical after the disappointment of last term and will need to be convinced quickly to continue their fidelity. But everyone is hoping for one thing; success. No, this isn’t a commentary on last week’s formation of yet another Italian government, but the equally precarious business of Mantova’s quest for promotion!
And it’s a similar story across Serie D; squads ripped up, revamped and academy youth is given its chance elsewhere. You would think that after last year’s record-breaking season that a few tweaks to the machine, a quick service and Mantova would continue where they left off. But their Sporting Director, Emanuele Righi, had other ideas. Over the summer, he has changed the majority of the squad and replaced the experienced and loved Massimo Morgia with the young and up-and-coming, Mr Brando. Not Marlon, but Lucio. This newly assembled squad has a spine of experience with plenty of young talent out wide, including a return to the area of local striker, Filippo Guccione. Don’t you just love Italian names?
The squad looks good on paper and, as one of the clear favourites to win the title, Mantova showed their credentials on their home debut last week convincingly winning 5-1 against Calvina (from Calvisano near Brescia). Guccione bagged a couple. The supporters are ready as well. A record number of season tickets have been sold for Mantova in Serie D with 1,603 the official figure and sales still ongoing this week.
The first away day is always a special one after a long and agonising summer wait. Serie D were the last fixtures to be announced, only three weeks before the season started. Drawn into the D division of Serie D (Serie D is divided into nine different regional divisions covering all of Italy from North to South), those three weeks were easily filled with the intrigue of researching our upcoming opponents. This is a new division for Mantova so the teams and places were more than a little unfamiliar. First opponent, case in point: Sammaurese. Who are they? Exactly.
Sammaurese are an established Serie D club; this will be their fifth consecutive season at this level, yet they are expected to struggle after losing some key players in the summer. They lived up to those expectations by losing their opening game last week 3-2 in the dying seconds after being two up at half-time. San Mauro Pascoli is their home; it is located between Cesena and Rimini in the eastern part of the Emilia-Romagna region, and is a town built by shoes. After the war, the town quickly established itself as an important Italian shoe-making centre. To this day, there are still over 120 production companies mainly exporting worldwide.
This looked like the perfect start for Mantova’s travels: an easy, winnable game, whilst also getting one of the longest trips (210km) out of the way on a warm afternoon. Plus the Adriatic Riviera was only ten minutes away. A walk on the beach, a Piadina for lunch (Romagna’s famous snack speciality, just as a meat & potato pie is in Burnley or a bratwurst in Germany) and a few beers was the pre-match thought. The plan was set.
It rained for most of the day, of course. And we were on an open terrace, of course. But that wasn’t going to spoil the day. A resounding win for Mantova with another five-goal hammering and another brace for Guccioni gave the rather small, but jovial travelling support plenty to sing about. The game was effectively over just after half-time when two quick goals made it 4-0. A flurry of substitutions changed the flow of the match and the young home side showed a bit of spirit afterwards, but it was too little too late. Some awful defending by the home side and the attacking flair of Mantova highlighted the gap between the two teams.
The final sub was a welcome one; the sun finally made an appearence in the second half as the celebrations started to get into full flow. A quick getaway, a real luxury in Serie D where you can park next to the ground and be away within seconds, gave me the chance to get that sea air on the beach, a quick Piadina and a beer before the drive back.
Sammaurese have a great little stadium too, the 700-capacity ‘Stadio Comunale Macrelli’ with its fiery coloured Main Tribuna and a separate away stand behind the goal. It must also be one of the closest to the Italian motorway system as the far end goal line looked about 10 metres away from standing under it.
Two games in and two victories on the board, scoring 5 goals in each with Guccione looking potent. A few lapses defensively, the concession of 3 goals and some large passages of sloppy play against poor opposition still shows that it is early season. Nothing can be read too seriously into this rather comfortable start to the campaign, but the signs are promising.
Teams: Sammaurese 2-5 Mantova
League: Serie D Girone D (Italian 4th Level) Matchday 2
Time & Date: 8 Sept 2019, 15.00 kick off
Attendance: circa 350 (110 away)
Prices: €12 home, €10 away, €3 beer
Tourist Info: The coastline around Rimini is one of the most famous Italian holiday areas so attractions are dotted along the coast in abundance with amusement parks, Mini-Italy World, the famous Saltmine in Cervia and San Marino a short drive away for some tax-free shopping. Only 5 minutes from the ground is the biggest Shopping Centre in Romagna. In San Mauro Pascoli, honoured is a famous Italian poet Giovanni Pascoli with a museum about his work and life. He was born there and the town changed its name in honour of his importance to Italian poetry.
Travel Info: Take Trenitalia trains from Modena/Bologna in the direction of Rimini, alighting at Savignano sul Rubicone. It’s then a 3km walk, 30 mins to San Mauro Pascoli. Another way is via Bellaria. The car, though, always the best option.
Next stop in 2 weeks: Vigor Carpaneto
The original post in this series following Mantovca 1911 can be found here.