Guest-blogger Rick Elliott travelled to the Lombardian town of Lodi to see whether Mantova could extend their dominant start to the Serie D campaign…
Living and working in Italy has taught me to expect the unexpected, and just go with the flow. It can make life stressful here, but it’s a thrill a minute and certainly never dull.
As I returned home late after work on Wednesday evening, a quick glance on Facebook to see what had happened in the world that day saw me in a panic. The club had earlier announced that there would be advance ticket sales for Sunday’s match. And that the ticket office was only open on Thursday and Friday between 1500 and 1900. Furthermore, there were only 300 available.
I suddenly had nightmare recollections of 750 tickets being sold in 10 minutes against Como last year and not getting one (fortunately, 500 more were assigned). I was also due to be working on Thursday and Friday afternoon and I couldn’t take the risk of waiting until Friday evening. I didn’t want to miss the game. A late night email to change a few work appointments gave me the chance to swiftly pass by the ticket office. Ticket in hand I felt relieved, the weekend was already here. In the end, it was an unnecessary operation with only 150 tickets sold.
Groundhoppers to Serie D should be aware that kick off times, venues, days, ticket restrictions, travel plans, and so on, can all change in an instant and at short notice even days before a match. Therefore, it is recommended to always check official Facebook and social media sites for the latest information in the build up to any game. Be informed as much as possible, research well and have back-up options in the bag.
Yet I was still bemused as to why it was thought necessary for fans to buy tickets in advance for the game. The great-sounding club name of Fanfulla is from the town of Lodi, a 30 minute train ride east of Milan. There was no sign of rivalry or bad blood between the clubs and nothing had been mentioned in the build up. Mantova’s Ultras Curva Te group had earlier in the week announced they were taking the direct 90 minute regional train instead of their usual coach travel. This is what had caused my panic, thinking there might have been more followers than usual.
It’s probably what the police had thought as well. As the train pulled into Lodi on Sunday afternoon, beer was immediately confiscated and Mantova supporters were marched directly from the platform to the terrace, a mere 5 minute walk. And then the same procedure, in reverse, after the game having been held in the ground for 20 minutes. There was no alcohol on sale inside the ground either. This hard line approach felt exaggerated and unjustified with no recent history of trouble from the red and white brigade. Policemen were visibly armed and protected but the travelling army’s patience and respect was impeccable throughout the day and they did not react to any of the antagonism.
The heavy-handed approach is also reflective of the dominant start to the season that has seen Mantova become regarded as ‘the big fish in a small pond’. They are this year’s biggest catch. And when in town they are being duly tested, both on and off the pitch. Teams are upping their game and crowds are bigger and more boisterous than usual. Next to try were Fanfulla.
Nicknamed Guerriero, which translates to The Warrior, they are historically a Serie D club with some years in Serie C and a brief spell in Serie B during the wartime era. Recently, it’s been more of a struggle, yo-yoing between 5th tier Eccellenza and Serie D. On their return to this level last year though, they narrowly lost a promotion play off game to Reggiana and were widely applauded for their attacking approach and promising young talent.
They have started the season reasonably well and remain one of the teams who could push Mantova for promotion. Going into the game, the main statistic was that Fanfulla’s Mister, manager Andrea Ciceri, hadn’t had a 0-0 draw in 3 years as manager, and after last week’s result Mantova had scored 27 goals in 7 matches with no clean sheets. The unthinkable couldn’t happen, could it?
In short, no. After a bright start for both sides, Mantova’s Christian Altinier broke the deadlock after 10 minutes with an exquisite swivel and first time shot from the edge of the six-yard box. A low ball in from the right was sweetly struck by Altinier, whose shot rippled the back of the net to put the league leaders in front.
Fanfulla immediately fought back though and Radaelli Brando, a young left winger and one to watch for the future, should have equalised soon after. But Adorni, Mantova’s sloppy kicking goalkeeper, made amends for his previous displays with a great one-on-one save. He then tipped another shot onto the bar and was kept alert for the rest of the half as both sides asked more questions in an open and physical game. Mantova went into the half time break with their slender one-goal lead preserved.
The second half followed a similar fashion. Fanfulla came so close after a sliding finish at the back post fell just wide. Then, a halfway line defensive clearance nearly flew over Adorni’s head but he scrambled back to palm over. Guccione should have added a second for Mantova but skewed his shot wide from six yards out with his weaker right foot. The minutes counted down and the final onslaught began with Fanfulla throwing in the proverbial kitchen sink, but it was to no avail. The travelling mob roared a sigh of relief and revelled in a first clean sheet of the season and another 3 points.
This was Mantova’s toughest test to date, both on and off the pitch. It was a sign that when not at their best, and put under the cosh, they can also defend and grind out wins. Add in a strike force that can come up trumps when needed and there is a completeness that is becoming increasingly evident in their performances. Credit must also go to Fanfulla’s spirited performance; they gave their all, but now remain without a win in four matches, dropping to mid-table. Mantova remain top, two points ahead of Fiorenzuola.
Back-to-back away games sees us on the road again next week to Crema. Keep that train tootin’, conductor.
Teams: Fanfulla 0-1 Mantova
League: Serie D Girone D Matchday 8
Time & Date: 20th October 2019, 15:00
Attendance: 900 (approx. 150 away)
Stadium Info: Stadio Dossenina, Viale Piave, 24, Lodi, capacity 2,841. Described as an English style stadium, due to the close proximity of the stands to the pitch. It was opened in 1920 as a purpose-built football venue and named after a local farmstead nearby.
- The Duomo – the Cathedral in the main square
- Tempio Civico della Beate Vergine Incoronata – another church highly considered as a masterpiece of Renaissance style and also for its artistic contents inside.
- Piazza della Vittoria and Piazza Broletto behind it
- Every Spring there is a UNICEF football tournament involving international clubs at a junior level, recently under-15 sides.
- Also, right in front of the train station is Bipielle Art, another area for exhibitions and galleries full of interesting art events. For information go here.
- Last week, a lottery record was made in Lodi where an anonymous player won 209 million euros. For Bar Marino that sold the ticket it is the 3rd time in 6 years a player has become a millionaire after buying a ticket from there. You can try your luck at: Bar Caffe’ Marino, Via Cavour, 46, Lodi
Travel Info: Trains direct from Milan or Mantova. 5 minute walk to the stadium, but come out at the back of the station (www.trenitalia.it or www.trenord.it). There is an unlimited regional day travel ticket called ‘Io Viaggio in Lombardia’ (Travel in Lombardy) and costs only €16 for the day.
Next Stop: Crema