Guest-blogger Rick Elliott and the travelling Mantova army receive the warmest of welcomes…
As Mantova’s promotion push starts to gain momentum, it remains to be seen how well the clubs they visit can cope with a large travelling contingent descending upon their small stadiums. More and more supporters are jumping on the Mantova bandwagon. Away journeys are shorter in this second half of the season with most trips no more than a 90 minute drive. Ticket restrictions have yet to cause any problems and everyone who has wanted to see the away games has been able to do so. But in lower league football, with its small clubs and municipalities, local authorities are notoriously unwelcoming to a sizeable travelling support. They are more hassle than it’s worth.
However, clubs may well want to take a leaf out of the Lentigione and Sorbolo Mezzani municipality handbook on how to host and welcome the biancorossi for the remaining games. Sunday’s game only had an attendance of around 650 but approximately 500 of them were Mantovani – including an adopted Englishman. Wrapped up warm on a cold afternoon; red scarves, waving flags and boisterous wailing voices crowded the small 800-capacity Camp Nov ground in Sorbolo. The arrival was expected and the local authorities openly welcomed the occasion.
In the week building up to the match, details started to emerge of the warm welcome being planned by the local council of Sorbolo Mezzani. There was to be a local food festival organised with a special lunch and discount price for away supporters, a local menu, and some entertainment, all in a covered heated tent.
The opposition club, Lentigione, released written details and maps of how to reach the ground with several parking options nearby. Two ticket booths were to be set up to avoid long queues and turnstiles would be open from 12.30 for a 14.30 kick off. On arrival, signs of tifosi ospiti (away fans) guided the path, whilst plastic barriers and cordoned off roads showed the detail this small town near Parma had thought of.
The home club also gave up the Main Tribuna on the near side of the pitch and placed themselves in the away section behind the goals. Away supporters took over the home stand crammed in like sardines. The gesture was a kind one by the home club. They could easily have given Mantova the official away section with 200 tickets or so and avoided the big logistical operation outside and around the ground. Many Mantova supporters would have missed the game if that had happened.
It was a sure sign of Mantova’s stature and respect in this division. Mantova’s followers have behaved immaculately all season and this hospitable reception was all that our good reputation deserves. The only downside being no alcohol on sale inside the ground; however, the red Lambrusco wine, pork menu and grappa at lunch was more than enough to get the belly firing and the body tingling.
It isn’t easy being an away fan in Italy. Long distances and the associated financial burden are an unavoidable reality in a country as big as Italy. But right wing groups, aggressive thug stereotypes and general public contempt towards fans continue to portray us in a bad light. The well behaved fans must suffer the consequences of the minority and accept the consequences. It felt good to be treated with consideration and respect. Thanks must go to both football clubs, supporter groups and local authorities; it was a joint effort.
As is becoming the case in many small provincial towns in Italy, local councils are starting to join forces and merge together to create larger municipalities. The hope is that by being united together resources, finance, collaborations and working partnerships can be greater in number, more fruitful and more streamlined. Sorbolo and Mezzani did just that recently to become resident to around 13,000 people.
They have recently invested heavily in sport, including a modern €1.3 million facility that has been designated by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) as the regional football HQ for the territory. It has the latest artifical 4G pitch installed and is currently being shared by three football clubs: Lentigione (Serie D), AC Sorbolo (Promozione 6th level) and Biancazzura (Prima Categoria 7th tier).
This week’s opponents Lentigione are slowly becoming a solid, stable club in Serie D. This will be their fifth consecutive season at this level and they are pushing hard for a play-off place. They are run by a notable local family with numerous business and sporting interests; the Amadei. They own IMMERGAS, a local company competing globally in the boiler and energy appliance market. Father Romano is the patron of Reggio Audace (Serie C) from Reggio-Emilia and son Alfredo of Lentigione. They also know the mayor well and this has contributed to them moving away from their previous home ground in Lentigione.
The Stadio Levantini in Lentigione was constructed 25 years ago; whilst it was paid for by private contributions and sponsors associated with the club it sat on land owned by the local Berscello council. Up until 2017, rent had never been paid to the Brescello council after an agreement at the time of construction. This rent – alongside overheads and maintenance costs – was deemed too high for Lentigione’s owners at €60,000 for the year. This caused a souring of relations between the club and the council, and ultimately led Lentigione to their new home at the ‘Immergas Green Arena’.
The match finished 2-2, the highlight being a lovely floated free kick that Scotto delicately volleyed home for Mantova’s second. But the game was a balanced affair and the home side were well worthy of a point.
Mantova’s continuing defensive frailties have not improved since ex-Serie A defender Paolo Dellafiore arrived. An inability to hold onto a lead is a worrying trend; twice they were ahead, only to be pegged back. At the other end of the field, the strikers are missing good chances and must share some of the responsibility.
Mantova are now looking nervously over their shoulder as the lead from second placed Fiorenzuola is now down to 5 points. More dropped points in the following weeks may just start to cause some panic for fans and staff alike. The team should be dominating the league. But it isn’t quite hitting the heights of those expectations yet.
Teams: Lentigione 2-2 Mantova 1911
League: Serie D Girone D Matchday 20
Time & Date: 19th January 2020, 14:30
Attendance: 650 (500 away)
Stadium Info: Immergas Green Arena, (Camp Nòv), Via 4 Novembre 35, Sorbolo (PR)
Travel Info: Regional train line Parma-Suzzara, Stop: Sorbolo, 10 minute walk to ground.
- Parma is only 15km away
- Nearby, the small town of Brescellois the setting to one of Italy’s most famous film series ‘Don Camillo & Peppone’. There is a museum dedicated to the film as well as the town itself where the film was shot.
Next Stop: Sasso Marconi (BO)
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, catch up on the Rick’s other Serie D travels here.