Walking through the streets of Foggia if you ask “What is Foggia and Foggia for you?” one hears the reply “Foggia is the city where I was born, I was a teenager, I fell in love; it is the city where I chose to stay and where I tried to build something lasting. Foggia is the story of my, my friends, my loved ones. It is a completely casual sentimental place. Foggia football is the unique identity of this city “ (Francesco) or “Foggia is an ancestral heritage, it’s my father, my uncles, my cousins, it’s Sunday around the radio, and then on the steps for the first time without ever stopping. It is a need for belonging, a popular passion for football, for community ceremonies. It is an exercise of generous self-denial, always giving without ever certainty of being reciprocated, it is the most serious and important of irrational feelings. It was a ritual of initiation into adulthood that never comes, it is the spaceship that travels at the speed of light and allows us to preserve the child in us” (Lello)
For me, however, Foggia is a Madeleine de Proust, the evocation of a past made up of rituals, smells, emotions, discoveries and loves.
It is a deeply rooted feeling of identity. There is an attachment to the earth, to the wind that whips the huge expanse of cultivated fields, to the sun, to the smells of the tables set to celebrate the Sunday rite which was not only composed of steaming dishes but, above all, from that liturgy called: Football.
I found a bond so intense, strong and not caring for what happens outside one’s own emotional boundaries, only in Bilbao.
“Muchos años despues, frente al pelotòn de fusilamiento, el coronel Aureliano Buendía había de recordar aquella tarde remote en que su padre lo llevò a conocer el hielo” (Many years later, in front of the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia si remembered that afternoon when his father took him to know the sky – tda).
The Argentine writer Ariel Dorfman commented on one of the famous novels (perhaps the most famous) by G. G. Marquez stating that, in it: “the individual is devoured by history and history is in turn devoured by myth”.
The individual was a little boy who looked out at Fùtbol. The history of Foggia Calcio. The myth of the early 90s Foggia Calcio team.
As was the case in the province, every boy and girl often follows the parent’s football allegiance who is passionate about Gioco (in the famous ultras vulgata it is “from father to son”).
But the road seemed marked differently, perhaps in an obstinate and opposite direction.
When you live in the provinces, especially in the south, most of the future aficionados tend to approach football dragged along by victories in the national and other fields and by the bombastic names.
In Italy, therefore, attention was mainly focused on the so-called “Crawls”, that is Inter, Juve and Milan. Of course, there was also Maradona’s Napoli, but the rivalry and the lack of charm and blazon at that time meant that Diego, not the team was the focus of attention.
As it was for Colonel Buendia, for the boy, especially in these days, the memory that permeates him is his uncle’s who brought him in the presence of what will be his most beautiful demon: football.
The controra of Sunday. One of the many family meals (more affective than sanguine and therefore counted on average in 15-20 people) between meat sauces, fulfillment of religious duties, reports of the week just passed and widespread irony. But there was a new element ready to clear the emotional field forever: the upcoming football match.
Once, particularly sated, I got out of the house and in the car, following a specific ritual round of collection of various humanity, I left the inhabited center to take the state road and get near the stadium.
Having barely found the parking lot, which with hindsight cannot be delayed to define creative, the road that led to the stadium seemed populated by highly refined connoisseurs of the Game focused on discussing tactical subtleties without, however, making use of vowels.
The party had begun.
The coveted transition to the top flight was taking place after several years.
As any true fan of the club knows, the football history of Foggia Calcio is not the telltale of amazing successes and trophies raised to the sky, but has often been characterized mostly by, rapid, promotions and relegations between Serie A and B but, mostly, between B and C.
Something, however, foreshadowed the arrival of a new spring.
A couple of years earlier, the then Patron Casillo hired a coach, who had an already brief experience in Foggia, who until then, despite having beaten 2-1 Real Madrid with his Parma, had not shone.
He was a silent Bohemian who together with DS Peppino Pavone, a true deus ex machina, set up a team that, to this day, is in the collective imagination due to its dynamism, its ability to occupy and control space, its grueling verticality, the obsessive offside, the systematic expulsions, the speed of execution and the constant search for goals at any cost.
Bill Shankly, Liverpool manager from 59 to 74, used to say that football is a question of fundamentals: control the ball and from the start, control and pass, control and pass.
And if everything is done quickly and technically, the effect will be hypnotic in the eyes of the enthusiast but, above all, of the neophyte.
Is so it will be for that boy.
On that May day, in fact, the Pino Zaccheria was overflowing with people. That river of people he said a little above him, aroused great emotions for those who, shortly before, were immersed in the lunch lockdown of a small town. The entrance to the steps.
The choirs, the smoke bombs, the frightening tremors of the structures at each goal, the hugs, the speed of action of the 11 on the field, the joyful exit, the word “Serie A” which, up to that moment, had not been still approached to Foggia’s reality out of pure and simple superstition.
But that year will, in fact, be Serie A, the stage to see characters arrive in Foggia that until then you only had the opportunity to paste on an album or watch on television.
“Siguió expuesto al sol ya la lluvia, como si las sogas fueran innecesarias, porque un dominion superior to cualquier atadura visible lo maintía amarrado to the trunk of the castaño” (He continued to be exposed to the sun and rain, as if the ropes were unnecessary , because a force superior to any visible link held him tight to the chestnut trunk – tda).
That superior dominion that this time placed the boy embraced to his seat under any weather in the following seasons was the Fùtbol. It was the Foggia. They were 22 impudent who challenged the noblesse oblige of Italian football.
But not only him and the Uncle, even the Grandfather who, game after game, was enthusiastic, even though he had never had anything to do with the Game.
In front of everyone that silent figure who, in many ways, will prove questionable but who, at the time, gave voice, albeit grated by the many cigarettes, to many, perhaps thanks also to the packaging of Halls that he received before each home game.
That Bohemian who trained a Serie A team in the dusty pitch of the church adjacent to the stadium every day with his now well-known methods, tied the Game to the earth, an essential element of Foggia and its province.
The fact that the 22 Satanelli (little devils) were complete strangers caught in who knows what minor series opened the imagination of any kid of the time. Indeed, it seemed to mean that even the most prestigious stage could be accessible to everyone. Even to the boy who fell in love with the Game.
Like Macondo, Foggia seemed to become a non-place.
Over time, two Russians, a Romanian, a Dutchman, an Argentine arrived.
In a land that has always been characterized by the strong roots of socialism before and after communism (both of agrarian origin), according to the song, the first two seemed to have been sent directly by the CPSU through the intercession of the then secretary Gorbačëv. Although, as mentioned above, they were another brilliant intuition of Peppino Pavone.
The level of conflict brought by the team to Serie A rose exponentially. Salvation seemed to be tight.
After, in fact, having maintained the category for three consecutive years, enthusiasm seemed not so well contained.
On the streets the older ones seemed to repeat, but perhaps more to repeat themselves, due to the many past vicissitudes, that “En Macondo no ha pasado nada, ni está pasando ni pasará nunca. Este es un pueblo feliz “(In Macondo nothing is happening, nothing will happen. It’s just a happy country – t.d.a.).
That team involved the boy to the point that it didn’t matter if he took home a point after being in the lead by 3 goals (Atalanta – Foggia), because the next time it could happen that despite being down by 2 at the end of the game he would have won by 3. (Foggia-Parma).
This involvement not only enveloped the boy, but also the grandfather, the uncle, the great uncle and the whole city who were literally crossed by an uncontrolled euphoria.
In the city came Real Madrid and alongside the National Football Team.
Not even the waltz of the incoming players, which we witnessed every summer, affected this joy.
Those names, read in local and non-local newspapers, seemed to be the result of a draw made from the telephone directory but then, even after mid-season, they entered by right on all the notebooks of Italian and non-Italian DS.
Adolescence was coming, as well as the climax of that epic.
Art critic and Liverpool fan Hal Foster said: “football is the stage where the sometimes obscure machinations of fate take place.”
And so it was, because at the end of that season, which culminated in the failure to access the Uefa Cup due to fate, or rather a senseless exit from goalkeeper Bacchin, the music stopped.
The boy, who became a lover of Fùtbol thanks to his intoxicating symphony, had already embarked on his football life some time ago.
William James in “On a certain blindness in human beings” states: “I am discouraged by the thought of the boy or girl, man or woman, who have never been caught by the spell of this mysterious sensory life, in all its irrationality, if we want to call it that, but also in all its fullness and its joy. The feasts of life represent an essential part of it, because they are, or at least should be, pervaded by this spell of magical unconsciousness”.
This magical collective unconsciousness, which was also a parenthesis of family life, will remain forever engraved in the emotional memory.
Muchos años después, en efecto, frente al cumplimiento de los cine años, el hombre había de recordar aquella tarde remote en que su tio y su abuelo di lui lo llevaron a conocer el Juego (I hope G. G. Màrquez will forgive me).