Taken from the latest edition of the Box To Box magazine – Issue 3: The Rivalries with illustrations thanks to Matthew Brown
It’s closeness that people live in that makes losing such a humiliating experience following the Derby della Lanterna in Genoa, North-Western Italy. Loss and victory alike will reverberate until the next game comes around. Fans who visit the local fishmonger following a derby defeat will often be called Menaggio, a local term used to satirically mock people.
The derby between Genoa Cricket and Football Club and Unione Calcio Sampdoria takes it’s name from the Torre della Lanterna, the 12th Century landmark and lighthouse for the main port of Genoa, which makes up part of the industrial triangle with Milan and Turin. Whilst the fixture is one of Italy’s youngest derbies in its current guise, Sampdoria’s fluid history makes it arguably one of Italy’s oldest.
The Derby della Lanterna is unlike other rivalries in Italy which are fuelled either by politics, such as the Derby della Capitale between Lazio and Roma, or social divisions like the Derby della Madonnina between AC Milan and Internazionale or the historical weight of the Derby della Mole between Torino and Juventus. The game divides a beautiful city and, incidentally, a stadium, in the simplest way with wonderful passion and colour; a rivalry between the old Griffin of Genoa and the young Sailor of Sampdoria; a rivalry fuelled by Genoa’s long history against Sampdoria’s relatively short one.
Genoa is known as the most English city in Italy, with the city’s flag and coat of arms replicating the St George’s cross. Formed as a cricket club to represent England abroad in 1893, Genoa Football and Cricket Club extended its footballing arm three years later with the help of English doctor, James Richardson Spensley, to become the first professional club in Italy.
The English connection with the city, and in turn the club, doesn’t end there. The first true manager of the club came from the small town of Hazel Grove, near Stockport. William Garbutt, who later become known as the father of Italian football, had moved to Genoa to work on the docks after retiring from playing football to support his family. By 1912 and at the tender age of 29, with no experience, Garbutt was appointed as manager of the Rossoblu of Genoa. Rumour has it he was either recommended by Vittorio Pozzo, who would go on to coach Italy at two World Cups, or Genoa’s youth coach, an Irishman named Thomas Coggins, who pushed for his appointment.
During his 15 year tenure at the club, Genoa became the first Italian team to buy players, including from Andrea Doria, a precursor to Sampdoria, they were also the first side to play outside of Italy, organising a game against Reading thanks to Garbutt’s English connections. On the pitch, he also helped the Rossoblu add a further three national titles, bringing their total up to nine Scudetti. In fact, the championship he won in the 1923/24 season was the last time Genoa lifted the title. Garbutt would go on to post-Genoa adventures including being appointed as the first manager of AS Roma, a short spell at Napoli, and lifting the La Liga title during a stint at Athletic Bilbao. His tenures in Italy, specifically Genoa, led to the birth of the term ‘Il Mister’, which is still used in Italy to describe team bosses to this day.
Whilst the two clubs who would go on to form Sampdoria, Andrea Doria and Sampierdarense, competed in Genoese derbies against Genoa from as early as 1902, neither were much of a challenge for the Italian heavyweights. Then came La Dominante, a team who were supposedly meant to overthrow the Rossoblu as the city’s heavyweights and become a major force in Italian football.
For what started as essentially twenty-two men kicking a pig’s bladder in a field, football can exert a huge amount of influence. The temporary truce between supporters of fierce rivals Zamalek and Al Ahly contributed to the overthrow of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, while the 1969 war between El Salvador and Honduras was sparked by riots before a World Cup qualifier. There is one man who seemed to understand the power of football more than anyone, Benito Mussolini.Whilst his impression on
Whilst his impression on calcio included league restructures and the inclusion of the oriundi into the Italian national side, it was his merging of clubs that affected football in Genoa. With Genoa irritated at being forced to Italianise their name to Genova 1893 Circolo del Calcio, two other Genoese teams, Andrea Doria and Sampierdarense had more reason to be aggrieved, as they were forcefully, and unwillingly, merged at the end of the 1926/27 season by fascist authorities, under the name of La Dominante.
The forced merger by Mussolini’s government was supposed to temper the city’s rivalries with the foundation of one dominant all-encompassing Genoese club and ensure the greatest possible number of cities played in the national championship. Despite the best efforts of the fascist authorities, La Dominante were far from dominant and the merger was short-lived despite a further merger with another local side in 1930 to try and improve performance. Following these poor performances by La Dominante, and later Liguria, as they came to be known following the second merger, the side dissolved and Andrea Doria and Sampier eventually came back into existence and were both competing in Serie A by the end of World War II.
Mussolini’s effect on football in Genoa was not limited to the formation of La Dominante as he was also indirectly involved in exiling the former Genoa manager William Garbutt. Garbutt had returned to Genoa to try and help the Rossoblu out of their post-1920s slump in 1937. Genoa climbed up to third in Serie A in his first season back at the club. However his second spell was cut short as he was exiled back to Britain. After the end of World War II he rejoined briefly for a third spell in Genoa before returning for the last time to England. Whilst his death went largely unnoticed in his home country, every Italian newspaper printed generous obituaries and he was deeply mourned across the country. In Pozzo’s words ‘he was the most important man in Italian football’. In the same year as William Garbutt’s final return,
In the same year as William Garbutt’s final return, Sampier merged with two further local clubs, Corniglianese and Rivarolese. And on the 12th August 1946 Andrea Doria and Sampierdarenese merged again to form Unione Calcio Sampdoria, as we know the club today. To prove the amalgamation was equal parts of both preceding clubs, the new football kit was designed, implementing the blue shirts of Andrea Doria with the white red and black midsection of Sampierdarenese. Rossoblu fans mock their opponent’s colourful combination by describing their fellow citizens as ciclisti, the Italian term for cyclists. From their viewpoint, only a cycling shirt should include so many colours.
It was thought that this formation would be tricky following the backlash the prior attempt presented but they succeeded in combining the two clubs with little resistance, undoubtedly helped by the fact that Mussolini wasn’t involved this time. In the same month of the merger, the new club moved into share the Rossoblu home, the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.
The Marassi, as the stadium is also known owing to the neighbourhood where it is located, has a distinctly English character about it with four red brick towers standing tall at each corner and steep stands close to the pitch. In fact, Preston North End’s plans for a redeveloped Deepdale were inspired by the Stadio Luigi Ferraris’ unique design during the late 1990s.
The two sets of fans of Genoa and Sampdoria gravitate towards either end of the stadium, with Gradinata Nord and Gradinata Sud providing the beating hearts of the respective clubs. The respective Gradinata resemble a flight of steps that much closer parallel the end of an English stadium rather than that of an orthodox Italian curva. In the inaugural match between the two sides, the Sampdoria fans in the Gradinata Sud were treated to a 3-0 win over their neighbours and they would rave about Giueseppe Baldini’s long-range strike for years to come.
Whilst both sets of teams haven’t consistently been able to compete for the Scudetti since Sampdoria’s foundation (aside from the Blucerchiati’s only title in 1991) the meetings in the Derby della Lanterna do not lack consequence or importance. Over the years the Derby della Lanterna has, directly and indirectly, led to relegation, Sampdoria relegated Genoa in 1951 and later in 2003 and the Rossoblu exacted their revenge in 1977 and again in 2011. Along with the last resort derby of 1973, where both teams needed a win to survive relegation, only to draw, which saw them tumble down to Serie B together.
As significant as these early contests were on a local level, the derby didn’t really take off on the peninsula until the late 1980s when both clubs were flying high in Serie A and illuminating calcio.
In the 1980s, Italian fans were almost able to do as they wished in the stadiums and this led to some eccentric scenes in Sampdoria’s Gradinata Sud. Founder of the Blucerchiati Ultras Claudio Bosotin took a monkey into the Stadio Luigi Ferraris wearing a Rossoblu shirt referencing the laziness and walking style of Genoa’s Brazilian footballer Eloi, which is still fondly remembered today.
In 1990, Genoa met Sampdoria in Serie A yet again, thirteen years since they had last beaten the new kids on the block. The Blucerchiati were at the summit of Serie A and playing at ‘home’ that day, affording them the majority of the support. A disputed penalty for Sampdoria, cancelled out an early strike by the Rossoblu captain Stefano Eranio, appearing to wipe away any hopes of an upset. But then Genoa were gifted a freekick 25-yards out from goal and up stepped Brazilian left-back Branco. A renowned set-piece specialist (much like his international successor Roberto Carlos), following a lay-off from the free-kick Branco fired a superb swerving effort into the back of the Sampdoria net to settle the game and send the Gradinata Nord into raptures.
The following day the scene of the goal was reproduced on countless Christmas cards for Genoa fans to send to their Sampdoria ‘cousins’ – a tradition which is upheld by both sets of fans if the fixture falls during the festive period.
In 2011, with nothing riding on their final game of the season against Cesena, Rossoblu supporters decided to revel in the relegation of their neighbours Sampdoria. A five-minute silence was held during the game to mark Samp’s passing and later a 30,000 strong funeral procession carried a coffin draped in Blucerchiati colours through the city.
However, what stands out about the rivalry is that while other derbies are often characterised by violence and animosity, the Derby della Lanterna is a passionate, loyal and largely friendly family affair.