FROM VERONA WITH LOVE –RISING STORY OF HELLAS VERONA
Shakspere’s famous play ‘The tale of two cities’ starts in Veona. On 18th November 2001, two Verona clubs wrote history when Hellas Verona and Chievo Verona battled against each other for first ever Verona Derby in Serie A. In Veronese dialects, it is called ‘Derby della Scala’ due to their alliance to aristocratic Scaligri family of Verona of middle ages. In this way, Verona became only the fifth city of Italy to host a Serie A derby after Milan, Rome, Turin and Genoa. Interestingly, all 5 derbies will be contested this season.
The Club was founded by some young boys in 1903. Hellas Verona lifted Scudetto in 1984-85 seasons at the peak of their strength. Nicknamed Gialloblu (due to their Yellow-Blue shirt colour), I Butei (‘the boys’ in Veronese dialects), Hellas were relegated to Serie B in 2002 and their fortunes continued to dip. In most of the season, they played to avoid much humiliated relegation to Serie C. Much to the delight of their fans, they avoided it on final day. Their position remained almost the same in following seasons and they failed to enter top flight. The inevitable happen when they were dropped from Serie B in 2006-07 after 64 years in top two Italian divisions.
Worse was yet to come. Halfway through the 2007-2008 season, club made numerous manager’s changes. At one point of time, Verona was on the bottom of Serie C and on the verge of slipping to Serie C1. Supporters continued to trust the team and 5000 was a strong attendance per match for a struggling team.
In 2008-09 season, the club was bought by Giovanni Martinelli and their fortunes revived. They played playoff for promotion to 2nd division but dejectedly, they were condemned to play 4th year in Serie C. Their run continued to be stumbled by injuries and transfers of players. Finally, club appointed veteran Inter Milan defender Andrea Mandorlini as manager. He instilled discipline, hunger and desire in dejected squad in quest to regain lost glory.
Hellas finally came to Serie B under his guidance on last day playoff win. Their wish bore fruit after 4 year struggle in Serie B when they finished runner up in 2012-13 season. 53 year old Mandorlini is still their manager and club is dreaming for a seat in European tournaments this season.
Defender Alejandro Gonzalez of Uruguay was purchased from Uruguan Champion club Penarol. Brazilian Rafael Marques gave more strength to defense line. Marco Donadel and Romulo were purchased on loan from Napoli and Fiorentina respectively. Jorginho, 21 year old Brazilian, is playing with them since 2011-12 Serie B days. Currently, he is among the top scorers of Serie A, causing tremors in defense lines. Fabrizio Cacciatore is another asset in the attacking line. But, their purchase of the season is highly experienced former Bundesliga top scorer Luca Toni from Fiorentina.
Unlike many Italian clubs, Verona is shying of investing heavily on club and going bankrupt. We have seen cases of Parma and Fiorentina in the recent past.
Gialloblu started their campaign this season with win over title favourites A C Milan in front of approximately 25000 home fans at Stadio Marc’ Antoni Bentegodi. They won the match by 2 Luca Toni’s goal. Though they suffered heavy defeat against highly inspired Roma in the next game, yet their run continues. They drew with old lady of Serie A and are continuing to give shocking results in Serie A. It proves that their opening day win was not a flash in the pan. They are collecting points and maintaining healthy position at the perch.
When one of my friends visited small town of Verona, tourist guide informed him that Romeo and Juliet were natives of this UNESCO world heritage town. My friend saw the balcony from where Juliet used to saw Romeo and their eternal love bloomed. Who knows, this might be the blooming smiling year of Young boy of Verona, again.