The Hellas Verona TragedyBy: Francesco | May 5th, 2008
Hey Italy Offside Readers, this nice post comes from Steven of the Palermo Offside. He writes about the decline of storied club Hellas Verona.
The Hellas Verona Tragedy
I don’t know about you guys, but one of the things that sparked my interest in Calcio was Tim Parks’ book ‘A Season With Hellas Verona’. I just noticed the book in the public library of my small town, browing trough the authors that started with a P, looking for a book by Flemish author Elvis Peeters. Instead, I went home with a book about a team my father once called ‘the worst team to be a fan of’. Myself, I didn’t know a lot about Hellas, except for the fact that they went up and down divisions frequently, had a few very good young players like Camoranesi and Mutu and that Preben Elkjaer Larsen went from Lokeren, a Belgian club 15 kilometres from where I live, to Hellas and became a star. Since reading the book, I’ve always kept a soft spot for I Scaligeri. Now, five years later, Hellas are on the verge of becoming the next Pro Vercelli.
In 1985, Hellas won their first and only title. 23 years later, it’s still seen as a dubious win by the big teams. The ‘84/’85 season was the only one ever to be played with random chosen referees. Before then, referees had always been appointed by a special commission of referees (the ‘designatori arbitrali’). After the betting scandal of the early eighties it was decided to clean up the image of Italian football by picking the referees randomly instead of appointing them. Hellas won, and Samp, Torino and Inter took the other top spots. A strange result, and not to the liking of the big teams. The next season, the referees were picked by the old system again, and Juventus won. The Scudetto was Hellas’ only achievement: they lost three Coppa-finales, and never made it to the big boys. Still, people remember legends like Larsen and Hans Peter Briegel and coach Osvaldo Bagnoli.
After that, Hellas went from bad to worse. For those who haven’t read Parks’ book and want to know what happened during the 90’s and 00’s: read it! The book ends with the relegation in 2002, telling us things will get better. But they haven’t. Two years later, in the ‘03-’04 season, Hellas is fighting to keep their head above water in Serie B. The next season saw Verona battling for promotion, but last year things went from bad to worse. After ending 18th in Serie B, the Gialloblù had to play Spezia in a two-legged relegation play-off. After a 2-1 loss and a 0-0 draw, Hellas was relegated to Serie C1 for the first time in 64 years. But the disaster struck again this season. Hellas was expected to go straight back to the Cadetti, but with only one game left to play, they will have to play relegation play-offs again this year. To avoid Serie C2. A new relegation will be the end for Hellas, and will see the end of one of the most loved and hated teams in Italian football. By the end of May, we’ll know what’ll happened to the real Veronese team.