It has not been the best summer in Livorno. between drinks of ponce —something more than the local carajillo, with coffee and rum— or perhaps at a table with an elaborate cacciuccoclam chowder, the topic of conversation was whether the city was going to be left without a team this year. No soccer. Recurring thought between the port and the ENI petrochemical refinery must also be between bites to a 5 and 5the typical chickpea cake sandwich. The Italian migration took it to Argentina and Uruguay, where it is called fainá and usually accompanies pizza. In Livorno that sandwich is he 5 and 5 because in the past it was asked like this: “Give me five liras of bread and five of chickpea cake”.
Preserving, for one of its flagship meals, a name that recalls how much it costs to win things is not the only clue to finally situate ourselves in this city open to the Tyrrhenian Sea. In the region, Tuscany has never won the center-right. Livorno always had mayors from the Communist Party until 2014 and since then they have been center-left. The current one, Luca Salvetti, participated in the acts that this year have honored the centenary of the PCI, founded in the city itself. From that congress at the San Marco Theater with Antonio Gramsci, Amadeo Bordiga, Palmiro Togliatti and company, to becoming the most important hammer and sickle, at an institutional and electoral level, in Western Europe, with a ceiling of 34% and 12 million votes. But this summer, in addition to how to continue to maintain the household accounts, what worried Livorno the most was Livorno.
Two declines in two years in a row. It sounds bad, but it could be, and would be, even worse than it seemed last May. Livorno, who played in Serie B in September 2019, had free-falled to C and from there to D, a non-professional category. Two seasons in which, moreover, the team had been last with hardly any hope of salvation throughout the year. At the beginning of July, the club goes into liquidation. He also cannot pay the registration fee for Serie D and, above all, he has debts with the city council that make it impossible to use the Armando Picchi municipal stadium and with the players and other workers of Livorno. In August, the Lega Nazionale Dilettanti, organizer of Series D, denied admission to the Tuscan team, which died sportingly and de facto disappears as a society. The fans, the city, set the refoundation as their objective and, after several rumors about possible interested parties, some light began to appear. A committee of “wise men” and Mayor Salvetti choose the best offer from businessman Paolo Toccafondi. With the new investment, the club is reborn with the name Unione Sportiva Livorno 1915 and the confirmation that it will play the 2021-22 season at Eccellenza Toscana, the fifth regional level of Italian football.
Gone is, for now, the possibility that Livorno was a popular shareholder club. The Livorno Popolare collective, highly critical of the management of former president Aldo Spinelli, has tried it. “His tenure of his destroyed everything good that was created in the 2000s even with a participation in the UEFA Cup. A soccer team managed like a broken toy with holes in the accounts, disproportionate expenses and the inability to involve fans in decision-making processes”, explains Livorno Popolare to El Salto.
“Our goal is to create a new model of participation in football, alternative to that of the owners who are masters and lords, with direct involvement of the followers in the management of society,” they indicate from the Livorno Popolare platform.
The initiative was born in February and, after receiving 3,000 adhesions, sent in May to the now defunct Associazione Sportiva Livorno a purchase offer for one million euros that was rejected. “Our objective is to create a new model of participation in football, an alternative to that of the owners who are masters and lords, with direct involvement of the followers in the management of society”, they indicate.
Livorno Popolare declares itself anti-sexist and anti-racist, as well as anti-class. And they quoted the novel what by Luther Blissett to ask for the collaboration of the fans: “Help me build the ship that will defy the storm”. “The immediate future is that of a new course in which a single person invests and decides, it is a football model that we have already seen that we do not share. We will look for other spaces, in the territory, in which to experience participatory management. We hope that the new club society can bring Livorno back to professional football as soon as possible”, they point out.
The collapse of Livorno could be seen as bad for many. We are not talking about the effects of the pandemic. Almost everything started 100 kilometers from the city. The historic Fiorentina —two leagues, six cups, one Cup Winners’ Cup and three European finals— experienced its dark summer in 2002, only two years after playing in the Champions League. Already after selling Batistuta, Rui Costa, Toldo, Morfeo or Chiesa, the team went down to Serie B; with 50 million in debt, it was declared bankrupt, it could not even participate in that category and it formally disappeared. It resurfaced as Florentia Viola and later reacquired the rights and titles of Fiorentina. From then on, and until 2018, 150 Italian clubs stopped making financial footing. Some illustrious. Like the Società Sportiva Calcio Napoli, indebted up to 80 million euros and temporarily refounded as Napoli Soccer in the summer of Aurelio de Laurentiis’s arrival at the corporate helm in 2004. Bari, Cesena, Foggia, Modena, Padova, Palermo, Parma, Perugia , Reggiana, Salernitana, Siena, Torino, Venezia or Vicenza are other fallen that once enjoyed bright Sundays.
It is in those moments, in that mix of shock, uncertainty and organizational workload ahead, that loyalty is put to the test. Igor Protti is one of those neighborhood strikers, one of those spearhead goal workers of humble teams, often called “provincial”, that populated the last golden age of Italian football, the 90s. Along with Protti , it was common to see their names on each marker: Hübner, Maniero, Flachi, Luiso, Schwoch, Ferrante, Ganz, Branca, Padovano, Tovalieri, Poggi, Silenzi. Protti and Hübner are the only players in the history of calcium who have been top scorers in series A, B and C. To get an idea, it is something like Iago Aspas, Kike García or José Luis Morales having achieved something so beast nowadays. Protti, from the coastal and touristic Rimini, made a career mainly in Messina, Bari and Livorno. A life sending balls to the net by the sea.
In Livorno, Igor Protti is, in addition to the footballer who has ever scored the most goals for the Tuscan team, an absolute myth. At 32 years old, he rejected first-class offers and lowered C of him to play his last years
In Livorno he is, in addition to the footballer who has ever scored the most goals for the Tuscan team, an absolute myth. At 32 years old, he rejected first class offers and lowered C of him to play his last years of amaranth. There are six seasons in which he swelled to score and brought his teammates to the city again to the A. Captain, he formed a legendary attacking couple with Cristiano Lucarelli and left him in 2005 with the team at the gates of his only European participation. The club, in turn, withdrew the number 10 shirt from him, but he reversed the decision, defending that the young people who came also had the right to wear it. In bad times, the Curva Nord has sung “We want eleven Igor Protti”.
And well, Protti is in this new Livorno. He is the new manager of the club, a position from which he will try to contribute his vision, guide and infect the new players with the love for the shirt and the city that he has plenty of. It is his second stage in the offices. “I never would have thought that he would return as manager to Livorno in Eccelenza. I am very attached to all the teams where I have played because wearing a shirt is something very important to me. You represent that city, that hobby, that history. I don’t care what category I’m in, for me being at Livorno in Eccelenza is like being in Serie A. That’s why I make myself available to try to take the club higher and above all to bring back the enthusiasm to a city that lately has lost it”, declares the former player to El Salto.
The sporting objective is very clear. “It can’t be other than finishing in first place and moving up to Series D. Outside of sports, it reinforces the sense of belonging. The players will have to understand what it means to play in Livorno and wear this shirt. I will be in contact with them and with the coach every day to help achieve it. Perhaps it is a bit of an approach to football from a few years ago, but sometimes to improve you also have to look back. In sport there has to be heart, ”he points out.
Although “the world changes”, he says, this club continues to be, also in Protti’s words, “a point of reference for the city”. And for Italian football, we might add. There are 29 participations at the highest level and the 25th position in the historical classification of nine decades of Serie A. To place us, above clubs like Empoli, Sassuolo, Venezia or Salernitana that play this year in the first. A runner-up in 1943. A waste of thirty years until returning to B. A meritorious sixth place in 2006 and a start to the century that led the team to play at Arezzo or Triestina to beat Glasgow Rangers, Auxerre or Partizan Belgrade in the UEFA Cup until being eliminated by Espanyol. A bench that men like Tarcisio Burgnich, Osvaldo Jaconi, Carlo Mazzone or Walter Mazzarri have passed through. One of the most bitter rivalries in the country, with Pisa. Still in both cities, the port and the university, the street protests are remembered when the president of Pisa, Romeo Anconetani, came up with the idea that the two clubs should merge into one called Pisorno. If we talk about Tuscan neighbors, the Livorno stands have more appreciation for those of Empoli and a little further to Ternana directed by Cristiano Lucarelli. In the Armando Picchi of Livorno it is not uncommon to see symbols of the AEK of Athens or Olympique de Marseille as a result of the network of affinity between these mostly anti-fascist hobbies.
“To the fans of Livorno and those who follow him from outside the city and even from outside Italy, I say to continue doing it beyond the category, to continue loving him beyond the category. Football should also be romantic”, says Protti
The movie Overtaking it was called in Spain The escape. Dino Risi did not know, he could not know, that when he was shooting that magnetic portrait of the Italy of the boom The economic scenario —the scene of the struggle between those who think that things are done by themselves and those who really do them— was beginning at the same time the story that Alberto Prunetti would tell half a century later in Asbestos (Tin Sheet, 2020). The one of her father Renato. Gassman and Trintignant go up the coast of the Maremma passing very close to the iron of Follonica, the steel of Piombino or the mercury of Rosignano Solvay, which do not appear in the image because then we would talk about another film. Prunetti collects how he begins to be fond of soccer from a very young age, seeing his father interested in reading and listening to the regional results. “For us, they were more valuable than the European Cup,” he writes. Livorno was the place where Renato took his family many Sundays, his only day off. Open and free, during that time the most important place in the world. “To the fans of Livorno and those who follow him from outside the city and even from outside Italy, I say to continue doing it beyond the category, to continue loving him beyond the category. Football should also be romantic”, adds Protti.