Bologna is better known today for its food and academic contribution than its football club. For the novice, Bologna is where spaghetti bolognese comes from. But while most Brits’ first taste of Italy can almost certainly be attributed to a plate of spaghetti, the so-called archetypal Italian dish was actually a bastardisation coined by American GIs after the second world war.
As for Calcio, Bologna has had its moments. They’ve won Serie A seven times, but the last occasion was in 1963-64, a team that included Danish marksman Harald Nielsen and West Germany’s Helmut Haller. They finished joint top with Inter Milan, but a late effort from Nielsen and an own goal from Facchetti gave Bologna the Scuddetto via a play-off. Since then, Bologna have been one of Italian football’s also-rans, although they won two Coppa Italias in the 1970s and in 1998 won that grand old bauble of unwanted trophies, the UEFA Intertoto Cup.
Since the 1980s, Bologna have not had it easy. They’ve regularly come up against relegation and even slipped down as far as Serie C. Their last stint in Serie A ran from 2008-09 to last season when they were relegated from the top division for the fourth time since 1982.
This term, Bologna are challenging for promotion from Serie B, but as often is the case in Italy, their campaign has been complicated by off-pitch events. They were deducted a point after their former President, Albano Guaraldi failed to pay some income tax owed. Bologna is now owned by a new group involving Andrew Nestor, the former Tampa Bay Rowdies Owner, Joey Saputo, owner of Major League Soccer side Montreal Impact, and Joe Tacopina, a New York-based attorney. Even the sceptics are suggesting this could be the start of something interesting at Stadio Renato Dall’Ara, Bologna’s historic home.
Judging by some of the press reports and the twittersphere, Bologna are thinking big – if they win promotion to Serie A. There’s talk – surely idle gossip – that they are going to make an audacious bid for Real Madrid’s midfielder Sami Khedira. He may not cost much, but his wages would surely amount to almost the combined income of the Bologna squad trying to get out of Serie B. Furthermore, there are suggestions that Bologna have their eye on Liverpool’s out-of-favour striker Fabio Borini. It all sounds like bullish posturing to convince people Bologna are on their way back and that when they go step up, they want to make a noise.
In Serie B, I Rossoblu are trailing leaders Carpi but are at the front of a tightly-packed group of clubs. Their promotion is by no means certain but they remain favourites to go up. They remain well supported, with their 13,000-plus average (down from 21,000 last season) only bettered by Bari in the division. The average Serie B crowd is below 6,500 and top of the table Carpi are watched by fewer than 3,000. So it’s a relatively big club for this division.
Goals are in short supply for Bologna at the moment. Their recent 0-0 draw at home to Modena was their fifth consecutive blank scoresheet at Stadio Renato Dall’Ara and they haven’t won on their own turf since Christmas Eva, a 3-0 victory against Pescara. That could have been worse for the home side if goalkeeper Ferdinando Coppola, and his 27th minute replacement, debutant Brazilian Angelo Da Costa, had not kept the visitors at bay. Furthermore, Modena had what looked like a perfectly good goal disallowed. It wasn’t good enough for the Curva residents in the 21,000 crowd, who hurled abuse at Uruguayan coach Diego Lopez. The club’s president, needless to say, has given Lopez his backing: “Lopez is untouchable…we are second, you do not chase away a coach.” He may think again if Bologna continue to make hard work of things, and even then – if the rumours are true – they might want a marquee managerial signing to match the likes of Khadira!
Bologna have lost just once in 13 games, but it is their home form that is causing anxiety. They missed a chance to gain ground on Carpi, who had been beaten by Pescara 24 hours earlier. But the big crunch comes on April 1, when Bologna travel to the leaders. That may well decide whether the club’s new owners can attempt to bring marquee signings to this most ancient home of Italian cuisine….