North Korea has recently been a synonym for trouble, given the international situation. However, there is a town in the very heart of Italy that may not fully agree with this definition.
That town is Perugia, capital of Umbria, the only region in the center of Italy to have no border on the sea. You might have heard of Perugia for its chocolate, and its closeness to Assisi – the birth place of Saint Francis. However, this town has also been a place where football was played at great levels, until 2005. It suffices to mention great champions like Marco Materazzi and Fabio Grosso to let the memory travel to glorious years. These times, however, are far away. A sequence of unfit managers wrote the sad destiny of the club, and left it relegated far from important stages.
Nowadays, Perugia is on a quest to sprout again from its ashes, a walk that started from the rough pitches of the Italian outskirts and continues to Pyongyang. As a matter of fact, one of the most prominent players that Grifoni – the nickname of the club, namely “griffins” – can rely on is Han Kwang-Song – or just Han for the supporters – a 19-year-old guy on loan from Cagliari, which bought him last spring from Chobyong Sports Club.
But tonight, Perugia’s quest has another great glory on its path. A team that made history not only in Italian football, but also in the whole European continent: Parma Calcio 1913.
Parma also comes from a troubled past. After a disastrous 2014-15 Serie A season, the club went bankrupt and was relegated to the Serie D, the top level of Italian non-professional football. In only 2 years, Parma rolled up its sleeves and won every championship on the way (Serie D and Lega Pro), before attaining the Serie B, with the ambitious goal of reaching Serie A and live there happily ever after.
The last match between the two teams is dated February 1st, 2004, when both sides used to play in Serie A, and the scoresheet carried important players like Alberto Gilardino, Dario Hubner, Jonathan Zebina and Domenico Morfeo. The match we’ve seen at the Renato Curi stadium, however, carries less renowned names, but still guarantees a high level of appreciation.
It starts with a minute of silence to remember the victims of the landslide occurred in Livorno a few days before the match. Five minutes later, Perugia is already clarifying who will lead the match: Samuel Di Carmine runs through Parma defense as he was just slaloming between poles, and kicks the ball not so far from the left side of the goal defended by Pierluigi Frattali.
When the clock hits the 18th minute, Marko Pajač is running on the left side of Parma box, and crosses trying to find the header of some team mate. Cristian Bonaiuto is too far from the goal, but tries to kick the ball in anyways. Frattali bounces it back, but not too far. Han can easily correct the ball trajectory in the goal. Grifoni supporters explode in celebration as the Pyongyang guy is reaching the border of the pitch to join the party.
Fifteen minutes later, it is clear to everyone that this will be a one-way match. Parma loses the ball in the midfield, and Perugia counterattacks with Bonaiuto, who serves Han in the box. The North-Korean striker tries to pass it to Di Carmine, as Frattali had left the goal undefended, but the cross is too high for him.
The first notable chance for Parma shows up right before the end of the first half. From the corner flag, Jacopo Dezi is served at the top of the box and shoots, but the ball is diverted towards Riccardo Gagliolo, who is alone in front of Antonio Rosati. He would have all the time to stop the ball and kick it in, but Parma’s defender chooses the header as a solution, missing his chance in a laughable way.
Right after half time, Parma tries to change the destiny of the match once again. Simone Iacoponi crosses from the right wing, but Massimo Volta bounces it out of the box. Antonino Barillà unleashes a powerful shot that, unfortunately, meets the face of Raffaele Bianco. Perugia’s midfielder falls down with his face in his hands, whilst Parma starts complaining for a hand touch that no one has seen, including Davide Ghersini, the match referee.
Perugia comes back to play the script that coach Giunti taught them. Bonaiuto functions as a lighthouse in their attack plans and he warms up Frattali’s gloves ten minutes later, shooting outside the box towards the farthest post, but Parma’s goalkeeper is ready to deny him the joy of scoring. However, a few minutes later, Bonaiuto dribbles past Luigi Scaglia like a pro, and shoots in the goal the ball of 2-0. Frattali can’t do anything this time.
Rosati is living quite a calm day, until the 60th minute, when he has to show off with a legendary save on a precise header from Yves Baraye. A few minutes later, Rosati is called to the arms again, blocking an attempt from Dezi, who was served with surgical precision by Luca Siligardi. Coach Giunti is concerned, so he starts shouting at his players, and they catch the call and close the match at 67’. It’s Bonaiuti again to give happiness and joy to his supporters, and again with a wonderful solo action. He dazes Gagliolo with a step over and, outside the box, unleashes his right foot to score again in Frattali’s goal. As Bonaiuti goes celebrating underneath the stands section where Grifoni supporters are rejoicing, Frattali resigns himself to the defeat widening his arms.
From that moment on, Perugia has only to control the match, and so it happens. Parma comes back home soundly defeated, as Perugia’s ambition grows exponentially. Both supporters on the bleachers, and players on the pitch feel like this could be the year of their triumphant comeback to Serie A. There are many obstacles on the way, but one of the worst has been just archived.
AC PERUGIA 3 – 0 PARMA CALCIO 1913
Goals: 19′ Han, 51′ e 67′ Buonaiuto
AC PERUGIA: Rosati, Zanon, Pajac (78′ Casale), Monaco, Di Carmine, Buonaiuto, Volta, Colombatto, Han (59′ Mustacchio), Bandinelli, Brighi (Cap.) (31′ Bianco).
Substitutes: Santopadre, Nocchi, Coccolo, Emmanuello, Dossena, Frick.
PARMA CALCIO 1913: Frattali, Iacoponi, Di Cesare, Scaglia, Calaiò (Cap.), Baraye, Munari (56′ Di Gaudio), Barillà (56′ Scozzarella), Siligardi (74′ Ceravolo), Gagliolo, Dezi.
Substitutes: Nardi, Corapi, Lucarelli, Mazzocchi, Frediani, Nocciolini, Insigne, Germoni, Sierralta.
Referee: Mr. Davide Ghersini.
Notes – Corner kicks: 4-10. Yellow cards: Volta (4′), Munari (50′), Di Cesare (73′), Monaco (93′). Extra time: 2′ FH, 3′ SH.