GIOVENTU » Emigrante Squad Tour to Emilia Romagna
Emigrante Squad Tour to Emilia Romagna
The Ferragosto weekend saw an Emigrante squad travel from London to Parma, Pellegrino Parmense and Bardi. The Emigrante squad comprised players from London whose parents and grandparents emigrated from Italy to England, primarily from the provinces of Parma and Piacenza in Emilia Romagna. This tour represented a continuation of touring matches which began three years ago and has seen the Emigrante squad playing in England and Italy, against Pellegrino Parmense, Varsi and Vernasca.
These tours are an opportunity for the players to compete against good Italian opposition and for the players and the travelling supporters to re-visit their families, friends and often their roots, in the midst of local festivals and culture.
The first evening saw the players settle into their hostel in Pellegrino Parmense before making the journey to Bardi for the Festival of the Emigrante. The tourists were given pride of place in the town square during an evening of good food, wine and entertainment, including the climbing of a slippery pole and midnight fireworks. And the players and supporters were not the only emigrante there that evening, with accents of the Rhonda seeming just as many as those of Piacenza. The weather that evening was warm and dry, giving no portent of what was to follow the next day….
On Saturday morning, it began to rain at about 9am. A drizzle became a sprinkling which became a shower which then moved through to become a downpour, a fully-fledged deluge and then a monsoon. The planned training session was re-scheduled before being cancelled and the planned excursion to the swimming pool gave way to an afternoon of watching the opening day of the Premier League season, courtesy of the U.S. Pellegrino goalkeeper who kindly took this satellite box from his home to a local bar which would not otherwise have been able to show the football.
Despite much discussion of the rain stopping and the match being cancelled, neither of these things happened and, thanks to a referee made of sturdy stuff, kick-off duly took place at 20.30 as planned. The floodlit ground in the hills of Pellegrino Parmense is a lovely setting and a rare place to play football. But what made the match unique that evening were the tidal proportions of the water on the pitch and falling from the skies. While the Emigrante had the better of the play throughout the ninety minutes of the match and the following extra time, there were no goals and result turned on penalties. For the first time in some twelve hours the rain stopped and, perhaps betraying some of their English background, the Emigrante failed with all but one of their penalties and the match was lost. But there was no doubt which set of supporters had carried the day, with the sodden hoardes of the Emigrante remaining in fine voice throughout.
It was hard to accept a defeat after dominating the game but the nature of the celebrations by the U.S. Pellegrino players showed how much the victory meant for them and there was immediate talk of continuing the friendly rivalries next year. However sour the taste of the defeat, there was nothing but the best food and wine at the dinner which followed at La Quercia hotel.
Sunday morning saw a full training session on the (miraculously drained) pitch at Pellegrino Parmense before the tourists set off for a reception with the mayor of Bardi, in advance of that evening’s match. The match kicked off at 18.00 which gave an opportunity to see in daylight the beautiful setting of the stadium among the hills and valleys around Bardi. The travelling supporters were buoyed by a number of fellow Emigrante who were holidaying in the region and the singing and chanting began again. Whilst A.S.D. Bardi fielded a strong team, the pain of defeat the previous evening seemed to fire the Emigrante squad and within the opening fifteen minutes the Emigrante had scored three times and effectively sealed the match. Another goal before half-time gave the luxury to close out the match during the second half and to maintain the four goal advantage to the end.
The Emigrante squad were presented with a splendid trophy created for the match and after due celebration, the group moved on to dinner in Bardi before the return journey to Pellegrino Parmense later that evening. The following day saw players and supporters making their several ways home or onwards on holiday but with a unanimously-held view that the 2010 Emigrante squad tour to Parma e Piacenza had been a resounding success which had reinforced existing friendships and fostered new ones in the context of Anglo-Italian culture.
Such an event could not have taken place without the contributions of many and without wishing to omit any of those who merit mention, it would be wrong to let this piece pass without recognising the great work of Lou Sidoli, Mario Sidoli and (team coach) John Belli in making the event such a success on so many levels.