Adventures in Football #72: Stadio Luigi Ferraris (Genoa C.F.C.)
JANUARY 28, 2023
GENOA CFC vs PISA SC (Serie B)
71 of these bad boys and I’ve never seen football outside of the British Isles. The most exotic check in to date is probably Dundee United or Cefn Druids. That’s about to change. Where do you even start with this? Normally, I’d talk about the club’s history but there’s so much to cover I think we just skip right into the trip itself.
Our journey starts in Milan. We flew there from Luton on Friday night. The idea is to get in a game before the Sunday match at the San Siro. Our initial aim was to get a game in the San Siro before the Milanese giants move away from that setting in the years to come. This did afford us the chance to grab another game on Saturday and we picked Genoa vs. Pisa because of Genoa’s ground; the Luigi Ferraris. We’ll get to that in due course, but before we do, here comes some architecture! The above photo is of Milano Centrale, the cavernous central train station of Milan. It sits on the Piazza Duca d’Aosta and was built to “showcase the power of fascism”. There is apparently a hidden room, daubed in swastikas, where Benito Mussolini hosted an arriving Adolf Hitler. Italy’s history is a little chequered, but it has left some phenomenal architecture.
Inside the station we’re on this train to Ventimiglia, which is almost southern France. We’re heading south from Milan to beautiful Genova. The ticketing system is interesting. We pre-booked our tickets last week to avoid nonsense at the station but there’s no avoiding nonsense on Italian public transport. It is engrained. Here, they had the military checking tickets and by checking, I mean, we waved a piece of paper in their general direction. Best army in the world! I’m already getting ahead of myself. After arriving from Luton the day previous, we needed to grab something to eat and stopped into Bar Baldassare. Where we were treated to top notch pasta, under the watchful eye of the local waiters. It’s a gaff that features a tobacconist in the middle of the room, and seems to be the busy focal point of the area. We watched some Serie A on TV out the front on Sunday. They do pizza, pasta, beers, pastries, etc. Everything you could need! It’s underneath the Hotel Mennini for those looking to seek it out.
Before boarding the train, we ask for a coffee at a café in the station and end up with two shots of coffee. Be specific when ordering coffee over here, they take that shit seriously. One shot of coffee and a train journey down to Genoa later and we’re here. This is the statue right outside the station in Genoa. It’s a beautiful welcome to a stunning city by the sea.
The Catholic church has banged up a fair few buildings, but it’s just so naturally beautiful with the houses on the hills. We spent hours walking around. Every corner reveals a new beautiful building or stunning vista. If you have the chance, just go for a day and have a mooch around. We got lunch by the sea at the Caravelle 92, although they’ve changed the name of it. Presumably because they got a shellacking off Google (2.2*s on there). The food was perfectly ok, and we were just after some pesto. You can’t come to Genoa and not have any pesto. Nearby, we found the offices of Genoa cricket and football club.
Amazing what you can find, just wandering around. You’ll notice the prominent St George’s Flag. There are an astonishing about of them around this part of the world. Far more than you would see hanging in England. Genoa, as a club, was founded by the English.
In continuing to roam around we also happened upon Genoa’s team bus. It was pulled up outside a hotel with a police escort ready to take the team to the stadium. Wandering around cities, you see all sorts of shit. We didn’t hang around waiting for the players, because that’s annoying as hell. Before we even get to the game, there’s a whole bunch of photos I’m going to dump in here. Just so you can see what a beautiful city Genoa is.
The way the back streets connect things is wonderful. Loads of random alleys and staircases. I had a dream of what Italy was, and this was it brought to life. We found a random church down one back alley, before stumbling upon Christopher Colombus’ house. What a beautiful city Genoa is. I can’t stress that enough. Just when we thought the day could bring us no more joy, we spotted some wild boar frolicking in the river bed of the Bisagno.
Baby boars! My heart is already full and we’ve still got a fucking game to get to.
In the distance is the Luigi Ferraris. Named for a footballer who died in WW1, the stadium has housed Genoa since 1911, and Sampdoria since 1946. The stadium hosted the 1934 World Cup but was demolished and rebuilt in the late 80s in preparation for Italia ‘90. Italy have played international matches at the ground, and it has a capacity of 36,599. Aside from Bari’s ridiculous San Nicola stadium, which holds 58,270, it’s the largest ground currently in Serie B.
Futbology is happy to let me know this game represents my fourth country visited for football (after England, Scotland and Wales). It’s a bizarre experience but one I’ve prepared for. I’d been on Google Maps looking around the city and we knew the stadium’s lay out and whatnot. I keep saying “we”, because I’m joined by my Groundhopping colleague Mike Kilby. We were supposed to do something similar to this in Stockholm in the summer but my flight got cancelled last minute and I ended up at bloody Nuneaton Borough. The tour of the city has been worth the visit here. It’s magical, but we’re here for football.
While the stadium houses two teams, it’s Genoa that seem to have the more support locally. Sampdoria are averaging 21,000 in Serie A this season. Genoa are averaging 22,000 in Serie B. Genoa have a higher average attendance this season than all but 8 Serie A clubs; both Milan giants, Roma, Lazio, Napoli, Juventus, Fiorentina and surprisingly Lecce. There’s a lot of Genoa based support in the area around the ground. There’s a big feeling of pride in the city’s leading club.
We get through security checks, where they check if you have a ticket. That’s it. No metal detectors, no pat down, no ID checks. You have a ticket? In you go! We ended up walking all the way around the stadium as it wasn’t entirely clear where the entrance was (one helpful steward sent us in the right direction with an “avanti”). On the ticket it reads 1/11. Which makes no sense until you see this picture where 1 is next to 11.
I said Genoa is better represented than Sampdoria but we’re actually going in the Sampdoria end. So we’re treated to Sampdoria murals.
Notice again the proliferation of St George’s flags.
Heading up the flights of stairs into the Luigi Ferraris is hard work. Facilities are ok. There are a fair few toilets and there’s some food available, although it seems limited to crisps and ice creams. There are also bars hidden away from view, although drinking in a Serie B stadium is acceptable. This little peak into the ground shows some of the many flags and banners draped over the sides. We get there almost an hour before kick off and the hardcore ultras end is already mostly full.
This is a better view overall. It shows not only the majesty of the ground but also the stunning views to be had beyond it. Houses sprouting out of the hillside and the occasional steeple and cross up into the hills that surround Genoa. The ground’s design apparently inspired Preston North End when they renovated Deepdale in the 1990s. You’ll notice huge space dedicated to press boxes on the other side of the ground. This might have been a distraction, were it not for the volume coming out of the ends of the ground.
This is the view that 40 Euros gets you in the Luigi Ferraris. We sat there pre-match just absorbing everything. From the growing noise from the far end, to the sun setting over the city, to the flow of people in front greeting each other. The numbers of smokers in Italy is incredible. Everywhere you go, someone is puffing on a cigarette. It’s interesting to note they don’t have the same kind of warning on cigarette packs over there. While “Vietato Fumare” signs appear in most buildings, it’s not banned at the football, and we regularly see people sparking up. There’s no legroom at all. My knees are over the seat in front and the seats don’t move, so if you want to walk along the row where people are sat, they need to turn sideways to let you through.
Just to prove that we did, in fact, go to Genoa and I’ve not stolen someone else’s photos. This picture shows the bars in between the rows. I assume these were brought in with the idea of it preventing a crush but it does handily double as something to lean on. We’re surrounded by a lot of old geezers with flat caps on. It’s that part of the stand.
The away fans are located away in this corner. Partially in the end stand and partially down the side, located next to the prawn sandwich brigade. The ones who clear out before the game ends, while all the ultras are still singing and waving flags. I don’t know what the rules were for standing and watching in the corners but that would be a sweet place to watch the game from.
The ultras are astonishing. 45 minutes before kick-off and they’re already chanting, waving flags and generally having a fucking lovely day out. Banners are unfurled, songs are sung and the atmosphere in the stadium is electric. Did I mention it’s still 45 minutes to kick-off? Genoa come out to “Freed from Desire” with the lyrics changed to “Forza Genoa”. They drown out the music. These are the loudest fans I’ve ever heard. Mike nips off to check on the beer situation, seeing as drinking is ok in the ground, and comes back complaining of long queues and Heineken Silver.
We’re approaching kick-off and the whole end of the ground has gone completely nuts. Look at it in there! The game hasn’t even started. There are no players on the pitch at this point. Off to our left, there are two guys standing on one of the rails leading the chants. One of them has a megaphone. English chants are slightly more organic, but these are so well organised. The Pisa players go over to greet their fans pre-match and there’s another enormous roar. This time from the visiting fans. If you think that ‘ultras’ end is a bit extreme and the rest of the ground was less intense. Guess again.
“FORZA” scream the one end. “GENOA” scream the other. It’s deafening. I’ve never heard anything like it. The game still hasn’t kicked off. More banners appear, more flags are added and more singing. There are CHILDREN with pyro and we have smoke bombs and flares going off all over the place. The explosions are so loud and sometimes it just blends in with the chanting.
“FORZA GENOA”. BANG!
I was not kidding, there are children with smoke flares. The atmosphere is absolutely unreal in here.
I think this is the peak of it. Notice the heavy smoke, the extra banner (“Figgi do Zena” – Genoa’s supporters club) and somehow even more flags. It’s mental. It’s so intense that I actually don’t notice the game has kicked off. They’d played a good minute of the game before I noticed.
So, the game has started! Genoa have made a curious decision to play veteran midfielder Kevin Strootman on the wing. He clearly cannot run anymore and it doesn’t work. They’ve also got Massimo Coda up top. He has a 1 in 2 strike rate this season but based on this, it’s hard to see how. The 34 year old striker is incredibly wasteful. He’s clearly in there so Genoa can play direct but he can’t win the ball in the air and when chances do fall his way, he’s hopeless. A better centre forward could have given Genoa a healthy win here to appease the crowd. They do get the ball in the net but sadly a linesman denies us a glorious roof-raising celebration.
As the sun slowly sets over Genoa, we head into the break at 0-0. Pisa have looked quite dangerous on the counter and the warning is there when they also have a goal chalked off for offside. Genoa respond by dropping Strootman into the DM position as a playmaker. As he sprays passes around, the game changes but one thing does not; Coda still can’t find the net. Genoa’s non-goal comes on around 75 minutes in. Everyone around us is on their feet, only to return to their seats disappointed. “Vaffanculo” swears the lady in front of us. I’d heard the word used in a literary sense but to hear a “vaffanculo” in person in wonderful. Vaffanculo means “go fuck yourself”.
I’m sad the supporters don’t get a moment to really bask in the glory of football. Instead they bask in their communities. Singing together as one while the action unfolds on the pitch. Genoa push forward looking for a late winner but again Coda is off target, and the groans of disappointment are in evidence. Apart from in the ultras end.
They’re still going. This is in the last minute. They’ve not stopped since way before the whistle to start the game, which I couldn’t hear over the chanting. The game finishes 0-0 and while there was a shortage of big chances, it was a good end to end game. Both teams had a shot at winning and both will rue missed chances. It’s a good result for Pisa, scrambling for the play-off places, and their fans treat a 0-0 as a win. Roaring with each incidence of time wasting, winning pointless throw in’s and marching into Genoa territory as the time runs out.
This is after the game has finished. You can tell because all the expensive seats are empty, but the Pisa area is still packed. Both sets of fans stayed after the game finished to applaud their team off. The whole experience just left me awe-struck. The passion in the Italian game is just unmatched.
This banner is optimistic (“justice for the title”). Their last title came in 1924. It’s almost a hundred years on and with Coda up front, I can’t see them snatching another this soon. I love the optimism though. After the game is finished we head out of the ground, taking the stairs with less old men in flat caps on. Outside we go with the flow and head towards the river. On the other side is a tribute to the fallen Gianluca Vialli. As with everything else I’ve experienced today, it’s emotional.
We walk back to the station, grab a beer from the station café and sit in silence waiting for the train. How can you explain the power of professional football in this country? Genoa is the club every English team who bring a drum and flags into play aspire to be. It’ll take a hundred years. For a club founded by Englishmen, to represent England abroad and where Italians were not allowed to play, Genoa has become the quintessential Italian football club. It represents Italy in the Club of Pioneers and is the oldest club in the country. It’s left an indelible mark on Italian football and I will not soon forget this trip.
Finally, it’s time for the rankings. How did Genoa measure up?
I’ve never seen anything like it. Constant noise from 45 minutes before kick-off until well after the full-time whistle. *****. Impeccable.
At 40 Euros, it works out at £35. That’s a little steep for a second tier club but I don’t think Genoa see themselves as second tier at all. I think they’re charging Serie A prices because they were in Serie A and they aim to go back there. ***
The game wasn’t great. It was solid but lacking in goalmouth action. The tactical switches between the two teams were fascinating but ultimately, defences were on top. ***
EASE OF ACCESS:
As we walked around the city a lot, often in search of pretty buildings, the 2.1 miles from station to ground felt like an easy stroll. For those who don’t fancy the stroll, you can get there on a pair of trains in under 30 minutes. ***½
There wasn’t much in the way of food options but there are a million places to eat in Italy. The feel of the ground was fantastic. I was especially pleased with the murals and use of space around the ground. The tribute to Vialli was tender and heartfelt. I also love the design of the ground and the natural beauty of Genoa’s hillsides being in the background helps massively. ****½
Level with Wembley no less. Seeing as I use atmosphere as my first ‘goal difference’, that puts it top. Elite.