Best of Football Writing Last Week: Unloved in Germany, FC Bari & a Welsh Hero

RB Leipzig,; No One Loves Them (Source: Spiegel.de)

The Serie A kicked off last weekend and, away from Juventus’ expected dominance, there are always interesting stories to tell. One of my favourite from the opening day of the season was that of Cristiano Lombardi, who was handed his debut by Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi out of desperation — all his wide players were either away on international duty or else injured — and proceeded to score his side’s third goal. Having previously struggled to score when on loan in Serie B and the Lega Pro, it was quite an introduction.

Retelling stories like that one — although with greater historical relevance — is what I tried to achieve in the e-book published last year called Il Re Calcio. This features ten stories from the history of Italian football that I’m sure anyone who enjoys the game will love. This is available from Amazon (international readers here; UK readers here). Any sales help with the running and maintenance of Cultured Football.

1. WE’RE HERE! RB LEIPZIG’S RISE TO BUNDESLIGA ISN’T WELCOMED BY ALL
Rory Smith for the New York Times
With the combination of huge stadia and low ticket prices combined with a financial model that makes it extremely unlikely that clubs are bought out by foreign investors who are either looking for a plaything or a way to make some easy money, German football is widely seen as being the most financially sound in the world.

Still, there are exceptions. In particular there is RB Leipzig, another club owned by Red Bull who this year are playing in the Bundesliga. What might at first glance seem like a fairy tale rise through the leagues is actually a corporate experiment by the energy drinks company and many are unhappy about it.

Memorable Quote: “They are just money. A team is the colors, the badge, the identity.”

2. FC BARI: ITALIAN FOOTBALL ALTERNATIVE GUIDE
Richard Hall and Luca Hodges-Ramon for the Guardian Sport Network
Nostalgia being what it is, most of those who experienced Italia ’90 think back to it with a certain degree of fondness despite the negativity that most of the teams displayed on the pitch. Once the tournament was over, however, and Italian clubs were left to face the fallout of the excesses that went into the tournament’s organisation.

One of the biggest of those excesses was the building of Bari’s San Nicola stadium, a behemoth of a stadium designed by the famous architect Renzo Piano that the club had no hope of filling. This article takes a look at that stadium and the club that it hosts.

Memorable Quote: “The walls of the Stadio San Nicola shuddered. The stadium they call the spaceship had liftoff and the man igniting its engines was a baby-faced Antonio Cassano.”

3. THE MAN WHO TOOK THE FA CUP OUT OF ENGLAND
Scott Salter for In Bed With Maradona
These have been good years for Welsh football. Not only are two of its top clubs (Swansea and Cardiff) doing extremely well in the English football system but the national team exceeded all expectations at the European championships this summer.

Yet whilst new legends have emerged in recent years, it is always fitting to remember a hero of past years which, in this case, is Cardiff’s FA Cup winning Fred Keenor.

Memorable Quote: “Ferguson was the goal scorer, but Keenor was the true hero; leading the side to their first ever FA Cup victory.”

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