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When Fiorentina joined the Super League

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A look back on Diego Della Valle taking us to Serie C2

President of Fiorentina football club Di Photo credit should read CARLO HERMANN/AFP via Getty Images

Back in 2002, Fiorentina were taken over by a new owner. The previous owner, who inherited the club from his father, had been a careless man. He had managed to lose all the club’s money. No surprise really, someone had even managed to sneak into his home in Rome and place bags of cocaine in his safe without him knowing anything about it. Imagine his surprise when the police raided his home, and upon opening the safe he was confronted with this white powder of which he knew nothing about.

It came as no shock that Vittorio wasn’t capable of running a football club. One time, when his father was out sick, and with the team high in the league table, he decided to sack the manager. He brought in a new boss, and the team ended up relegated. In the last year in charge of the club, he often forgot to pay his players and staff.

The new owner, a shoemaker called Diego Della Valle, decided to rename the club. He was a more traditional man, and went with the Latin name for the city, Florentia, and while not really a fan of the clubs colours, he added Viola to the name.

When he arrived in Florence, he announced that he was taking the club, Florentia Viola, to a new Super League, Serie C2. The top Italian teams had signed up and he believed that this was the future of football. Some of the big clubs they would be up against were former Serie D Group Champions, Grosseto, Aglianese, Sangiovannese, Imolese and Poggibonsi. There were also international fixtures, as they would need to travel abroad to play San Marino.

Diego needed to find a lot of new players very quickly, as the football authorities had told the former Fiorentina players that if they played in the new super league, they would not be allowed to compete in Serie A. They would also not be considered for their national sides. One man who did decide to stay with the team was former Italian international Angelo Di Livio.

They played a mini tournament in the summer before the Super League started. This included two other teams who would also take part in the new league, Aglianese and Castelnuovo, along with two other local teams Pisa and Prato.

The first game in Florence against Pisa witnessed a large group of Pisa Ultras arrive at the ground. There was some trouble outside the ground, as Pisa fans hated their neighbours from Florence, especially as they now had a club joining the Super League.

The club didn’t do very well in the tournament, and so the club decided they needed more players. The man who Diego had asked to find new players for the club, was a former goalkeeper, Giovanni Galli. He had a hard time finding players willing to join a team in the new league, and the best player he managed to sign was a former builder, Christian Riganò.

The first game of the new league season saw the team playing away to Sangiovannese. The new competition attracted such a large crowd that they needed to move the game to the city of Arezzo. Diego’s team went 1-0 down, and the scorer was a former Fiorentina player, Ciccio Baiano, but the Viola managed to get a draw at the very end. The next game in Florence saw them tear apart Castel di Sangro. The new striker Riganò scored twice in a 5-1 win.

The team didn’t always perform so well, however, and the large crowds that packed the Stadio Artemio Franchi for these big games expressed their displeasure. The final straw for Diego came when the team lost 2-0 at Grosseto, where both goals were scored by a player known as Chadi. He had become the first ever Syrian player to join an Italian club, a clear sign of how attractive this new league was.

A new manager was brought in, and he helped the team back to the top of the table. They then had a battle with Rimini, a club with a long tradition in Italian football. They had been the Fourth Division Group D champions as far back as 1924. In the end, the club from Florence would come out on top and celebrated their league win at their own stadium with a 3-0 win over Savona, a team that had won the Coppa Italia Dilettanti in 1991.

Diego then wanted to bring his team into another division of the Super League, the C1. Here they would have joined Rimini in taking on the likes of Padova, SPAL, Reggiana and Cesena. In the end he was persuaded by the football authorities to rejoin their competition, but as a punishment would need to play in Serie B.

The glory days were over for Fiorentina fans but they did get their old club name back and their viola jersey. While they would end up playing in competitions such as the Champions League, the owners and fans would always have fond memories of their time shoveling snow in Gubbio.

Fiorentina now have a new owner, Rocco Commisso. He is so far, undecided on whether he wants the club to remain in Serie A or join Serie B. While there has been no indication that the club were invited to join the new proposed Super League, fans can always hold out hope of a return to the highs of Serie C.