Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Third rank goes to Italy. Perhaps the Italian football was still not all that great – but Spanish was not either at the time. The strength of Italian football was really Juventus, the most interesting club in terms of adapting elements of total football, and the national team, which became one of the best surprises at the 1978 World Cup. Not much... the Italian clubs were still miserable in the European tournaments, Milan and Inter were clearly in decline, goal-scoring was minimal as ever. Nevertheless, there was a great surprise this season – which may be interpreted two ways: as a sign of the general decline of the big clubs, which suddenly made them equal to the small fry or as a sign of improvement, bringing more clubs to the fight on top, if they had young talent at hand. So it may had been at the time, but later it turned out to be just a momentary surprise and nothing more. Certainly not a big reshaping of the football map of the country. Which, from the outside, was one and the same – the First Division. Second level was known largely as a final table and what was beyond was foggy assumption that, of course, other leagues existed. How many and what for perhaps was never wondered about, but there were those playing somewhere in the fog. Clubs which used to be familiar names years ago and barely remembered by the late 1970s.

Triestina, for instance. Third division? Most likely. Never really great, they used to play First Division in earlier decades. There were even formerly old strong clubs like Pro Patria. There were also the entirely unknown, the bulk.

Parma – one of the 'bulk'. Everybody knows Parma today – thanks to their great exploits in the 1990s – but back in the 1970s it was unheard of club. First division was well beyond the scope of their dreams – the dream was Second Division and as almost all dreams it was just a dream... may be in some distant future... one day, if lucky... third level was the familiar surrounding. Nice kit, though. Otherwise, only a reminder that such club existed back then for those unable to find a trace of it. Admittedly, third division football is almost entirely different sport, but lower levels are the true backbone of the sport – down there new talent emerges and builds character. Could be said that the more clubs play in the lower divisions, the better is the football at the top – Italy had many leagues, going down to seventh level. Speaking of passion for the game. A little tribute to those countless clubs playing down is very much needed now and then.