The idea was simply, for the final day of the regular Lega Pro season the captains of opposing sides would take to the pitch in the colours of their opposition. When the two captains then met for the coin toss they would exchange the jerseys as a measure of goodwill.
It was in the eyes of those who govern Lega Pro a great idea to show that solidarity can be found even among opponents. However, they failed to take into account one rather sizeable spoke in the wheel, namely the Derby Dell’Enza. With the derby approaching Parma captain Alessandro Lucarelli poked his head above the parfait and claimed boldly that he would not wear the jersey of rivals Reggiana. Needless to say, this only had the effect of increasing Lucarelli’s already hero status among the Ducali faithful. A status that was already so high that if you came home to find him in bed with your wife, you’d duly apologise and go down stairs to make him dinner. For others though such as Gabriele Gravina the president of Lega Pro, it was a disappointment that someone of such age and experience would do such a thing.
What it has done though is add an extra bit of niggle to a derby that was far from lacking any in the first place. When the two sides met at the Stadio Mapei back in December for the first time in 20 years, in front of a raucous atmosphere, it was the Crociati who came away with a 0-2 win. Those who utter the phrase that absence makes the heart grow fonder would have seen their hypothesis crumble on that cold 19th December night in Reggio Emilia. As two ancient tribes finally renewed acquaintances after many a season apart.
Among the pantheon of Italian derbies, the derby Dell’Enza does not exactly hold sway with the Madonnina, Lanterna, Capitale, Mole and D’Italia. Yet for those who hold Parma and Reggiana in their hearts it is the one and only. Named for the river that acts as the boundary between the two provinces, the derby was first contested back in 1919. Fought over 79 more times in the intervening years, the Granata currently sit on 27 wins, Parma 26 with the rest being draws. However, the rivalry between the two cities long predates any drama on the football pitch, with some claiming that it dates back to the middle ages.
This Sunday that age old rivalry will renew once more on the steps of the Stadio Ennio Tardini. In truth for both sides it has been somewhat of an underwhelming campaign thus far. While Parma may sit second in the standings, their pursuit of league winners Venezia has been meek at times and performances on the pitch often stale and uninspired. As for Reggiana it has been another season of false hope. Taken over by Mike Piazza at the start of the season, a promotion charge was expected but it never got off the ground. Sitting fifth the Granata along with the Gialloblu will now have to settle for the insanity that is the Lega Pro play-offs. Before eyes can turn to that however there remains one small matter to take care of.
When the two sides take to the pitch to the sound of Giuseppe Verdi’s Triumphal March expect them to be hit by a cacophony of noise and colour. Parma have been waiting nearly 21 years to host the derby again and no amount of poor form or sub-par seasons will stop this from being one of the more special occasions on the calcio calendar.