On Monday afternoon as the recriminations from Italy’s mauling at the hands of Spain continued to reverberate around the peninsula, fans of Modena made the over 200km round trip to Forli to watch their side.
While the 16:30 kick off time was not exactly enticing, a loyal band of supporters either forgoing a day’s work or taking advantage of a day off made the journey nonetheless. Here though is where the narrative takes a turn, for you see these travelling pilgrims did not make the trip to watch an away fixture. No, this match in far off Forli was Modena’s opening home game of the 2017/18 season and from here we now make our own journey into the heart of a club on the precipice of extinction.
While Monza may be the beating heart of Italian motorsport, the place where thousands of tifosi gather to cheer on the famous red colours, Modena is the place where it all began. The birthplace of Enzo Ferrari, this Emilian city came lay claim to having headquarters of Ferrari, Pagani and Maserati within its boundaries. By 1912 young Enzo Ferrari would be turning 14 years of age and the notion of Ferrari motorsport remained just a distant dream, but elsewhere in the city Modena Football Club was being born. Never to be the most famous of names in Calcio, the club has still occupied the top two tiers for 78 of its 105-year existence (50 of those being in Serie B). More recently however the Granddaddy of the second level has fallen on hard times.
(Inside the Stadio Braglia)
Back in November of last year, with the club scrapping at the bottom of Serie C, Pordenone were welcomed to the Stadio Braglia. It was a typically miserable winters night, with a low hanging fog making visibility from the stands poor, but sadly it was not thick enough that the small pockets of people who had bothered to turn up could not see what was going on. The Stadio Braglia can hold over 20,000 people but on that night, it was home to barely over 2000. With their side 3 down by half time, the spectacle became less about the football and more about the fury from the Terraces. As the second half commenced from the stands cries rained down in ever increasing vitriol, “Caliendo Vaffancuolo,” “La Mamma di Caliendo é una puttana”. Whistles met the home team players every time they touched the ball and any successful pass made was met by ironic cheers. The atmosphere was toxic, and not just in the stadium, on social media mock funerals were being held.
Modena would go on to stay up that season but the fans hatred towards owner Antonio Caliendo remained raw and very bitter. Seen by fans as the architect of all the club’s problems, Caliendo has taken the team from Serie B stalwarts to Serie C basket case. Indeed, many speculated before the season had even begun if Modena had the financial wherewithal to afford the licence fee for the division and events since then have only enhanced their basket case reputation. Dismayed by what they are watching fans have so far voted with their feet, with the average attendance for last season being only 2785, down a whopping 44.5% on the year before.
Circling back to the beginning of the piece, why though even given all these financial flaws are they playing their home matches over 100km away. Well the answer can be found by looking back to the beginning of August. As with most clubs in Italy Modena do not in fact own their stadium but are rather tenants and as such like any other tenant a rent is payable to the owner, in this case the city of Modena. With their debt mounting Modena fell behind in a number of mortgage repayments and with the upkeep of the stadium also being neglected the city council took the drastic measure of evicting the club from the ground, leaving Modena for now homeless.
Statement from the council, “Modena will no longer be in charge of managing the Braglia stadium, and the municipal council has decided to revoke the concession of the Stadium to the sports club.”
Due “to the various shortcomings found in stadium management, financial failures and inadequate maintenance of the pitch. “
Less than a week after the clubs eviction from the stadium an article appeared on the Gazzetta Di Modena website detailing the truly appalling condition the stadium had been left in by the club. With paint peeling from the walls, a pitch that you wouldn’t even leave cows graze on and just a general look of abandonment, the article described it as worse than expected and a cause of great concern for the sports facilities fate.
Kicked out of their home the club now faced the issue where to play their matches for the rapidly approaching campaign. The Stadio Martelli in Mantua was sounded out but it failed to meet Serie C standards. Eventually three days before the season started the club struck a deal to use Forli’s Stadio Morgagni. Amazingly this is far from Modena’s biggest problem, now not only do the club must pay rent to Forli but by the 15th September the club also must payback players and employees’ wages who are in arrears. All the while trying to compete on the pitch with a squad that was thrown together for nothing.
(The Pitch at the Stadio Braglia)
This coming Monday (11th Sept) Modena will appear live on RAI as they take on local rivals Reggiana. A match made all the feistier by recent comments from Granata director Giuseppe Magalini, who questioned Modena’s ability to pay for three new signings. The Reggio Emilia club hastily issued an apology to Modena even though it has passed through most people’s minds.
Two games into the new season and Modena have Zero points, no stadium, are massively in debt and owe substantial sums to former players and employees. The Gialloblu are a club on the brink of Armageddon and we haven’t even reached week 3 yet.