Football in Italy
Football is the most popular sport in Italy. The Italian national football team is considered to be one of the best national teams in the world. They have won the FIFA World Cup four times (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006), trailing only Brazil (with 5), appearing in two finals (1970, 1994) and reaching a third place (1990). They have also won one European championship (1968), also appearing in two finals (2000, 2012) , one Olympic football tournament (1936) and two Central European International Cups. Italy's club sides have won 27 major European trophies, making them the most successful nation in European football. Italy's top domestic league, the Serie A, is one of the most popular professional sports leagues in the world. Serie A hosts three of the world's most famous clubs as Juventus, Milan and Inter, all founding members of the G-14, a group which represented the largest and most prestigious European football clubs; Serie A was the only league to produce three founding members. More players have won the coveted Ballon d'Or award while playing at a Serie A club than any other league in the world. The Italian word for football is calcio and this is the word used to make reference to the sport in Italy, as opposed to football in England or soccer in the United States and Canada.
Other forms of football were played in Italy in ancient times, the earliest of which was Harpastum, played during the times of the Roman Empire. This game may have also been influential to other forms throughout Europe due to the expansion of the Empire, including Medieval football. From the 16th century onwards, Calcio Fiorentino, another code of football distinct from the modern game, was played in the Piazza Santa Croce in Florence. Some famous Florentines were amongst players of the game, particularly the Medici family including Piero, Lorenzo and Alessandro de' Medici. As well as Popes such as Clement VII, Leo XI and Urban VIII who played the game in the Vatican. The name calcio ("kick") was later adopted for football in Italy.
Italian football is born: Genoa
The modern variation of the game was brought to Italy during the 1880s. The title of the first Italian football club is a controversial one, the most commonly cited in popular history is Genoa Cricket and Football Club who were formed as a cricket club to represent England abroad, founded by Englishmen in 1893. Three years later in 1896 a man named James Richardson Spensley arrived in Genoa introducing the football section of the club and becoming its first manager.
However, evidence exists to suggest that the first club may have been from Turin. Edoardo Bosio, a merchant worker in the British textile industry had visited England and experienced the game. He returned to Turin in 1887 and was motivated to help spread football in his homeland. He founded Torino Football and Cricket Club that year while Nobili Torino ("Turin Nobles") soon followed. The second club bore the name of noble because it contained the Duke of the Abruzzi and Alfonso Ferrero di Ventimiglia (who would later become a president of FIGC). The two merged in 1891 to form Internazionale Football Club Torino, By 1898 the rival federation FIGC had been formed, with its center originally in Turin and the first two presidents as Mario Vicary and Luigi D'Ovidio.
FIGC created the Italian Football Championship with the four founder clubs been; Genoa, FBC Torinese, Ginnastica Torino and Internazionale Torino. The first competition of which was held at Velodromo Umberto I in Turin on 8 May 1898 and was won by Genoa. While it was common for clubs to compete in both FIGC and FNGI competitions early on, the titles won in the FIGC championship are the only ones officially recognised by the modern day league.
In the following years, the tournament (called Prima Categoria) was structured into regional groups with the winners of each group participating in a playoff with the eventual winners being declared champions. Until to 1904 the tournament was dominated by Genoa, who won 6 titles in 7 years. Between 1905 and 1908 a Final Group among regional champions was contested to award the title and the Spensley Cup. Juventus won his first title and Spensley Cup in 1905, but the two following championships were won by Milan.
The Italianisation and the "split" of the Championship
In November 1907, FIF (Federazione Italiana Foot-Ball, the former name of FIGC) decided to create an Italian championship reserved only for Italian players in order to allow weaker clubs composed only by Italian players ("squadre pure italiane", "pure italian teams") to compete and win the "Italian championship" against the big clubs composed mostly by stronger foreign players ("squadre spurie internazionali", "spurious international teams"). The former championship, where foreign players, too, were allowed to play, was renamed "Federal Championship". In 1908 FIF organized two championships in the same season:
- Federal Championship, where also foreign players (if they live in Italy) are allowed to play; the Federal Champions win Coppa Spensley
- Italian Championship, where only Italian players are allowed to play; the Italian Champions win Coppa Buni
The big clubs (Genoa, Torino and Milan) withdrew from both the championships in order to protest against the autarchical policy of FIF. The Federal Championship was won by Juventus against Doria. On May 7, 1908, three days before Juventus-Doria 5-1 (the decisive match), the newspaper La Stampa wrote: "Il match di domenica si annuncia oltremodo interessante, trattandosi del possesso definitivo della Coppa e del titolo di Campione d'Italia" ("The sunday match is announced to be very interesting, since it will definitely award the Cup and the title of Champions of Italy"). However, Juventus wasn't awarded the Spensley Cup because Milan (the former champions) refused to award the Cup to the new Champion, Juventus, giving it to Spensley and his team, Genoa. In November 1908, FIF decided to award the Spensley Cup permanently to Milan. 1n 1908 The Italian Championship and Coppa Buni were won by Pro Vercelli beating Juventus, Doria and US Milanese. However, only Pro Vercelli was later recognized as "Italian Champions 1908", forgetting the Federal Championship won by Juventus.
In 1909 season, too, two different championships were organized:
- Federal Championship, where also foreign players (if they live in Italy) are allowed to play; the Federal Champions win Coppa Oberti
- Italian Championship, where only Italian players are allowed to play; the Italian Champions win Coppa Buni
The Federal Championship was won by Pro Vercelli, beating in the Final US Milanese, while Juventus was eliminated in the first round of Piedmont Group by Torino. On January 25, 1909 La Stampa wrote: "E la Juventus godrà di un certo riposo, che le auguriamo foriero di miglioramento di stile di gioco, e preludio necessario ad assicurarsi l'altro campionato, quello più ambito ancora: il Campionato italiano!" ("Juventus will enjoy some rest; we hope that this rest will improve the play style and will be the necessary prelude to win the other championship, the most coveted one: the Italian Championship!"). The Italian Championship was won by Juventus, beating in the Final US Milanese. However, only Pro Vercelli was later recognized as "Italian Champions 1909", forgetting the Italian Championship won by Juventus.
The format was modified for the 1909–10 season which was played in a league format. Nine clubs participated playing each other both home and away. The split between Federal and Italian championship was not completely abolished, because, while unifying these tournaments, it was decided to assign to the end of the season two titles:
- I Campionati Nazionali di calcio sono di I e II Categoria. Quello di I Categoria é suddiviso in Campionato Federale e Campionato Italiano. Al primo possono prendere parte anche giuocatori di nazionalità estera, residenti in Italia, il secondo è riservato esclusivamente ai giuocatori di nazionalità italiana.["There are two National Football Championships: Prima and Seconda Categoria. The Prima Categoria Championship is divided into Federal and Italian championship. In the first one foreign players living in Italy, too, are allowed to play, in the second one only players of Italian nationality are allowed to play. " (Article 2 of the Championship Rules promulgated the FIGC to Milan on August 8, 1909)] 
According to an article in the newspaper La Stampa dated December 24, 1909, at the end of the season will be "proclamato campione italiano il Club meglio classificato fra le squadre pure italiane, e campione federale il Club meglio classificato tra le squadre spurie internazionali" ("proclaimed Italian Champions the best placed club among pure italian teams and Federal Champions the best placed club among Spurious International Clubs"). At the end of the season, Pro Vercelli and Inter placed both in the first place, so a playoff was needed in order to assign the Federal title (the Italian one was won by Pro Vercelli). This season was the first victory for Football Club Internazionale Milano, who defeated the fourth team (boys 11 years old) of Unione Sportiva Pro Vercelli Calcio in the final by a score of 10–3.
A first national competition organized by the Italian Federation of Gymnastics (F.N.G.I.) was played in 1896 and won by the S. Udinese G.S. team from Udine (north east Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia Region). In 1897, a second national gymnastic-football tournament was staged by the FNGI and was won by S.G. Torinese. In 1898 the Federation Italienne du Football (FIF – FIGC) was finally formed and the first national championship was organized, with regional tournaments and playoffs. This is considered to be the first proper national football championship and was won by Genoa.
The Italian national team, called Azzurri or squadra azzurra for their blue shirts, are the second-most successful national team in the world. During the 1970s to early 1990s Italy became famous for their catenaccio, thus heralding a long line of world class defenders such as Virginio Rosetta, Pietro Rava, Carlo Parola, Giacinto Facchetti, Armando Picchi, Gaetano Scirea, Antonio Cabrini, Claudio Gentile, Franco Baresi, Giuseppe Bergomi, Paolo Maldini, Fabio Cannavaro and Alessandro Nesta.
Their honours include:
- 4 FIFA World Cups
- 1 European Football Championship
- 1 Olympic Gold Medal
- 5 European Championships U21
- 3 European Championships U18
- 2 European Championships U16
- 7 Summer Universiades
- 8 World Military Championships
- 1 European Futsal Championship
They have been finalists in:
- 2 World Cups
- 2 European Championship
- 2 Bronze medals at Olympic Games
- 2 European Championship U21
- 1 European Championship U19
- 4 European Championship U18
- 3 European Championship U16
- 2 Summer Universiades
- 4 World Military Championships
World Champions squads
European Champions players
European competitions for clubs
- 12 UEFA European Cups won in 26 finals (first with Spain)
- 7 UEFA Cup Winners' Cups won in 11 finals (first is England with 8/13)
- 9 UEFA Cups won in 15 finals (first)
- 9 UEFA Super Cups won in 12 finals (first)
- 9 Intercontinental/World Club Cups (first with Argentina/Brazil)
- Italy, 44 cups and 66 finals (first)
UEFA Champions League
The following teams have advanced to elimination rounds in the UEFA Champions League.
- Sampdoria (1991–92 – Runners-up)
- Milan (1992–93 – Runners-up, 1993–94 – Champions, 1994–95 – Runners-up, 2002–03 – Champions, 2003–04 – Quarter-finals, 2004–05 – Runners-up, 2005–06 – Semi-finals, 2006–07 – Champions, 2011–12 - Quarter-finals)
- Juventus (1995–96 – Champions, 1996–97 – Runners-up, 1997–98 – Runners-up, 1998–99 – Semi-finals, 2002–03 – Runners-up, 2004–05- Quarter-finals, 2005-06 – Quarter-finals)
- Internazionale (1998–99 – Quarter-finals, 2002–03 – Semi-finals, 2004–05 - Quarter-finals, 2005-06 – Quarter-finals, 2009–10 – Champions, 2011–12 - Round of 16)
- Lazio (1999–2000 – Quarter-finals)
- Roma ( European Cup 1983-1984 Runners up -2006–07 – Quarter-finals, 2007–08 – Quarter-finals)
- Cagliari (1970–71 – Quarter-finals)
- Fiorentina (1956–57 – Runners-up)
- Napoli (2011–12 – Round of 16)
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- Carlo Chiesa, La grande storia del calcio italiano, published in installments on Il Guerin Sportivo, April 2012-...