On this beautiful autumn Sunday I honestly didn’t really want to go to Casarano. With the sun high in the sky, people traveling towards the sea and the idea of making a three-hour drive to reach the south of the south didn’t make me too happy. At the same time I told myself that the opportunity to discover a new field and two fans that I had never seen at work should probably be seized. And so, an hour late, I decide to leave from Andria towards the heel of Italy by virtue of the only motivation that pushes me to put up with the 265 kilometers that separate me from Casarano, which in my geographical imagination I see as distant from everything and in fact this crossing will help me understand how far Puglia is extended.
There is no traffic on the highway and we even have time to stop in Fasano to buy something to eat in a bakery. «When you are in Puglia, do as the Apulians do» to paraphrase Sant’Ambrogio, for whom having a focaccia before the match is the minimum. Between the stupendous landscape, the blue sky, the fields of olive trees and the taste of focaccia, I’m sure I’m in the right place and thanks also to the driver and friendly travel companion, we even arrive twenty-five minutes before kick-off despite our delay in departure.
Once we arrive, we find a checkpoint manned by a policewoman who closes the road leading to the Curva Nord. All quite useless, especially because of the friendship between the two fans. At the corner between the grandstand and the curve, we ask for our accreditations and in a few seconds we are on the field, despite the bureaucratic difficulty in obtaining this pass. Typical madness of some Italian clubs who refuse you accreditation, despite it being a Serie D match that almost no one follows on a media level. I can only thank the management of Altamura Calcio for helping me in this Kafkaesque affair which is unfortunately quite representative of the Bel Paese.
Stadium Giuseppe Capozza It’s really a little gem, I didn’t expect it to be so beautiful. I remember it obviously because of the Super typhus he was born in Commando Ultrà Sao Paolothe first ever group of rossoazzurri fans founded in 1980. Its name derives from the bar of the same name Sao Paolo where the first local “Torcida” found themselves and decided to group together behind a banner and change the face of the local fans forever. Iconic in this sense is the Brazilian scenography of the CUSP, in the derby with Lecce on 8 October 1995, with the yellow diamond enclosing the globe on a green background made up of cards which, after a few seconds, are turned over and the yellow diamond of which above they are flanked by a red and blue background. In addition to the reinterpretation of the Brazilian flag, this match remained in the annals because it was the most followed in the history of the stadium, with 10,000 spectators present in the stands.
The stadium is named, as mentioned, after Giuseppe Capozza, a well-known local entrepreneur who gave particular impetus to the city’s industry. It was inaugurated on 17 October 1954 with a match between Casarano and Francavilla and did not yet have the north curve. We had to wait until 1985 to see the construction of the latter and a renovation of the stadium with the grandstand being covered and the separate section being raised. Then in 2007, a second renovation following which the “Capozza” was given the honor of hosting the national Under 21 team in some European category competitions. Today it is truly a beautiful facility with 6,500 seats serving a city that has just over 19,000 inhabitants.
The first thing I notice when I step onto the grass are the banners. Both in the north curve and in the distinct areas you can see dozens of meters of fabric and plastic, all dedicated to the glory of Casarano Calcio or the city. Something that should be normal in all Italian stadiums and which unfortunately has been lost for years almost everywhere on the peninsula. There is a deep-rooted passion for the team here and I want the fans to point this out. The line that demarcates the difference between passionate realities and other “normal” ones can also be seen from the sporting culture that we breathe, an aspect that goes well beyond ultras dynamics. Below, in the north corner, there is a very long banner with the writing: “Ceasaranum superbia nostra”, which has become the acronym that brings together the different souls of the home fans. Ceasaranum is the name of the city in Latin which apparently derives from the patronymic of a soldier who must have been called Caesar. As was customary at the time, legionaries were given a portion of land for their services and this Caesar received land in southern Apulia.
The curve is quite large and is 40% full, because unfortunately in Casarano the support is divided. They take their places on the curve Street Mentality and the Old style and on the right side of the distincts the banner stands out Casaranowhich in 2018 had the plan to bring together the different souls of the fans under a single name, Casarano life choice. But due to diversity of thought these guys then moved to the stands a few months ago. In the current project several acronyms converge: CUSP, Casarano 1927, Portici Skonvolti ed I love you. This division of support, like everywhere else, is never good for vocal support and I will notice it during the match too.
In the host sector, which is huge, given that it is made up of the entire Curva Sud, there is still no one. A quarter of an hour before kick-off, the 120 Altamura fans, around eighty ultras and around forty fans march in together. It might seem like a good number but it could have been even better because, as has been in use in Italy for some years, the sale of coupons was limited to that maximum number. Ridiculous? Yes, obviously, especially if you think about the friendship that binds the two fans and the enormous sector that could accommodate precisely 1,020 people, but unfortunately this is the practice in Casarano and beyond, for which we can only thank the police headquarters of shift.
They quickly arrange their pieces in the sector, give them Irreducible to Elbow High and the other groups (25 maggio 2015, Altamura 1988 e tenth mas). Despite a myriad of acronyms, the supporters of Murgia are compacted into a single block. When the teams enter the field, they do their best in a beautiful scarf topped with red and white flags, banners and some smoke bombs. In front, the North curve offers a classic display of flags while in the steps you can see several banners and two flags. The Salento stadium presents an overall good view, there are around two thousand spectators, an important number when compared to the catchment area of Casarano.
The guests’ support got off to a good start, with a fairly dry and pro-English style. You can see their particular style from the banded scarves to the very neat pieces. In front, however, it is a more classic, Italian-style cheer, with a few too many pauses between the songs. There is a choir launcher positioned at the top of the curve and above him the people who want to cheer gather. Unfortunately there are only about sixty/eighty people who follow the directives and given the high position of their block, I struggle to hear them sometimes. Finally, also in the steps there is a boy with a megaphone who always gets around seventy kids to sing and always with some pauses. The style between the curve and the steps is a little different. The north curve is more classic, while in the stands the kids have something more contemporary. Despite this, they have in common the color black which unfortunately dominates on t-shirts and some flags. I don’t like this very much, you can imagine Total black which is now in fashion, the impact is not that great. Luckily with the nice heat today (24 degrees), several guys take off their black t-shirts and remain shirtless, offering a much more beautiful visual impact. On a banner hanging near them, you can see the face of Federico Aldrovandi, a memory that is always alive and shared from north to south.
After ten minutes of play, the curve displays the banner: “Nicolò hold on” for a boy from Altamura who was the victim of a road accident. He is applauded by the whole stadium. The steps will then bring out another banner to celebrate the twenty-year friendship with the Altamurans: “2003/2023… Let’s carry on the tradition. Altamura in Casarano no distinction”, again greeted with applause. Then there is time for a scarf of the Curva Nord, which sees around a hundred people participate. A beautiful and simple thing that I always like, because it’s part of being an ultras: in fact I struggle to understand the ultras who go to the stadium without a scarf, it’s the minimum wage in my opinion.
In the 40th minute Casarano took the lead to the happiness of the local fans. The break arrives, time for the two sets of fans to regenerate. The match restarts and after 15 minutes Casarano doubles their lead to the great joy of the red and blue fans. The guests find it hard to believe it but continue to support Altamura’s eleven despite a noticeable decline. In this second half the curve displays another banner: “Ciccio Stola libero” and a few moments later the group too Casarano he explains in the notes: “Dignity for Ciccio… And for all the ultras detained”. Two sentences that may seem like pure ultras rhetoric, but are intended for the same person from the Cosenza ultras. This boy is in fact detained in Catania as part of an investigation into organized crime in Cosenza and has been waiting for his trial for a year. He is confined to a wheelchair due to an incurable disease. Although a medical examiner examined him in October and certified his incompatibility with prison life, he still risks being paralyzed for life if not urgently transferred to undergo specialist treatment outside, which the authorities do not seem to intend. to grant him. Having a neurodegenerative disease, his is an emergency and should be treated in a microsurgery center and not in the modest clinical center of the penitentiary administration where he is located. This very sad case reminds us that humane treatment should be for everyone, obviously also for prisoners. At least the often abused or misused ultras rhetoric this time allows these abominations to be highlighted.
On the pitch, Altamura manages to score in injury time, the goal making it 2 to 1, but the determination of the last seconds is not enough and it is the rossoazzurri who celebrate the victory. In the end the players of the two teams go to their respective sectors with different moods. The Altamura people were disappointed and the Casaranesi people were very happy as they hoped to move up the category. It’s time for us to leave the stadium, but not Casarano. We go behind the away section and we can see the two fans drinking together and strengthening this twenty-year friendship. An incredible thing, after about twenty minutes, the police force everyone to leave and impose a procession to get the vehicles of the Altamurans out of the city. I don’t understand this move, perhaps the zeal or paranoia of a local official? Perhaps a mere and arrogant exercise of power? Given the relaxed atmosphere between the two fans, it is certainly completely incomprehensible.
Before leaving, let’s go and discover the center of the Apulian town which is not so far from the stadium. I can’t stand just watching the match, it’s important to go around the city, talk to the locals to better understand both the fans and the surrounding area, that is, the territory and its citizens. The center of Casarano is deserted on this Sunday, but its beauty does not escape me, between the mother church in its typical Lecce baroque style, the various buildings in the historic center and even the column of San Giovanni Alemosiniere in the central Piazza San Giovanni. Unfortunately we have to leave again to see the last match of this long but spectacular weekend. But this tour to Casarano made me want to return and take time to better understand the dynamics of this border area. And the more I travel, the more I understand why it is nicknamed the Bel Paese: it’s obvious, you just need to open your eyes and set off on an adventure. Without this culture of cheering, I would never have explored the geography of Italy like this. I can only say thank you Super typhusthirty years later!
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