FEATURES » A Very Special Week End

A Very Special Week End

Two years ago an Emigrante football XI; who had not played together previously, under the enthusiastic guidance of Tour organisers Luigi and Mario Sidoli fulfilled an ambition and started a football trend as a group of players from North London flew off to Parma into the Ceno Valley to revisit their roots to join in sporting battle on a football pitch with teams from Pellegrino and Varsi.

This year a current Emigrante XI selection flew back to fantastic hospitality arranged by Sig. Giovanni Viazzani and the mayor of Bardi Sig. Giuseppe Conti and also Sig.Francesco Platoni, President of The Association Pellegrinesi London. The players this time were accompanied by parents, wags and friends who were the catalyst to create a festival atmosphere throughout the short but memorable stay for the team. 

The Emigrante entourage landed on Friday 13th at Parma Airport at 3.30pm. After being whisked off to La Guercia – wags, parents and friends - and the hostel in Pellegrino for the players – a bus from Bardi collected one and all with following cars and brought them up to Bardi and the Festa of the Feste season. – The Festa dell’Emigrante.

For the first time in its history a table in the piazza was reserved and despite some locals attempting to freeload on the wines of the visitors while they were indulging in the delights of the balls liscio they were shooed off by the visiting Negri and co who had made the trip up from Volpi to join their visiting friends.

The Bardi bus eventually left in the early hours and drove through the mist down the perilous hair pins of the Bore road with the jolly driver one hand on the wheel and one hand on his mobile – no change there then!

The next morning and the teams training session was delayed by a deluge. They say some locals had begun to build an ark and the rain just did not stop. The Inglese crowded into a local bar to watch the Spurs while Lou and co arranged for the local Pizzeria to become a take away for the day. 

In the evening still with the rain pouring onto sheets of water on the Pellegrino pitch the Emigrante threw the kitchen sink at the home side. The pitch could have done with a few more. The referee disallowed a perfectly good goal from Stuart Griffin and after shortening the game to around 40 minutes each way refused to play extra time pointing to the rain and Pellegrino “won” a penalty shoot out.  Back to a midnight dinner at La Quercia, a sing song and Pina Griffin the victor in a wine throwing contest.

The next morning a wake up call from Aurelia Fiori at breakfast was followed by find the mass as the visitors made an effort to pray for some better luck for their team. Another training session this time in the sun which was watched by all those not wearing football boots and then off to Bardi for the big match. Mayor Conti kindly showed the visitors the Council chamber and gave out booklets on Bardi before he went; as the whole of the town emptied, down to the small but now heaving stadium of Welsh Italians from the Rhondda and wag entourage.

The football game itself was all but over after 15 minutes. Silva scored after a brace from Timanti and when Giacon headed in before half time it began to look embarrassing. The second half saw the visitors settle for 4-0 but some of the frustrated home side resorted to some more than questionable tackles. There followed a small number of handbags at dawn before Bopped Losa blew the final whistle to bring the game to an end. The mayor emerged from the Bardi dug out and an interesting exchange of words with Mario led the presentations handing out a massive cup and medals to the victors and everyone ended up friends and happy except the writer who was still moaning about losing his precious Newcastle United first aid kit bag which he later found in his car! Back to the Bar Grande an aperativo or two, dinner at the Bue Russo and some excellent speeches from Dom and Franco Sidoli and then a few shots back at the Bar Grande before the wagtrain headed back to Pellegrino. The next day the licking of wounds and a limp to the airport where good old Ryanair were on time to cart everyone back to the delights of the English summer. The football was good but it was the fabulous crowd that accompanied the players made it a very special weekend.

Go to gioventu to read Paul Griffins account now!


John Belli

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