My Team & I : Parma

By Andrew C Harding

Twitter: @andrewcharding


Why Parma?

I’d first of all like to say that I envy those who are one-club-only in their support. For me to define myself like any individual in life, I’ve done what many have done and will continue to do so via the route of football. To pour my entire soul into one vessel of sporting identity is something I’m unable to do. That is not to say that I split my passion into three different compartments thereby lessening the possibilities of my adoration for each individual entity. Far from it. I’m deeply passionate for three clubs and while they differ in reasoning, there is no difference in the strength of my adoration of each club. I cannot quantify the meanings that I have for the clubs in question. My love of Parma was one more of personal choice and so makes it more interesting to look at on a critical level. It is by far-and-away my most confusing love interest in the game of football. It wasn’t necessarily completely created by me either as you’ll find out.

The story begins in the formative years of my love of football. Ruud Gullit’s arrival at Chelsea was in effect the beginning of everything and his signing of Gianfranco Zola sparked my passion for football into frenzy. To an eight year-old lad born in the monoculture of a country town, such names amazed me and as all children do, I explored. This was before I’d looked at a computer screen intently so it was a case of magazines and Channel 4 as I began to learn about the game and more importantly the culture that Zola had left behind. It fascinated me. The names, the kits, the grounds, the supporters, everything to do with the world of Italian football. The fact it had its own name in Italy (Calcio) made it all the more exotic and attractive to me.

Parma were the exact club Zola left to join Chelsea but in truth it was not that that made me develop a fondness for the Duchy men. I’ve always enjoyed expressions of anything when clad in the colour. The yellow and blue of Parma attracted me and watching them for the first time (it was against Juventus, a team who hold great significance in my story with football anyway) and while the scoreline escapes my memory, the colours of Parma didn’t. It’s a fondness that developed over the years. The Parmalat fiasco oddly made my growing adoration for them stronger and this was a time where my school-friends told of clubs they liked more than others in each of the top European countries. I was confessing my love of Parma to largely bemused reactions. Some simply thought I was merely exaggerating a liking for a club, indeed some turned it into a joke as to it being derived from a fondness of ham.

The turmoil that the club went through effectively sealed my adoration for them. Of course, the very real nature of their financial predicament was horrible but there was never a loss in faith as to the club’s existence. I don’t crave the attention of success with a football club. Glory-hunting has never appealed to me. The natural dream for every supporter of an Italian club is the Scudetto but realism and pessimism is quite natural for me. My fondness for Parma is something I rarely bring into football conversations largely because wherever I go, Italian football is often mocked and so, me retorting quotes from Gianni Brera and professing my adoration for the Ducali would be greatly wasted.


Favourite Player?

There were a few contenders with Enrico Chiesa, Luigi Apolloni and Hidetoshi Nakata earning honourable mentions but for me, Hernan Crespo edges the rest for the fact he has returned and still retains the class that he has exuded throughout his career. The young curls have departed but it is still Hernan Crespo and while he is slowing down, the man can still provide moments of magic. Of course, in his heyday he was one of the most clinical finishers in the peninsula and indeed in world football. Crespo is a regular in many great footballing memories I have not just for the Gialloblu but it was his impact clad in the colours of Parma that had its greatest effect on me.

Favourite Game?

The populist choice would be the 1999 UEFA Cup Final in Moscow where Parma beat Marseille 3-0 but in truth, I did not see that game. I can’t for the life of me remember why. I was10 years old at the time so please excuse the memory banks on this occasion. In terms of emotion, I would have to say my choice is a relatively recent game. Following the winter break, an away trip to Juventus to being the calendar year of 2011 was not one to greatly look forward to particularly with Pasquale Marino at the helm. The best I could hope for was that Juventus would drastically under-perform and Parma would perhaps sneak a precious point in the fight for Serie A survival. What was played out was remarkable as Juventus seemed to press firmly on the self-destruct button with much assistance for Felipe Melo and the red card he received for a mindless kick in the face of Massimo Paci. Juventus’ implosion unfortunately overshadowed what was an excellent performance from Parma and the result certainly earned a reprieve for Pasquale Marino which would luckily run out with time to spare in the season so Franco Colomba could spare Tommaso Ghirardi’s blushes and steer them to safety. To win 4-1 away to Juventus was astounding given the abject displays that had riddled Parma’s season up until that point with only the occasional flash of brilliance. The win over Juventus showed what Parma could do and may well have served as crucial stimulus to the players when Colomba took charge. Marino is likely to have taken some credit for the victory in Turin but you could argue that it was in spite of his methods.

Of course the Serie A season is underway and thanks to the delay caused by the players’ strike, Parma would be the first competitive visitors to Juventus’ new stadium. It would’ve been nice to spoil the party but Parma were never even close and were lucky to grab a consolation goal via the penalty spot. With a final score of 4-1, a few Juventus supporters claimed that it was revenge for what had been played out on January 6th, in itself a laughable comment when taken into real context. Obviously the Juve fans in question had forgotten of the historical and indeed modern-day gap between the two clubs.

Favourite Strip?

I only own one Parma shirt and that is the 1995-97 home shirt which was bought for the sentimental reason that it was the first shirt I remember seeing Parma in. My actual favourite for aesthetic reasons is the 1998-99 third shirt. I’ve always preferred the older offerings. While the black cross is of course a symbol of Parma, I’ve never been greatly fond of it. The blue and yellow will always be the colours of my Ducali memories.

Worst thing about being a Parma fan?

Last season, having Pasquale Marino as Coach would’ve been a quick answer to this question purely because of my confusion as to his appointment and the inevitable decline in fortunes Marino appeared only to speed up after the remarkable season that the Ducali had had before. However such a detail is circumstantial anyway and so probably isn’t correct as an answer to this question.

I wouldn’t say there is much in terms of anything bad with being a Parma fan although having to explain it on countless occasions only to get puzzled looks is a little irritating. Of course being a fan of any Italian club team means you get constant flak about the perceived falling standard of Calcio, etc but it just comes with the territory. I’m not one to chase glory as I’ve already stated and while an occasional trophy is always nice, I feel sorry for people who support big teams where failure is not winning trophies. Victories are the norm for them so their highs are limited unlike fans of more provincial clubs. There’s something to be said for being in the middle of expectations.

Favourite Moment?

Tough question. Beating any of the big teams is always great and matches against Juventus always have a special personal quality for me. It’s very difficult to pick a true individual moment as many of Parma’s great moments I have not witnessed in live time. I would say that under the guidance of Francesco Guidolin, the 3-2 victory away to Juventus was great, in particular the moment where Biabiany netted the third goal after it appeared the opportunity had gone. He had worked so hard after a poor first touch allowed Buffon a real chance to prepare himself to make a save. He worked back, turned whilst shaking of the attentions of a defender and slid it just under Buffon and into the net. To have returned to Serie A and beaten Juventus on their patch is quite something.

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