Stadium: Juventus Stadium in Turin, capacity 41,000

The Juventus Stadium is quite simply the future of Italian football stadia. It is the first ultra-modern stadium in Serie A and Juventus own the entire structure. This is a first in Italy, where grounds are normally owned by local authorities.

The name of the stadium may change soon as the naming rights were sold back in 2008 to Sportfive. The stadium is built on the site of the old Stadio Delle Alpi, Juventus’s previous home. The ground cost £90m and was officially opened on 8 September 2011. It boasts many amenities not available in Italy’s other aging stadiums, including a shopping complex, and it has 3,600 premium seats with an additional 120 executive boxes.

The atmosphere is just as intimidating as some of the other major Italian grounds as the fans are close to the pitch. The club's groups have a place in the stadium and are allowed to support the team in their customary manner. All eyes are on Turin as Juventus are now the pathfinders in Italian football.

The Ultras

Key ultra groups: Gruppo Storico Fighters 1977 (Fighters Historic Group 1977), Black and White Fighters Gruppo Storico 1977, Drughi (The Droogs), Viking.

Other ultra groups: Fossa dei Campioni (Champions Den), Panthers, Gioventu Bianconera (Black and White Youth), Area Bianconera (Black and White Area), Indians, Nucleo Amato Bianconero (Nuclear Black and White Love) later renamed Nucleo 1985, Arancia Meccanica (Clockwork Orange), Fighters, Irriducibili Vallette (Unbreakable Vallette), Arditi (Daring Ones), 06 clan, Noi Soli (Only Us), Gruppo Marche 1993 (Marche Group), Bruxelles Bianconera (White and Black Brussels), Gruppo Homer (Homer Group), Assiduo Sostegno (Loyal Support), Bravi Ragazzi (Top Boys), Tradizione Bianconera (Black and White Tradition), Vecchia Guardia (Old Guard).

“Real Madrid dumped you, Napoli repudiated you, only your greed brought you back here.”

This was the message that greeted Fabio Cannavaro on his return to Juventus in 2009. His two league titles with the Bianconeri did not spare him. He was regarded as a traitor by the club's ultras, a player who had abandoned his team during their hour of need.

Back in 2006 Juventus were relegated to Serie B in the wake of the Calciopoli scandal. While Gianluigi Buffon and Alessandro Del Piero remained, Cannavaro moved to Real Madrid. It is hard to begrudge such a career move but this treachery was neither forgotten nor forgiven. In the ultras' eyes, he only returned to satisfy his avarice. A group known as Viking started circulating a T-shirt which read “Cannavaro mercenary” on the front and “No forgiveness for traitors” on the back.

This treatment of a former club hero did not sit well with some Juve supporters, but it exposes the visceral culture of the ultras: it borders on the extreme but has at its heart an unswerving passion for one club. Darwin Pastorin, one of Italy’s famed football writers said: "Juventus is a team which unites everyone: from intellectuals to workers… it is a universal team, a footballing Esperanto… and then there are the fans, the real fans, from Sicily to the Aosta Valley. There are eleven million of us!”

Juventus are the most successful club in Italian history with 29 league titles (31 if you’re a Juventino). They are the Manchester United of Italy. You either love them or hate them and perhaps this is where the nickname La Fidanzata d’Italia (Italy’s girlfriend) originates. The club is the third oldest in Italy. It was founded in 1897 by a group of students from Turin and since 1923 the club has been managed by the Agnelli family, the founders and owners of Fiat.

Juventus also have nationwide support. This is in part due to the influx of workers from the south who migrated to Turin to work at Mirafiori, the huge Fiat factory constructed on the edge of the city in 1939. Fiat provided thousands of jobs and Umberto Agnelli (former Fiat CEO and Juventus chairman) once claimed that "one of the reasons which led migrants to choose Turin during the great migrations of the 1950s and 1960s was the possibility of going to see Juventus play". This history and their huge success has made their fanbase the largest in Italy and has given the club a surfeit of ultra groups.

The story of the Juventus ultras is like no other. It reads like a script of The Borgias with its bewildering catalogue of schisms, reformations and civil wars. The origins of the Bianconeri’s organised support can be traced back to two groups, Venceremos and Autonomia Bianconera, who were formed in the mid-1970s and positioned to the extreme left of the political spectrum, although that stance has changed considerably.

In 1977 one of Juve’s most renowned ultra groups, Gruppo Storico Fighters (Historic Fighters Group), was founded by Beppe Rossi, who remains a heroic figure among ultras today. Residing in the Curva Sud Scirea (or Curva Filadelfia as it was known in the old Stadio Olimpico) the vestiges of the group survive today. For 10 years they enjoyed prominence among the landscape of the Italian ultras, but the era would be marred by the darkest day in the history of Juventus.

On 29 May 1985, 39 Juventus fans died at Heysel Stadium during their European Cup final against Liverpool. Trouble had already flared when Liverpool fans breached a fence separating them from the Italians. In the maelstrom that followed, Juventus fans were crushed against a concrete wall that collapsed, killing and injuring many people.

For Juventini, the blame was apportioned solely to Liverpool. An attempt was made to remove any "Englishness" from the Curva and a virulent hatred was born. When the sides were drawn together in the Champions League in 2005, many Juve ultras made their feelings clear by turning their backs on the choreography prepared by Liverpool at Anfield that read "Amicizia" ("Friendship"). In the return leg banners were displayed reading "Easy to speak, difficult to pardon murders" and "15-4-89. Sheffield. God exists", the latter a reference to the Hillsborough disaster.

The 1980s also saw the inception of other influential ultra groups, including Viking (whose members hailed from Milan) and Nucleo Amato Bianconero. The latter changed their name to Nucleo 1985 in memory of the Heysel victims. In 1987, following the dissolution of Fighters due to brutal skirmishes with bitter rivals Fiorentina, Arancia Meccanica (Clockwork Orange) was formed. Inspired by the Stanley Kubrick film, the group was an amalgam of various splinters in the Curva Sud, and under the authorities behest their name was later changed to I Drughi (the Droogs). During their infancy their membership allegedly grew in excess of 10,000. However, with the formation of Irriducibili Vallette (Vallette Unbreakables), who migrated to the Curva Nord, and the re-emergence of the Fighters, the ultras battled and squabbled among themselves.

Following the Bianconeri’s Champions League triumph against Ajax in 1996, the jubilant fans rallied under the same banner, calling themselves the Black and White Fighters Gruppo Storico 1977. However, this unification faded with the outbreak of internecine fighting.

In 2005 the Fighters disbanded again, leaving the control of the Curva Sud up for grabs. This was compounded after the Turin giants were found guilty for their involvement in the Calciopoli scandal. A power struggle ensued and before a pre-season friendly against Alessandria in 2006 this reached an ugly peak.

Multifarious groups, including Tradizione Bianconera, Arditi, Drughi, Irriducibili and Viking, were said to have clashed in what can only be described as civil war. Two fans were stabbed and 50 were arrested. This is not the only occasion in which Juventus ultras have allegedly attacked each other.

It would appear that relative peace has been restored. The Fighters have returned to the Curva Sud Scirea and they are accompanied by Viking, the Drughi and a bourgeoning number of other groups. While it is hard to get one’s head around this clannish mentality, the internal divisions reflect elements of wider Italian society.

Nonetheless, the superfluity of Juventus Ultras can create one of the more colourful and eclectic atmospheres on the peninsula. Each group boasts their own banners, which creates a vibrant and multi-faceted choreography. This makes the chic Juventus stadium a cauldron on match days and there is rarely an empty seat.

Set to the backdrop of the Alps and straddling the River Po, Turin is often referred to as the Industrial centre of Italy. The city’s armoury includes Fiat, ancient Egyptian artefacts, a myriad of contemporary art and the best chocolate in Italy. However, to the Juventini, Turin is most importantly home to a juggernaut of Italian football and the Ultras thrive in the knowledge that their beloved Vecchia Signora is the envied queen of Italy.

Classic Player: David Trezeguet

Alessandro Del Piero, Gianluigi Buffon and, of course, Michel Platini, embody what it means to be Juventus. The Turin giants are awash with great names throughout their illustrious history but David Trezeguet’s importance and meaning to the Bianconeri is often overlooked.

Trezeguet signed from Monaco for the 2000-01 season. He started well, scoring 15 times in his first season. Juventus were all-conquering at this time and it was no easy job establishing yourself among this plethora of talent. The Frenchman did just that and in the next season he finished Serie A’s top scorer with 24 league goals (32 in total).

With this came back-to-back league titles, Serie A player of the year and Serie A foreign player of the year awards. Add to this two Supercoppa Italianas and a Champions League final, and it was clear to see that Juventus and the pacey forward were a match made in heaven.

It looked like the glory years were there to stay as Juventus went on to win the Serie A title in 2004-05 and 2005-06. Then Trezeguet's footballing world collapsed, as the Turin giants were embroiled in Calciopoli and had their previous two titles stripped. This was a turning point in Trezeguet’s future and an endorsement of his character.

Many star names jumped ship as Juventus’s punishment saw them relegated to Serie B. Lilian Thuram, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Fabio Cannavaro, Patrick Vieira and Adrian Mutu were among those who fled for their lives as the Bianconeri faced decimation. Trezeguet stayed and vowed, along with the likes of Buffon and Del Piero, to return the club to the heights they believed they deserved.

Between 2006 and his release in 2010, the goal-poacher put in some of his most underrated work for the club. When he left, he did so having returned his club not only to Serie A but to the Champions League. He had surpassed Omar Sivori’s 167 goals, making him Juventus’s all-time top foreign goalscorer and, with 171 goals in total, he was the club's fourth highest goalscorer of all time.

Trezeguet had everything. At 6ft 3in, he was tall and powerful. He had extremely good acceleration and could maintain that pace. He had two good feet and was strong in the air. He was dangerous at set pieces and he had a natural instinct for finding the goal. As if this was not enough, he had the ability to be clinical. Most of his goals were reactionary. He scored the odd scissor-kick and a few spectacular volleys but this was out of necessity rather than showmanship. He was simply focused on scoring, a dying breed in today’s game.

Trezeguet was also a master of reading the opposition's back line. Many of his goals left the entire defence looking horrified, as they realised the assistant referee had kept his flag down. He was a master at finding space and he used that skill time and time again, often having time to round the keeper before slotting home.

Had he not been embroiled in the match-fixing scandal, who knows how much he would have won? After all, he did it at national level. His choice to stay at the club until he was released, and his tireless effort and belief in his cause, enabled fans of the Bianconeri to enjoy his goalscoring talents for a decade. When Calcio ruled the world, Trezeguet was just getting started.

This blog first appeared on The Gentleman Ultra
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