The bridge over the rubbish-strewn, bone-dry River Bisagno that connects the grimy streets around Brignole station to Genoa's stadium is named after an English gentleman, Dr James Spensley.
Co-founder of an institution still called Genoa (rather than the Italian 'Genova') Cricket and Football Club, Spensley kept goal as Genoa won six of Italy's first seven league championships. His bridge now leads to Via Claravazza, Genoa's end of the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, where two plaques and gaudy graffiti commemorate Vincenzo Spagnolo, a supporter stabbed to death a decade ago.
Following Genoa can be a tough business, so perhaps it's no surprise that the club tends to attract the earthier inhabitants of this rough and ready, ramshackle port city. Those early successes soon gave way to disappointment and, by 1929, the English roots of I Grifone [the Griffins] had brought the club into conflict with Italy's fascist authorities. Forced to change their name to Genoa 1893, they were relegated five years later and went into decades of national insignificance.
After World War II, the club regained their original name, but it took five more decades to recover their status. Then, in 1991, along came a giant mulleted hero. Czechoslovakia's Italia 90 striker Tomas Skuhravy scored the goals that pushed Genoa up to fourth place in Serie A, and the following season they reached the UEFA Cup semi-finals, brushing Liverpool aside en route thanks in part to a blistering free-kick from Brazilian World Cup star Branco.
In 1995 the club were relegated into Serie B (in a relegation play-off, on a penalty shootout) and spent 10 years treading water. In 2005, they won Serie B but were found guilty of match-fixing and relegated to Serie C. Two successive promotions later, they set about establishing themselves in the top half of Serie A, reaching the 2009-10 Europa League.
The distinctive brick-styled 36,000-capacity Luigi Ferraris, which caught the eye during Italia 90 (for which it was completely rebuilt), sits north-east of the city centre. From Brignole station, walk through the railway tunnel and up Via Canevari before crossing the riverbed. City buses KM and CM circulate on match days.
Each club (Genoa and Sampdoria) has an office behind one goal for advance tickets, or use a Lottomatica lottery machine in town. The 90 Minuta bar at nearby Via Monticelli 22 is a suitable pre-match spot.
Address Via Garibaldi, 3 - 16124, Genoa
Telephone 0039 010 612831
For regular updates on the crazy world of Italian football, see our blog Serie Aaaargh!
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