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Verona – a tale of two football clubs

Verona is a historic northern Italian city with a long heritage of culture and also football. Its artistic heritage attracts thousands of tourists each year, who flock to see sights such as its opera houses and Roman amphitheatre. However for the first time since 2002, tourists will see the sights of both the cities clubs playing in Serie A next season.

Hellas Verona coach Andrea Mandorlini said: “It’s about time” the bigger Verona club returned to Serie A, after the Blues finished second behind Sassulo in Serie B to secure automatic promotion. The club was founded in 1903 by a group of high school students, and took the name Hellas at the request of a Classics professor. Hellas were part of a strong core of teams in the 1970s and 1980s Serie A, with their 1985 league triumph 1985 remaining their greatest success to this day.  

The story of Cheivo Verona is all the more remarkable however given that the club transformed from an amateur league outfit to top-flight contenders in just 15 years. Nicknamed “the flying donkeys” by neighbours Hellas, who claimed donkeys would fly before Cheivo played in Serie A, Cheivo’s  remarkable climb up the pyramid climaxed in their stunning fifth place in the 2001-02 Serie A season, their first in the division. Hellas were left to eat their words, as Cheivo have largely remained in Serie A to this day whilst their neighbours plummeted down to third division Serie C.

However, despite their fall from grace, Hellas have always remained the better supported club regularly filling the Stadio Bentegodi’s 38,000 capacity as opposed to Cheivo, who very rarely achieve an attendance above 10,000 in the shared stadium.

Cheivo finished a creditable 10th place in Serie A this term, thanks largely to goals from Milan loanee Alberto Paloschi, and the work rate of midfield duo Luca Rigoni and Perparim Hetemaj. Eugenio Corini, once a Cheivo captain, is now the manager of the tiny outfit, whose Serie A survival was even more miraculous considering captain fantastic and club icon Sergio Pellissier struggled with injury. Their survival will ensure the Verona derby will be played for the first time in 11 seasons next year, after strong performances from long-time Brazilian goalkeeper Radael and 22 goals from star striker Daniele Cacia helped Hellas win promotion.

It will be a tough ask for both sides to remain in Serie A after next season, but their presence will certainly lighten up the league and the long-awaited derby is a game not to be missed.

Will Mata